Staying Connected: Updates from the 2019–20 Research Fellows

Our inaugural Research Fellows Program, focused on art by African Americans, is already having a significant impact on scholarship. Distinguished Scholar and Director of Research Tanya Sheehan recently reconnected with the six 2019–20 fellows and learned about their plans to disseminate the research they conducted on artworks at the Colby College Museum of Art, including objects in the permanent collection and works on loan from the Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art.

Four of the fellows will publish material related to their research:

  • Adrienne L. Childs (Harvard University) will publish her research on a Bob Thompson painting in the catalogue accompanying the Colby Museum’s 2021 exhibition Bob Thompson: This House Is Mine.
  • John Ott (James Madison University), Rebecca K. VanDiver (Vanderbilt University), and Anna Arabindan-Kesson (Princeton University) are incorporating into their current book projects research on paintings by Norman Lewis, David Driskell, and Edward Mitchell Bannister, respectively. 

For others, their fellowship work inspired new projects:

  • Tess Korobkin (University of Maryland, College Park) is completing a research article on the sculpture by Marion Perkins that she studied.
  • Key Jo Lee (Cleveland Museum of Art) is developing the ideas she generated through research on artworks by Hank Willis Thomas and Romare Bearden into a book and exhibition at her institution in 2022–23.

We are also thrilled to hear that the program stimulated new collaborations among its first participants, as several fellows have been speaking together (virtually) at conferences and art-world events. Most recently, Childs and VanDiver discussed Driskell’s Of Thee I Weep, a work in the Lunder Collection, as part of the online conversation, “Loïs Mailou Jones and David C. Driskell: Intersecting Legacies,” organized by the Phillips Collection. VanDiver’s paper on Driskell was part of a Lunder Institute symposium in March 2020. 

The program’s emphasis on closely studying objects at the Colby Museum and fostering strong connections among fellows required postponing the next fellows cohort to 2021–22, when we hope to reconvene safely. The focus of that program will be on modern art of the American Southwest, and fellows will engage with the Colby Museum’s deep holdings of paintings by the Taos Society of Artists, founded in Taos, New Mexico, as well as works from the Pearson Collection and Native American objects on loan. Three Colby students in the class of 2021—John Shamgochian, Marina Takagi, and Whitney White—have already begun conducting research to support this program. Look for news about their work, the incoming fellows, and the Lunder Institute’s 2021–22 Distinguished Scholar in our spring newsletter!

Image: Adrienne Childs (left) and Rebecca VanDiver (right) discuss David Driskell’s Of Thee I Weep during their visit to the Colby College Museum of Art in November of 2019.