The Lunder Institute for American Art exists at the crossroads of scholarship and creative production, seeking to challenge received ideas and expand interpretive communities in the fields of American art history and practice. Our programs, partnerships, and initiatives forge connections and opportunities for scholars and living artists that also benefit and enrich the Colby College community.
Each academic year the Institute hosts a Distinguished Scholar and a group of six to eight Research Fellows at varying stages of their careers to pursue original scholarship around a theme or topic of particular concern to the field of American art. A signature feature of the program is that each Research Fellow incorporates an artwork at the Colby Museum into their current research, putting the collection into conversation with the broader field. Research Fellows convene for up to a week during the fall semester to study their selected artwork and participate in high-level discussions around that year’s area of focus. The cohort regathers in the spring to share research-in-progress and discuss future outcomes for their work, which may include public symposia, publications, and museum interventions. Each fellow receives a stipend, part-time help from a Colby undergraduate research assistant, and travel and accommodations for the two required meetings. Information on the 2021–22 Fellows can be found here.
The Lunder Institute supports scholarly and creative research by senior scholars, curators, and artists whose work aligns with Lunder Institute and Colby Museum priorities and initiatives. Chosen by invitation, Senior Fellows’ non-residential appointments last from nine to eighteen months. During their appointment Senior Fellows make at least two short-term campus visits and contribute to the Colby community through academic engagement and one or more public programs related to their research.
Established in 2021, the Lunder Institute residential fellowships provide artists with spacious studios as well as opportunities for collaboration with Colby College faculty, students, staff, and the Waterville community. This new studio program, which is based at the Greene Block + Studios at 18 Main Street in downtown Waterville, encompasses artists at all stages of their careers and working in a range of artistic disciplines and mediums. Resident fellows are provided with housing and a stipend; have access to Colby College campus facilities; and are in dialogue with local organizations and community members. Read about the current cohort of resident fellows.
The Lunder Institute hosts one or more visiting artists each semester to conduct research, initiate or complete new work, and collaborate in diverse ways with faculty, museum staff, students, and Maine-based makers and craftspeople. The program aims to foster artists’ practices at all stages of development and spark new creative and professional networks. The framework of each visiting artist’s engagement is established in partnership with Lunder Institute staff to ensure the best possible outcomes.
The goal of the Lunder Institute Summer Think Tank is to provide a safe and fertile space for participants and the freedom to engage with other invitees, as well as with Colby Museum staff, students, and faculty. These conversations will also introduce ideas and methods of addressing the hows and whys of the state of American art, leading to innovations in the field. As a unique incubator of research and practice, the Lunder Institute seeks to offer a platform for field-wide discussion, supporting, fostering, documenting, and sharing the knowledge and new questions that emerge. Learn more.
Practice and methodology are core interests to the Lunder Institute, and that interest extends beyond individuals—artists, scholars, curators, etc.—within the field of American art; it also extends to institutional practices. As a think tank for the field, and part of a leading academic art museum, the Lunder Institute seeks to provide opportunities and resources for institutions to engage with questions related to American art.
The Lunder Institute has invited six prominent art institutions across the nation to partner to respond to the question “What is the state of American Art,” as part of its new initiative, Lunder Institute @.
A primary goal of this initiative is to promote transparency in the field of American art, beyond public-facing exhibitions and scholarship, and to extend that process across each organization, and share a product of that engagement with the public. Learn more.
Special Projects and Partnerships
Teaching with Primary Sources: Innovative Approaches to Archives
Organized in partnership with the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and the Cleveland Museum of Art, this program supports early-career academics committed to teaching the history of American art with archives and developing innovative models to share with colleagues in the field. A cohort of ten participants, selected through an open call for applications, attends a series of multi-venue workshops that includes hands-on archival discussions and presentations by senior scholars, archivists, and museum professionals. Drawing on the unique resources of each venue, this multi-year engagement aims to build lasting relationships among the participants, foster professional collaborations, and allow time for participants to test new pedagogical models.
Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies
Founded in 2010 and comprising the Art Institute of Chicago, the Colby College Museum of Art, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, and the Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, the Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies is dedicated to nurturing, producing, and disseminating original scholarship and critical analysis of James McNeill Whistler and his international artistic circles. The Consortium fosters collaboration and provides support across institutions with an interest in Whistler and his coevals. In addition to organizing exhibitions, symposia, and other public programs and producing print and digital publications, the Consortium also supports annual paid internships for Colby students and offers project-based post-doctoral fellowships.
The Consortium post-doctoral fellowship for 2020-21 will be located at the University of Glasgow, with a focus on conservation and technical art history.
Black Artists Retreat
Black Artists Retreat (BAR), founded by Theaster Gates in 2013, is an annual artist-led initiative guided by the tenets of fellowship, rejuvenation, and intellectual rigor and committed to providing a platform through which Black artists can collectively wield transformative influence and shift the traditional balance of power within museums and the academy.
Black Artists Retreat 2019 was hosted by the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. Generous grants from the Ford Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation supported post-BAR convenings in Maine (November 2019) and at the American Academy in Rome (January 2020), fostering ongoing creative research by Gates and key collaborators.
Environment and Climate Projects
Launched in 2019 with a series of exhibitions and programs on the topic of climate change, this initiative is a partnership with the Colby Museum, the Environmental Humanities Faculty Seminar, the Center for Arts and Humanities, the Environmental Studies Program, and the Buck Lab for Climate and Environment. Leveraging Colby’s leadership in cross-disciplinary approaches to environmental study and stewardship, the Lunder Institute hosts visiting artists and fellows and supports convenings, publications, and new works of art that address urgent environmental issues. Current projects include the Colby Museum exhibition organized by Lunder Institute Fellow Phong Bui, Occupy Colby: Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy, Year 2, and The River Rail: Occupy Colby, a special edition of The Brooklyn Rail co-published by the Lunder Institute and the Colby Museum.
Maine Makers’ Map
The Lunder Institute has developed a tool to facilitate networking between visiting artists and craftspeople in Maine. This interactive map identifies and locates highly skilled craftspeople and provides an online network through which both visiting and local artists can find Maine-based material experts, builders, and workshops. This initiative supports creative collaboration and the Lunder Institute’s goals of promoting inquiry, expertise, and exploration in the field of American art. Spearheaded by Director of Artist Programs Daisy Desrosiers with the help of Colby students Briana Williams (’19) and Emmanuel Sogunle (’21), the Makers’ map is an ongoing initiative with an ever-growing network. We are grateful to the Maine Crafts Association for their help in the early stages of this project.
Explore the map here.
Makers interested in being added to the map should contact [email protected], with the subject line “Makers’ Map.” Please note that the Maine Maker’s Map project is temporarily on hold while Lunder Institute staff focus on other initiatives. We will continue to accept information from makers who wish to be included, but no updates to the map will be made until further notice.