Colby College unveils $6.5-million arts collaborative

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Colby College unveils $6.5-million arts collaborative
The $6.5-million restoration of two historic buildings in this downtown area will provide space for interdisciplinary artistic collaborations, and promote the development of creative work by national artists, educators, scholars and students. Courtesy of Colby College.

WATERVILLE, ME.- Last week, Colby College in Waterville, Maine, opened a one-of-a-kind arts collaborative for artistic creation, innovation and community interaction.

The arts collaborative is the first in a series of steps by Colby to position Waterville as a cultural destination and use the arts to continue to engage with its community. It will also be the new home to the Colby College Museum of Art’s Lunder Institute for American Art, which includes Distinguished Visiting Artist and Director of Artist Initiatives Theaster Gates, as well as Senior Fellow Maya Lin.

The $6.5-million restoration of two historic buildings in downtown Waterville will provide space for interdisciplinary artistic collaborations, and promote the development of creative work by national artists, educators, scholars and students.

The project was made possible in large part by leading art philanthropists Peter and Paula Lunder through their Lunder Foundation, which has supported major initiatives at the Smithsonian and Whitney museums.

Unique Combination of Form and Function

The 25,000-square-foot building, which was developed despite the pandemic, includes flexible performance and exhibition space on the ground floor, while the second, third and fourth floors feature a series of artist studios and research areas designed to support both established and emerging creative practitioners.

Although there are other maker spaces that allow for exhibiting or performing, Colby's arts collaborative is unique in that it strongly incorporates scholarship, and just as importantly, community engagement. The college believes the space has the potential to serve as a national model for centering the arts and artists as catalysts for community creativity, collaborative learning, and innovative, expansive artistic research and production.

Resident Artists and Programing

At the core of the building will be the resident artists, who, along with Colby students and faculty, will use the studios. While they’ll represent a wide range of disciplines and mediums – from visual artists to dancer/choreographers and sound artists – they will all be connected by their commitment to community engagement and co-creation.

An inaugural season of spring programs presented on the ground floor will feature workshops, readings, performances and conversations, including an event in May with renowned artist Maya Lin.

Using the Arts to Reinvent a City

According to Colby, making Waterville a premier destination for the arts has been a core strategy for revitalizing this former paper mill town. The arts collaborative is the first in a series of steps to create a dynamic arts ecosystem, and use the arts to support the resurgence of the city as well as meaningfully contribute to the quality of life of its residents.

Additional initiatives underway in Waterville will result in a set of flexible, multipurpose spaces for art and cultural programming that will enrich life in the city, bring new activity and vitality to downtown and grow Waterville’s stature as the North Adams of Northern New England.

While the arts collaborative is currently only open to the Colby community due to Covid-19 health and safety protocols, it is expected that the public will have access to the space starting this summer.

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