Colby has appointed Associate Professor of Performance, Theater, and Dance Annie Kloppenberg as the inaugural director of the Lyons Arts Lab, a new arts incubator that will open on campus in the fall.
Established with a $5-million endowed gift from Colby Trustee John Lyons ’85, P’22 and Susannah Gray P’22, who currently serves on the Board of Governors at the Colby Museum of Art, the Lyons Arts Lab will function as a creative think tank to support new ideas and new work developed by Colby students and faculty across academic disciplines.
Housed in the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, also scheduled to open in the fall, the arts lab will provide resources, including funding and mentorship, to enable students to test, refine, and perfect original creative projects with a goal of presenting them as public performances at Colby and beyond. The lab also will work with faculty across the College and visiting artists to develop new, cross-disciplinary work and will work toward establishing more arts programming in the summer for the Colby community and beyond.
A member of the board of the American College Dance Association and faculty representative to the Board of Trustees and the Colby Museum Board of Governors, Kloppenberg is a nationally recognized choreographer, performer, educator, and writer.
“John and I have talked about the importance of both successes and so-called failures in the creative process. I’m most excited about his vision for this lab as an opportunity to support students to explore and experiment, not just to produce successful products,” said Kloppenberg. “The lab will be able to give students exciting resources to test ideas early on, which is a rare opportunity not just for students but even for professionals.”
Provost and Dean of Faculty Margaret McFadden said Kloppenberg was chosen to direct the lab because of her experience as a creator, presenter, and performer of new work, as well as her proven track record of fostering partnerships with artists and professors across creative and academic disciplines.
“Annie has a long history of collaborating across the College, and she is great with the students. She understands who they are and what they want to accomplish. She also has a long history of running her own dance company. She is a well-known choreographer who works with professionals in her field all the time. She knows what it takes to get work to the stage,” McFadden said.
Kloppenberg said she was eager to begin working with a range of students and faculty across the College. “At Colby, we are increasingly committed to interdisciplinary work, and the lab will be a way for gathering students who want to collaborate with students in other academic areas,” she said.
Unique among small liberal arts colleges, the lab will support students by making it possible for them to translate their ideas into film, performance, or another kind of artistic presentation. With an open structure designed to encourage all ideas, the lab will create opportunities for students to interact with and learn from industry professionals by workshopping their ideas.
“Or maybe a filmmaker, an actor, a sculptor, and a composer will come together for a project they might not think of otherwise,” Kloppenberg said. “It is about understanding the creative process can sometimes be messy and complicated and making sure students have the resources to go through the process of exploration that allows them to make the discoveries that become brilliant. That’s often how the possibilities get opened up and where the gems come from.”
Work funded by the lab will push the boundaries and incorporate collaborative thinking and problem-solving central to the liberal arts. In its first phase, the lab will develop its mission, vision, and identity rooted in the context of Colby, propelled by the curriculum and connected to the professional fields in the arts. The lab will develop as distinct from but connected to Colby’s Arts Office, the Colby Museum of Art, the Lunder Institute for American Art, and other academic departments.
“It will extend what we already do, not replicate or compete with it,” Kloppenberg said. “In consultation with the donors and my colleagues across campus, I plan on working toward a clear but flexible and inclusive vision for the lab and a strategic plan with phased implementation of programs. It will develop processes and structures to productively leverage the resources of the lab and the College to support strong, creative production, distributed equitably.”
The Lyons Arts Lab is Colby’s latest multidisciplinary lab designed to offer students an integrated, opportunity-rich experience to explore and address issues important in society at large, joining the Buck Lab for Climate and Environment, Halloran Lab for Entrepreneurship, and the Linde Packman Lab for Biosciences Innovation.
Lyons met with Kloppenberg in New York when several Colby faculty and staff brought a group of students to the city for an event at the Guggenheim. She impressed him with her connections to the students and her ideas about interacting with faculty across disciplines. “Her energy and her warmth are really apparent, and those are some of the things that make her an excellent choice to lead the lab,” Lyons said. “She is approachable, thoughtful, and she is in conversation with faculty across campus.”
A film and TV editor, Lyons began making films as a student at Colby and had to go off-campus for the resources necessary for editing and production. The College now has the equipment necessary for filmmaking, and the Lyons Arts Lab will ensure that’s the case going forward. “Part of why I have given money to Colby, and the reason for establishing the lab, is to find ways for students to create things on campus and to connect them to the outside world. Colby exists in an art infrastructure that is wider than Waterville, and students will be able to use resources throughout Maine and beyond if they have an idea they want to try,” Lyons said.
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