Never pausing to rest, the Colby College Museum of Art expands into downtown Waterville with the long-anticipated opening of the Paul J. Schupf Art Center on December 17. Named in honor of a longtime Colby trustee emeritus and a benefactor whose gifts have reshaped the campus, the new art center promises to transform downtown with a lively mix of visual, film, and performing arts.
The museum will curate the Joan Dignam Schmaltz Gallery of Art on the street level of the new art center, sharing space and vision with Waterville Creates and its related film, visual, and performing arts divisions. Those include the Maine Film Center, Ticonic Gallery + Studios, and the Waterville Opera House—all soon operating with shared collective creative energy under one roof, along with the museum.
The motto of the downtown exhibition space is “invitation and surprise,” said Jacqueline Terrassa, the Carolyn Muzzy Director of the Colby College Museum of Art.
“We want to be responsive to this unique space and to visitors, and plan programming that creatively addresses what is most needed, infusing the Colby Museum’s dynamic imprint throughout our exhibitions and activities,” Terrassa said. “This is going to be a very public, multigenerational space. We want to entice a wide range of visitors and invite them to discover something that might be unfamiliar.”
With its new downtown space, the museum further advances a long-held goal of creating more opportunities for a range of people to access and experience visual art while creating another cultural magnet. Admission to the Joan Dignam Schmaltz Gallery of Art is free, and the gallery will be open six days a week (closed Tuesdays).
The chance to collaborate with an established community arts organization on a project that benefits the region broadly was significant, Terrassa said. The museum has worked with Waterville Creates on various projects, including the popular Art in the Park summer art-making series, Art Kits for All, and numerous other programs. This partnership cements the museum’s relationship with Waterville Creates in more tangible ways.
“The fact that we are not doing it on our own is important and valuable. By virtue of being in collaboration with Waterville Creates, we are sending a message of unity. Schupf Arts is about what we can do together to build community through the arts, for the greater good.”
Gallery will operate as ‘extension’ of the museum
The Joan Dignam Schmaltz Gallery of Art will feature rotations from from the museum’s permanent collection and special exhibitions by emerging and established artists. Terrassa said museum staff members will program and operate the gallery as an extension of the museum, with an initial plan of three exhibitions annually.
“We have a new opportunity to open access and make it possible for many more people to experience how art, in all its beauty and complexity, can inspire and connect us,” Terrassa said. “We see the center as a cultural living room, a place where even a very short, casual visit can transform the day.”
On view during the week of the winter solstice, the inaugural exhibition is Light on Main Street, a luminous display on view from Dec. 17 to Jan. 23. The project features videos and sculptures by Erin Johnson, Jennifer Steinkamp, Paul Kos, and Barbara Gallucci.
Johnson created the video Lake while in residence at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture by flying a camera drone over a group of 18 swimmers. All artists at the school, the swimmers float on the surface of the lake, using their arms and legs to maneuver in and around one another. Over four-plus minutes, they create improvised group choreography, working individually to stay afloat and collectively to support one another.
Jennifer Steinkamp’s Judy Crook 5 is a short video animation that simulates the life of a tree over the seasons of a year, blooming, flowering, and losing its leaves in the span of a moment or two. Steinkamp has made more than two dozen animated tree videos dedicated to teachers she admires, as trees represent strength, shelter, and fruitfulness. This animation honors an influential art teacher.
In the Paul Kos piece XC on Brushstrokes, a lone figure skis through a forest. But instead of simply being a painting, this work evolves into an immersive landscape with the layering of a projected video that transports viewers outdoors and into a bed of freshly fallen snow. Barbara Gallucci’s Topia Terrace is an interactive artwork—a grassy cluster of bean bags and stools where visitors can rest, play, and converse. The seating area also offers a place to view the videos in this gallery space.
Two murals will anchor Schupf Arts. Tessa Greene O’Brien, a Maine-based artist and curator and participant in the 2022–23 Lunder Institute for American Art’s residential fellowship at the Greene Block + Studios, is installing Fields Alive with Pollen + Wings. When finished, it will be a monumental painting that combines Maine flora and fauna and colorful geometric shapes. The title is borrowed from a line in the poem “In Praise of Hands” by Stuart Kestenbaum.
Printmakers Elizabeth Jabar and Colleen Kinsella created a large-scale mural of the Two Cent Bridge, the suspension span between Waterville and Winslow. Partially supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Mellon Foundation, their work was part of the Common Threads community art project and exhibition this past summer, a partnership among Waterville Creates, the Colby Museum, and the Lunder Institute and its artists. The exhibition will be on view in the Ticonic Gallery of Waterville Creates.
Jabar is the inaugural Lawry Family Dean of Civic and Community Engagement at Colby. She and Kinsella led 11 workshops and drop-in art-making sessions using printmaking, bookmaking, photography, writing, and audio recording centered around community stories and hopes for the future. The mural resulted from those discussions.
Waterville Creates Education + Outreach Manager Serena Sanborn, an artist who grew up and lives in Waterville, said the project achieved its goal of uniting people around a common theme.
“It’s a way for people to connect to how they fit in a community,” Sanborn said. “What’s the future of the community, and how do we keep creating community trust and enjoyment and create things together?”
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