Phillips Oppenheim

Founding Director, Waterville, ME




Established in 2017 through the extraordinary gift of Peter and Paula Lunder, the Lunder Institute for American Art will create a unique forum for scholarship, creative works, dialogue, and mentorship among visiting scholars and artists, Colby faculty and students, and local and global communities; facilitate institutional exchange in the United States and internationally; and train future leaders in the field of American art through the Colby Museum and partner institutions around the world. The Lunder Institute will be integrated into the academic mission of Colby College and the Museum and is poised to become a preeminent research center for American art. A major mission of the Lunder Institute is to explore American art from a global perspective and dialogue, inspiring an interchange of ideas between places and cultures, and opening up new models for scholarly and creative engagement and production. It is also committed to multidisciplinary, multi-genre exchange, allowing artists and scholars from a broad range of backgrounds and areas of expertise to engage in shared inquiry and dialogue.

To advance critical and creative research in American art and related fields, the Institute will host a residential program for scholars and artists on campus and in downtown Waterville. Summer and academic-year residencies, ranging from several days to a year, will be offered to graduate students, scholars, curators, and emerging and internationally renowned artists who could develop new site-specific works on campus and in the community. These fellows will be a strong part of the intellectual and creative life of the College, working directly with faculty, students, and community members, and inspiring a dialogue between art creation and scholarship. In collaboration with the Colby Museum, the Institute's activities also will include an exhibition program, a robust publication program, and the organization of major multidisciplinary symposia.


Founded in 1959, the Colby College Museum of Art comprises five wings, more than 9,000 works of art, and more than 38,000 square feet of exhibition space, the largest in the state of Maine. The recently announced gift by Peter and Paula Lunder will add more than 1,100 artworks to the collection by artists from Albrecht Dürer to Julie Mehretu. Works in the collection strengthen the Museum's mission to offer Colby students new perspectives on their classroom studies and expand their understanding of diverse subjects through art. The Colby Museum is also deeply committed to strengthening diversity and inclusion across all strategic and programmatic areas of the Museum to include a multiplicity of perspectives and backgrounds represented on our staff and Board of Governors, outreach to diverse audiences, inclusive and diverse exhibitions and programs, and a broad-based, expansive collection.


Founded in 1813, Colby is one of America's most selective colleges. Serving only undergraduates, Colby's rigorous academic program is rooted in deep exploration of ideas and close interaction with world-class faculty scholars. Students pursue intellectual passions, choosing among 58 majors or developing their own. Independent and collaborative research, global experiences, and internships offer multiple opportunities to connect students to the world beyond campus and prepare them for postgraduate success. Colby is home to a community of 2,000 dedicated and diverse students from around the globe. Its Maine location provides unique access to world-class research institutions and civic engagement experiences.

Under the leadership of President David A. Greene, Colby is building on this strong foundation while remaining committed to excellence, to supporting students and faculty at the highest levels, and to the College's deep liberal arts traditions. Current strategic initiatives include creating innovative academic programs and partnerships, strengthening the connections between the liberal arts and the world beyond Colby, revitalizing downtown Waterville, and pursuing significant capital projects for performing arts and athletics.


The Founding Director of the Lunder Institute will have the intellect, freedom, and ambition to envision and launch an institution unique in the field for its premise, contribution, and profile in the field of American art. Primary duties include creating and implementing a strategic plan for the Institute, acting as an ambassador for the Institute and establishing its international profile and network, identifying and recruiting resident fellows, fostering internal and external partnerships, overseeing the budget and recruiting its team, and developing the Institute's signature programs and activities. The Founding Director reports to, and will be a close partner with, the Director and Chief Curator of the Museum, oversees the work of the Institute's Program Coordinator, and is integrated into the full staff and programs of the Museum.

The Lunder Institute Director will lead the Institute though the identification, recruitment, and application review of scholars and artists for summer and academic year residencies; establish networking and collaborative opportunities with partner institutions throughout the globe; conceive of the Institute's organizing themes in support of its scholarly and creative direction s/he establishes; organize symposia, conferences, and residencies to advance the shared goals of the Institute and the Museum and that raises the profile of each by virtue of their excellence.

With deep knowledge of the Museum's excellent collections and programs, the Institute Director will lead the Institute's engagement with Museum and College audiences. Through an expansion and alignment with the Museum's successful program of multidisciplinary outreach, the Director will identify collaborative opportunities for fellows to engage with and advance the Museum's exhibition and education programs, including artist-commissioned projects and scholarly and creative contributions to the Museum's programs. Further strengthening the Museum's and Colby's connections with Waterville and Maine, the Director will also forge meaningful connections between Maine communities and the world through the Institute's programs.

The ideal candidate will bring energy, vision, and resourcefulness to this critical leadership position. S/He must have a sophisticated understanding of the important and topical issues facing American and contemporary art and the opportunities to advance the field. The candidate must bring a strong knowledge of emerging and leading thinkers and creators in the field. S/He must possess a working knowledge in arts management principles and best practices; general administrative principles, practices, and methods; an understanding of and vision for residency programs; budget development and management; supervisory experience, including techniques of planning and delegating work. The candidate must have strong leadership, decision-making, interpersonal, planning, and organizational skills; strong written and verbal communication skills; solid presentation, negotiation, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and meeting management skills. S/He must be comfortable and up to date on the use of technology to advance objectives. In these endeavors, the Director will garner the requisite external support through alignment with the fundraising and donor engagement efforts of the College, and long-term planning within the multidisciplinary activities in grants and sponsored programs.


A highly functioning arts executive with a minimum of seven years' experience directly related to the duties and responsibilities required, preferably, an MA or PhD in a related field. In addition, the ideal candidate will also possess the following characteristics:

  • Commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity as key strategies toward broad-based institutional excellence, representing a range of perspectives, thought, and actions;
  • Deep knowledge of American and contemporary art, coupled with an active network of artists, scholars, and curators in the field;
  • Experience building relationships with artists and facilitating their work;
  • Demonstrated ability to plan and operate strategically, work effectively with a board, build internal and external support;
  • Demonstrated ability to forge mutually respectful, trusting, and effective relationships with a diverse group of staff, Board members, faculty, community leaders, and decision makers;
  • Demonstrated success in attracting and working with artists and scholars to create a dynamic and innovative residency program;
  • Outstanding oral and written communication skills; presence and credibility to serve as an effective spokesperson for the Institute locally, nationally, and internationally.

The successful candidate should also be:

  • A passionate and sophisticated advocate for the arts, personally and professionally committed to the mission, objectives, and programs of the Lunder Institute for American Art and the Colby College Museum of Art;
  • A persuasive and articulate communicator who is able to connect with a broad spectrum of people in a meaningful way;
  • Able to maintain balance and perspective, and a proactive "can-do" attitude that can inspire others;
  • Unflappable in the face of multiple demands; pragmatic, grounded, authoritative, decisive and disciplined; mentally flexible and creative as circumstances demand;
  • An honest negotiator and true collaborator for whom all sides maintain trust and respect and works successfully in close partnership with institutional colleagues.

Applications, including cover letters and resumes, and nominations should be sent to the attention of Sarah James and Becky Klein at

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