Revitalizing the arts at Colby: The new Diamond Family Director of the Arts

On Tues., Oct. 8, the College announced that it is establishing the Diamond Family Director of the Arts to assist the ongoing revitalization of the arts happening both in Waterville and on campus. The new position, which was made possible by a donation from the Diamond family, is the latest part of the College’s recent campaign to prioritize creativity and the arts on campus. 

“We’re fortunate to have a museum that is generally acknowledged to be among the very best of all colleges in the country, and we are trying to ensure that all of our art [programs] can live up to that standard,” President of the College David Greene said in an interview with the Echo. “So we want our performing arts programs, all our creative programs to be on that same level so that they can be a special part of the Colby experience.”

Indeed, the College Museum of Art is a high standard to measure up to. The Museum made national news in 2017 when the Lunder Family donated over a thousand pieces of art valued at over 100 million dollars, an astonishing number for such a small school. The Lunder Institute was also created that year, working in tangent with the Museum in order to bring in the best and brightest artists working today, such as the current Distinguished Artist and Director of Artist Initiatives Theaster Gates. 

While bringing the other arts institutions on campus up to that level is a daunting task, the College has already been making progress. Between the planned Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, work with local Waterville arts institutions, and the recent establishment of the Jennifer Jahrling Forese Writer-in-Residence program in Creative Writing, there is a lot already set in motion. 

“[The arts] are such a special part of human life,” Greene said of the importance of these new arts initiatives. “They are what make us fully human. But I also think that it helps us create a really creative, dynamic culture on campus and will ultimately help prepare students as they become innovative thinkers in a variety of fields. The arts push you to think in new ways and approach problems and opportunities from a very different angle.”

Delaney Wood `21, a double major in neurobiology and studio art, echoed Greene’s sentiments. 

“I think the arts are a really important part of everyday life in ways that we don’t always observe or understand,” Wood said in an interview with the Echo. “It’s really important that we are actually putting money and resources into the arts. A lot of art students here don’t have the best amenities that they could.”

Professor of painting Bevin Engman is also excited about the new arts developments on campus — specifically the new Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts. Engman claims that the performing arts at the College have long needed and deserved an overhaul. 

“I think the new building [The Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts] will make the good work that [the Theater & Dance and Music departments] have been doing more visible, and they deserve it because we have incredible Theater, Dance, and Music programs,” Engman said in an interview with the Echo. “I look forward to, as a member of the Art Department, collaborating with any effort that would help move it forward because it’s a wonderful part of the curriculum.”

Greene hopes that the new Diamond Family Director of the Arts will be an interface between all of the different initiatives that are currently in motion, allowing for collaboration in ways the College has not yet seen before. 

“We did a program a couple years ago where this extraordinary poet came to Colby and worked with pieces in the Museum and with artists to reshape his own work. So I’d love to see us in a position where we have writers and actors and musicians and dancers all working together on new and interesting art forms.”

Ultimately, though, what Greene is most excited about in regards to the new position are the opportunities to improve the community and foster relationships with like-minded people and institutions. 

“What I’m hoping is that in the end, the programs that are happening with the new Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, what’s happening downtown with the Waterville Opera House, will all be coordinated so that we can think together with our partners in the city of Waterville as well as across campus about how we can organize multi-year schedules of artists coming to campus in a way that helps invite people from Waterville and surrounding towns onto campus for arts events,” Greene said. “I’m really hoping that this position will be at the center of that coordination and integration of the arts in a way that allows Colby to be really vibrant and dynamic.”