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Updated: July 14, 2020

New Colby art museum chief has background in community engagement

The new art museum director at Colby College brings a background in public engagement work at two of the country's most distinguished organizations in the field, the Art Institute of Chicago and New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Waterville school yesterday announced the appointment of Jacqueline Terrassa as the Carolyn Muzzy Director of the Colby College Museum of Art.

Jacqueline Terrassa

Terrassa currently serves as vice president of the Art Institute’s women’s board for learning and public engagement and will assume her role in October, according to a news release.

“The Colby College Museum of Art offers the perfect context to manifest values of creativity, community and care that have anchored my work over the years,” Terrassa said in the release.

“During the coming years, we will continue to create an expansive, inclusive model for what an art museum can be in collaboration with the many communities the museum seeks to serve, while also continuing to open new ways of understanding American art, art history, and art practice in relation to a constantly evolving, diverse, and complex world.”

Terrassa will succeed Sharon Corwin, who served in the position since 2006 until recently joining the Terra Foundation as president and CEO. 

Sharon Corwin was Colby College Museum of Art’s director since 2006.

Terrassa is recognized as a national leader in transforming museums as places for deep learning and rich community engagement, Colby said.

From 2008 to 2011, she was  associate director of education and public programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, directing public programs that connected adults, families and youth with artists and art. She developed the Creative Agency, a program to empower teens to think critically.

From 2011 to 2016, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she established the division of Gallery and Studio Programs, which annually engaged 95,000 children and caregivers, teens, adults and artists, including people with disabilities, with works of art. 

While at the Art Institute of Chicago, Terrassa set strategies to strengthen the museum’s civic role as a resource and leader. 

Overseeing a multimillion-dollar budget, a 34-member staff and hundreds of interns and volunteers, she led the evolution of learning spaces and programs that engaged with more than 240,000 participants annually. A key part of her work included growing community and academic relationships as well as stewarding donor relationships and support.

“She is an artist and educator who has helped transform the way museums engage with and enrich their communities,” President David Greene said in the release. “With her sharp intellect and rigorous approach to understanding the meaning and impact of artistic works, she is ideally suited to further the museum’s scholarly and teaching mission.”

Expanded collections

Terrassa will lead the museum at a time when it has significantly expanded the depth and diversity of its collection. Over the last decade, the museum has built relationships with artists, collectors and other museums, and created exhibitions focused on the issues of the day, including climate change, diversity, equality and inclusion. 

Terrassa’s responsibilities will involve supporting and advancing the mission of the study of American art and scholarship. That includes overseeing the Lunder Institute for American Art, which is dedicated to scholarship, research and partnering with artists to further their work.

The Lunder Collection, comprising more than 1,500 works of art, was created by gifts from Peter and Paula Lunder in 2013 and 2017. It includes works by Alexander Calder, Winslow Homer, Maya Lin and Georgia O’Keeffe among others. Central to the collection are more than 300 works by James McNeill Whistler, the largest grouping of Whistler works in an academic museum. 

“The Colby Museum took off when the Lunders gave their extraordinary collection,” said Greene.

Another key moment was in 1992 when artist Alex Katz donated more than 400 of his works to the museum. The construction of the Paul J. Schupf Wing for the Works of Alex Katz — which now has nearly 900 Katz works — makes the museum one of the few in the United States with a wing devoted solely to the work of a single living artist. 

Karen Linde Packman, board chair of the museum, said it is part of the college’s overarching plan to leverage the arts to help drive the resurgence of the city. The initiative will include a gallery at the Schupf Art Center, currently in the planning stages, as well as studios and research space in the Colby College Arts Collaborative building, which just broke ground. The school said the collaborative space will transform a block of long-vacant downtown buildings into an artistic hub.

A rendering of the planned Colby College Arts Collaborative, at 14-20 Main St., Waterville, where construction by Landry/French began last week.

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