Home Art collection Q&A with Maine Patrons Paula and Peter Lunder

Q&A with Maine Patrons Paula and Peter Lunder

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Paula Lunder arrived in Waterville via Chicago in 1959 and received advice from her husband’s aunt, Bibby Alfond, which served her well for the next 62 years.

“On your day off Sunday, go to all the major antique shops in the region. You will meet Mainers there and in doing so you will see what you both love, ”Bibby Alfond told Paula and her husband, Peter. “And it turned out that every time we went by car, we met great people and bought art. We bought paintings rather than objects, and that from the start. We always have these pieces.” Paula Lunder said in a recent telephone interview.

Paula and Peter Lunder no longer drive around central Maine on their days off looking for bargains to fill the walls of their house, but they still buy a lot of art. The advice they received from Bibby Alfond – who was married to Harold Alfond, the founder of Dexter Shoes, where Peter Lunder later served as president – sparked the collecting habits of Maine’s most famous art philanthropists, who have amassed a collection of American and European artwork. art valued at over $ 100 million and donated most of it to the Colby College Museum of Art.

They have donated art to many other museums and many millions more to Colby along the way – to expand the museum, establish a university institute, and most recently a $ 3 million donation to the Greene Block. + Newly opened and dedicated studios at 18 Main St. in downtown Waterville, named in honor of current Colby President David R. Greene and his wife, Carolyn, and occupying a former hardware store in the heart city ​​shopping center near Ticonic Falls.

The building opened on Tuesday and includes both public spaces for events and exhibitions as well as private studios for a rotating roster of artists. It’s fitted with a pair of oversized garage doors that open onto Main Street, creating an atmosphere that Lunders hopes will inspire inclusion and collaboration between Colby and the community. The renovated four-story historic building, built in 1836, also serves as the new headquarters for the Lunder Institute for American Art and is part of Colby’s larger effort to bring the arts downtown while building presence and health arts in general.

The Lunders have divided their time during the pandemic between homes in Maine, Massachusetts and Florida, and often with their families around them. Asked about their latest collecting interests, Paula Lunder replied with a laugh: “Grandchildren,” then quickly added: “We still love art and always want to be engaged.”

As to why they left so much art and gave so much money to Colby, Peter Lunder – who graduated from Colby in 1956 and initially resisted his uncle’s invitation to help him running the shoe business, preferring to work in southern Maine or Massachusetts, where he would be closer to Fenway Park and his beloved Boston Red Sox – said he had learned a lesson in philanthropy during a visit to the de Young Museum of Art in San Francisco 25 years ago. When Lunder asked why benefactor John D. Rockefeller, who lived in New York City, donated so much art to a West Coast museum, he was told it was because Rockefeller was confident that it would be kept in public view and not stored.

“It got some bells ringing in our heads,” said Peter Lunder. “We said, ‘This is a great idea. Someday, if our collection deserves to be in a museum, let’s choose a regional museum where the students would like to study and see it. “

With this idea as an early seed, the Lunders began a relationship with Colby that includes five college presidents, with Greene the last, and several museum directors, including current director Jacqueline Terrassa. Since 2013, they have donated more than 1,500 works to the museum, including their donation from the Lunder Collection, comprising more than 500 works and considered one of the most important private collections. In 2017, they donated another 1,000 works of art to the Colby Museum.

Generally averse to publicity, the Lunders recently spoke by phone from their Scarborough home about their interest in the art and their loyalty to Colby College and Waterville – and the Red Sox.

Q: Why is Project Greene Block so important to both of you, and why did you insist that it be named in honor of the Greenes?

Peter Lunder: It’s very important to Waterville, very important to Colby, and very important to the students, and the name Greene deserves to be on the building because the work David has done for the area, for the arts and for everything there. -high, it is certainly is amazing. He is a force to be recognized. … He always included the town of Waterville in his vision.

Paula Lunder: When people come to Waterville, David wants to enhance their experience, and he does it through the arts. The arts improve everyone’s life, and he wants to share that vision with a larger audience. David developed the arts on campus and built on (the work of his predecessors). You see it with the new performing arts building on campus, and it has extended the arts to the city, including the community of Waterville and beyond. The arts exploded under his leadership.

Q: Other than grandchildren, what do you collect these days?

Rock : Everything we love and want to live with or want others to enjoy.

Paula: We try to look at art with Colby’s teaching mission in mind, and with Jackie Terrassa, our new director (of the museum), we look at things we might never have seen, and we love them. We appreciate being taught once again.

Q: Can you give an example of something you bought while thinking of teaching?

Paula: The Picasso suite (given to Colby in 2016) is an example. I never imagined we could have works by Picasso in our collection, but they enhance what Colby can teach in so many ways, in philosophy and in art, and he also talks about war and relationships. It is a very significant collection.

Rock : And right now, the museum displays the Cassatt Collection, a collection of prints (by Mary Cassatt, donated by the Lunders in 2017) from the Midwest. Anyone can enjoy it and see beautiful examples of engraving.

Q: Has your goal in building your art collection always been philanthropy?

Rock : We never thought it was a museum-worthy collection until many people in the museum field started contacting us about the collection.

Paula: When we started to think that it had some other purpose than our pure pleasure, we had to think of art in a different way. What would be good for teaching? What level should we collect? It made us think more about art, where it fits in our lives, and what it would mean for a college. Imagine having something you love, appreciate, hung up in a museum. It’s an amazing experience, and Colby had had such fabulous curators and preparers. We think they have done a wonderful job, not only with our collection, but in bringing Colby works of art that are good for students and timely in today’s world. Am I right, Pierre?

Rock : Yes. We did not have the knowledge of scholarship, so we engaged a lot of people in the art field to influence some of our purchases. One of the key people on the ground was Betsy Broun at the Smithsonian in Washington. She has helped us enormously, as well as the curators of the country and the authorities on various painters.

Paula: Hugh Gourley at the museum (Colby) has become such a mentor to us. Colby was with us from the start. We traveled with Hugh (to see and buy art). … We were so lucky to have this experience, and then having Colby’s leadership appreciate it, you can imagine how important it was. And we are very happy with the links that will be born between the museum and the new performing arts center. It is an exciting time for Colby and for Waterville. But it always comes down to what’s going on in buildings. And this is where David Greene’s leadership and vision is so phenomenal.

Q: Apart from art and family, are you still so passionate about the Red Sox?

Rock : Absoutely.

Paula: That’s life is not it ?


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