Many people familiar with the Colby College Museum of Art understand that the museum enjoys a deep level of support among the college administration.

All the way up to president William D. “Bro” Adams and the various college board members, trustees and overseers, the men and women who make the most important decisions that affect the college comprehend the important role of the museum and its place in the Colby community.

Whenever I talk to them, I have the distinct impression that their support for the museum is not merely lip service. They get it.

That point was hammered home when Adams led a gallery talk for an exhibition that he curated.

That’s right — the college president rolled up his sleeves, dug through the museum archives and assembled an exhibition that’s available for public consumption.

Talk about stepping out on a limb.

“It was great fun. I think that’s the right word,” Adams said. “It was also pretty educational in several ways. I went through virtually the entire collection, which is mostly in storage. (Museum director) Sharon (Corwin) and I went through the collection together, actually, and I learned an enormous amount about what we have in there.

“I also learned a lot about what it means to curate and install art, something I had abstractly thought about but not done. I learned how critical is the work of actually hanging it and the judgments that get made. Our great assistant director, Greg Williams, was instrumental in that. Working with him and understanding the professional knowledge and judgments that go into making works speak to one another was very educational.”

The show that Adams assembled is part of the “Rediscoveries 2: New Perspectives on the Permanent Collection” series, and it’s on view in the museum’s Lower Jette Galleries through April 29. While much of the museum is closed for an ambitious $15 million expansion project, some galleries remain open.

During this down time, Corwin thought it would be fun to invite members from the Colby community to select and arrange artwork from the permanent collection. This the second installment in the series.

Through his work as a curator, Adams offers insight into the blighted urban landscape by focusing on spaces associated with labor. The centerpiece of his curatorial decisions focuses on a group of newly acquired photographs by Andrew Moore.

If they look closely, viewers can discover the beauty of factories, gas stations, landfills, deserted alleys and houses, and classrooms.

And in doing so, Adams also offers a piece of his own story. His father worked in Detroit’s automobile industry, and Adams distinctly recalls visiting the famous River Rouge complex as a young boy in the 1950s. At the time, the Ford plant employed some 50,000 people, including Adams’ father. It represented the epicenter of industrial capitalism in America.

“It was a dramatic experience to see it in those days,” Adams said. “It was so powerful and vast.”

Today, it is reduced to blight.

Perspective is everything. Adams conveyed his personal experiences as well as his emotions during his curatorial work on this exhibition and his gallery talk.

Standing in the gallery, addressing people interested in his story and his perspective, made Adams feel nervous, “and a little apologetic when I spoke about it.”

After all, he is not a curator. He is a college president. He is perfectly capable of talking about art.

But talking about art with authority made him a little uncomfortable — and gave him newfound appreciation for the work that Corwin and her staff do on a daily basis. 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

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Twitter: pphbkeyes