Peter and Paula Lunder have donated a lot of money to the arts in Waterville.

The pair pledged the lead gift to build the Lunder Wing at the Colby College Museum of Art in 1995. They’ve donated more than 1,600 pieces of art to Colby between 2007 and 2017, creating the Lunder Collection. They’ve funded the Lunder Institute for American Art that brings artists and scholars together at Colby to research, study and make art.

Now the former Waterville residents are pledging $3 million to bring art and artists to the site of a former hardware store on Main Street to collaborate and to help drive, if not actually inspire, the revitalization of downtown Waterville.

Peter and Paula Lunder. University of Southern Maine

“The arts collaborative that is planned for Main Street in Waterville is meaningful to our family,” said Peter and Paula Lunder. “It brings together those elements that we believe in — creating art and sharing it with the people we admire and the community we enjoyed being a part of for so many years.”

Colby College announced in a release Monday it received the gift from the Lunders through the Lunder Foundation.

“It is hard not to think of the arts first when we think of Peter and Paula Lunder,” said Colby College President David A. Greene. “But as much as the Lunders value the arts, they are truly remarkable for always considering the needs of others first. This gift is another example of their generosity and selflessness, their desire to strengthen this community and improve the lives of all who call central Maine home.”

The buildings Colby owns at 14 and 20 Main Street will house the arts collaborative. The ground floor is dedicated to performance and artistic engagement and is designed to be free, accessible and open like the Schupf Art Center.

Combining the ground floors of the two buildings, the collaborative will provide a creative space, including moveable walls, seats and risers, for the community to see art exhibitions, poetry readings, musical performances and the like. The exterior façade will include large windows to allow for ample light and viewing off Main Street.

“Making art fully accessible will improve the quality of life for many people in Waterville,” Greene said in an interview.

A pedestrian walks into the alley Sunday next to the four-story building at 14 and 20 Main Street in Waterville. Colby announced Monday it plans to renovate the two buildings across from the Lockwood Hotel to become an arts collaborative. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

The second and third floors of the collaborative will house artist studio and maker spaces, which are being designed to support a mix of established and emerging artists, including local and visiting artists to the Lunder Institute who will collaborate with each other.

Students from Colby and the Maine College of Art in Portland, including College of Art Lunder Scholars, are expected to benefit from the collaborative once the two schools forge a partnership aimed at providing artists in residence with opportunities in Waterville.

Fees for the artists’ programs would be nominal and fellowships are expected to be available.

The building will provide dedicated space on the fourth floor for Lunder Institute for American Art staff, who will manage the activities and operation of the collaborative. Moreover, the collaborative is expected to solidify the ability of the Lunder Institute to attract artists and scholars from around the world to engage in dialogues across disciplines and to stimulate the production of original art and new collaborations.

“Having many artists under one roof will enable Colby to support creative production among a much broader community,” said David C. Driskell, American artist and historian from the University of Maryland whose work is included in the Colby Museum of Art. “This innovative space will allow Colby students, faculty and local artists to work side by side with Lunder Institute artists in residence — a mutually enriching experience for all.”

In fulfilling the vision Colby and community leaders imagined to revitalize Waterville, the arts collaborative provides a “really important piece of the puzzle,” Greene said, not only in creating an attraction to the city, but in solving a development problem.

The Lockwood Hotel takes shape at left, across the street from the four-story building at 14 and 20 Main Streets, center, which Colby announced Monday will become an arts collaborative funded in part by a donation from Peter and Paula Lunder. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

The buildings at 14 and 20 Main Street that the collaborative will occupy were “terrible,” Greene said, terrible when they were bought, terrible even now. They had been through fires. The brickwork needed to be updated. The inside of the buildings needed to be gutted. Utilities were lacking. The Colby team looked at several development options, including tearing them down, but structurally the buildings were salvageable. Their appearance reflects the history of their years. The goal became to keep them intact.

When the demolition of the former Camden National Bank began across the street to clear space for construction of the Lockwood Hotel, workmen were already inside the buildings, stripping their insides, leaving mere shells. Now the insides have to be built from the ground up. Elevators, electrical systems, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems need to be installed. The exterior must compliment the collaborative’s neighbor across the street. Once the traffic pattern becomes two-way on Main Street, the collaborative and the hotel will form two sides of the southern gateway to a revitalized Main Street.

“This project is a $6.5 million project,” Greene said, adding that investments the college has made on Main Street hover around $82 million.

“We would be sure to pay something for these buildings so there is no loss at all in property taxes,” he said.

Completion of the projects the college has set for itself is some two years away, Greene said.

The list of what has already been accomplished in Waterville grows longer: the Alfond Main Street Commons; the businesses occupying 173 Main; investments downtown by the DePre family, the Nale siblings and Bill Mitchell among others; the number of buildings that have changed hands in recent years; the growth in population; the rise in property values; the plans to complete the Paul J. Schupf Art Center; the redesign of Castonguay Square; the street improvements the federal Build grant will cover; the workforce housing that the Lockwood Mills project has undertaken.

“(They are) amazing level of investment,” Greene said.


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