Colby Museum announces two curatorial promotions

April 28, 2021

The Colby College Museum of Art announced this week the appointment of Elizabeth Finch as Lunder Chief Curator of the Colby College Museum of Art and the promotion of Justin McCann to Lunder Curator of American Art and Whistler Studies, effective July 1.

Since joining the Colby Museum in 2008 as Lunder Curator for American Art, Beth has applied a visionary, collaborative, and deeply human curatorial approach to her work in exhibitions, collections development, community and academic engagement, and publications. She has long served as a respected spokesperson for the museum, one who gains inspiration from the voices of her community within the context of the liberal arts.

A member of the Waterville Creates board since 2017, Beth’s strong local, national, and international networks have helped position Colby as a premier academic museum and a destination for American and contemporary art. Prior to joining Colby, Beth served in curatorial roles of increasing scope at The Drawing Center in New York City (1992–2001). Her work in museums began in the curatorial department of the Whitney Museum. She participated in the Center for Curatorial Leadership fellowship and the Whitney’s Independent Study Program; and she holds a doctorate in art history from The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Beth has significantly helped develop, research, and interpret the museum’s extraordinary collection, increasing its diversity. Among Beth’s most visible contributions are her exhibitions, and she has been responsible for many at Colby. In recent years these have included Roy Lichtenstein: History in the Making, 1948–1960 (co-curated with Marshall N. Price; co-organized with the Nasher Museum); I Am Not a Stranger: Portraits by Séan Alonzo Harris (produced by Waterville Creates in collaboration with the Colby Museum); Nancy Spero: Unbound; Darkness Visible: Goya Prints from the Lunder Collection; Currents 8: Carly Glovinski; and Marsden Hartley’s Maine (co-curated with Randall Griffey and Donna Cassidy; co-organized with the Metropolitan Museum). Over the last decade she has also contributed to significant collection-based exhibition and publication projects. Her scholarship of key artists, most recently Roy Lichtenstein, has broken new ground.

Beth is a passionate believer in the value of the arts and artists as conduits for generative dialogue and understanding about the crucial issues of our time. Over the past year, this commitment has informed her interim leadership of the Lunder Institute for American Art, a role she has held while fully carrying out her curatorial work. As Interim Director, Beth has served as a member of the museum’s senior team during a period of leadership transition and layered national and international crises; she acted as a critical partner in the Lunder Institute’s strategic re-visioning, and served as the Institute’s liaison in the realization of the Arts Collaborative at 18 Main Street. She also collaboratively launched residential fellowships and their associated new programs while providing ongoing leadership of existing Lunder Institute programs and initiatives.

Beth will bring all of these experiences and skills to the role of Lunder Chief Curator. The creation of this position as separate from that of the Colby Museum’s director is an important evolution for Colby, one that speaks to the caliber of its staff; the quality and ambition of its research, exhibitions, publications, and collections; and the role of these in academic and public engagement.

As Beth moves into this new role, our Curator of Whistler Studies Justin McCann will assume the position of Lunder Curator of American Art and Whistler Studies. This shift recognizes the scope of work Justin is already carrying out, including his important stewardship of our historical holdings of American art and key aspects of the Lunder Collection. Currently, Justin has been finalizing plans for the 2021 exhibition Inside Out: The Prints of Mary Cassatt, co-curated with Shalini Le Gall of the Portland Museum of Art, and leading plans for a significant re-installation of the museum’s collection of American art from the southwest region. In addition to his curatorial work on James McNeill Whistler, Justin has organized exhibitions focused on John Marin, John James Audubon, Old Master prints, and the sports photography of Walter Iooss. Justin’s duties will include leading Colby’s efforts in the Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies. He brings scholarly breadth and depth to his newly expanded role, as well as a commitment to teaching, community service, and engagement.

Beth’s transition will also result in the launch of a national search for a Director of the Lunder Institute for American Art. She will continue serving in an Interim Director role through the end of June.