Colby’s $100 Million Masterpiece

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The Colby College Museum of Art comes of age with a beautiful new wing that houses an extraordinary act of generosity.

By Deborah Weisgall

It’s safe to say, I think, that no art museum in America or anywhere else has marked the opening of a major new wing with a lobster bake under a tent pitched in a field, complete with tin plates, soggy grass, a swing band, and a heartfelt exhortation to go back for seconds. But on a beautiful evening in July, that’s how the Colby College Museum of Art celebrated the opening of its Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion, an elegant glass-sheathed box rising from the eastern slope of Mayflower Hill.

The party had been six years in the making. In 2007, the museum announced that long-time Maine residents Paula and Peter Lunder, the latter of whom is a 1956 graduate of Colby, had given it their collection, which consists primarily of American art. At the time, the collection was valued at over $100 million, and the Lunders are continuing to add to it. Their gift included a building, jointly donated by the Lunders and their cousins, the Alfond family, who, in 1993, sold the Dexter Shoe Company to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. The Alfonds have been major supporters of Colby (one family member estimates that at least forty Alfonds have graduated from the college) and have given generously throughout the entire state.

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Deborah Weisgall’s work has appeared in the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, and Esquire. She has written two novels and a memoir.

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