Colby College has announced the appointment of Jacqueline Terrassa as the Carolyn Muzzy Director of the Colby College Museum of Art. Terrassa, who currently serves as the Woman’s Board vice president for learning and public engagement at the Art Institute of Chicago, will assume her role in October.
“Jackie Terrassa is the perfect leader for Colby’s wonderful Museum of Art,” said President David A. Greene. “She is an artist and educator who has helped transform the way museums engage with and enrich their communities. With her sharp intellect and rigorous approach to understanding the meaning and impact of artistic works, she is ideally suited to further the Museum’s scholarly and teaching mission. Her personal warmth, experiences at the nation’s top museums and universities, and forward-looking approach to the role of museums in societies make her a spectacular choice at this auspicious moment in Colby’s history.”
Terrassa will lead the Colby College Museum of Art at a time when it has significantly expanded the depth and diversity of its collection and grown its national reputation as one of the most respected college museums in the country. Over the last decade the Museum has successfully built relationships with artists, collectors, and other major art museums in the U.S. and globally; created exhibitions focused on the issues of our time, including climate change, diversity, equality, and inclusion; and integrated the Museum into the student experience while building on the College’s broader mission and progress toward programs that are representative of all of America. Terrassa will succeed Sharon Corwin, who recently joined the Terra Foundation as president and CEO.
“I am thrilled to lead this visionary museum at a time when the field is undergoing profound transformation,” commented Terrassa. “The Colby College Museum of Art offers the perfect context to manifest values of creativity, community, and care that have anchored my work over the years. During the coming years, we will continue to create an expansive, inclusive model for what an art museum can be in collaboration with the many communities the museum seeks to serve, while also continuing to open new ways of understanding American art, art history, and art practice in relation to a constantly evolving, diverse, and complex world.”
“The Colby College Museum of Art believes deeply in the value of expanding the canon of American art, inspiring an interchange of ideas between places and cultures, and opening up new models for scholarly and creative engagement,” said Karen Linde Packman ’88, P’21, who serves as chair of the Colby College Museum of Art Board of Governors. “We are confident that Jacqueline will build upon these ideals and allow us to reach new levels in our work. She’s a dynamic leader with great vision, connecting art to diverse audiences in meaningful ways. Speaking on behalf of the Museum’s Board of Governors, we’re thrilled to have her join Colby.”
Packman noted the ongoing commitment to integrating the Museum into downtown Waterville, which is part of the College’s overarching plan to leverage the arts to help drive the resurgence of the city. The initiative will include a gallery at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, currently in the planning stages, as well as studios and research space in Colby’s arts collaborative, which has just started construction and is expected to be completed in spring 2021.
Terrassa’s responsibilities will also involve supporting and advancing the mission of the study of American art and scholarship. Imperative to this will be overseeing the Lunder Institute for American Art, which is dedicated to scholarship and research, partnering with artists to further their work, and illuminating new understanding that comes through the exploration of art, artistic practice, and the connection of art to other disciplines.
Deep Experience with Public Engagement
Terrassa comes to Colby with an exceptional array of leadership positions at the country’s top museums. She is recognized as a national leader in transforming museums as places for deep learning and rich community engagement. While at the Art Institute of Chicago, Terrassa set the vision and strategies to strengthen the museum’s civic role as a resource and leader, expand inclusion and equitable access to the institution, and ignite the public’s experience with art and the museum. Overseeing a multi-million dollar budget, as well as a 34-member staff and hundreds of interns and volunteers, she led the evolution of learning spaces and programs that engaged with more than 240,000 participants annually. A key part of her work also included growing community and academic relationships as well as stewarding donor relationships and support.
“Since arriving at the Art Institute, Jackie Terrassa has led our efforts to more deeply engage with visitors from Chicago and beyond,” said James Rondeau, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute of Chicago. “Her leadership provided a springboard for innovation in our programming, interpretation, and student tours that resulted in a more inclusive and accessible museum. We will miss her, but look forward to following her future success at the Colby College Museum of Art.”
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 2011 to 2016, Terrassa established the division of Gallery and Studio Programs, which annually engaged 95,000 children and caregivers, teens, adults, and artists, including people with disabilities, with works of art. As associate director of education and public programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) from 2008 to 2011, she directed public programs that connected adults, families, and youth with artists and with the art of our time, and she developed the Creative Agency, a major teen program to empower young people to think critically and activate the museum. Her role at MCA also involved working on two major multidisciplinary artist residency projects: Theaster Gates: Temple Exercises (2009) and the Mark Bradford Project (2010-11).
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Terrassa earned her B.F.A. from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.F.A. from the University of Chicago. She began her museum and cultural management work at the Hyde Park Art Center, a community art center in Chicago. From there she served as deputy director of collections, programs, and interpretation at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art; was head of planning for the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution; and served as director of the Museum Education Division at the National Art Education Association. She is an artist herself, has written and contributed to a wide range of publications and journals in her field, and is a regular speaker or panelist at industry events.
Terrassa has served on grant panels and advised a wide range of foundations and government agencies, including the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Joyce Foundation, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Illinois Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
From Regional to Preeminent
Gifts from Peter and Paula Lunder in 2013 and 2017 for the Lunder Collection, comprising more than 1,500 works of art, have made the Colby Museum a destination for American art in a global context. The collection includes works by Romare Bearden, Alexander Calder, John Chamberlain, David Driskell, Winslow Homer, Maya Lin, Joan Mitchell, Georgia O’Keeffe, Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and Ai Weiwei, among many other artists. Central to the collection are more than 300 works by James McNeill Whistler, the largest grouping of Whistler works in an academic museum. The Lunder Collection also features the Lunder-Colville Chinese Art Collection, encompassing 44 exceptional works of ritual and mortuary art dating from the prehistoric period to the Jin Dynasty (1126–1234).
The Lunder Collection greatly enhances the Museum’s stature in the field of American art, a distinction made more prominent in 2017 with the establishment of the Lunder Institute for American Art. Bringing scholars and artists together in a liberal arts context, the Lunder Institute expands the dialogue of American art and practice to include global connections and multi-disciplinary perspectives.
“The Colby Museum took off when the Lunders gave their extraordinary collection,” said President Greene. “That was a transformative moment that moved it from a small regional museum to the very best museum in the state of Maine and one of the preeminent college museums in the country.”
He noted that another key moment was in 1992 when artist Alex Katz donated more than 400 of his works to the Colby College Museum of Art. The construction of the Paul J. Schupf Wing for the Works of Alex Katz—which now has nearly 900 Katz works—makes the Colby Museum one of the few in the United States with a wing devoted solely to the work of a single living artist. Notable exhibitions have been organized from the collection, including Brand-new and Terrific: Alex Katz in the 1950s. In addition, the Alex Katz Foundation has gifted more than 490 works, primarily by contemporary artists, to the Museum.
Founded in 1813, Colby is one of America's most selective colleges. Serving only undergraduates, Colby offers a rigorous academic program rooted in deep exploration of ideas and close interaction with world-class faculty scholars. Students pursue intellectual passions, choosing among 58 majors or developing their own. Colby's innovative and ambitious campaign, Dare Northward, is supporting deeper connections between the college and the world as well as a fully inclusive experience for all Colby students. Colby is home to a community of 2,000 dedicated and diverse students from more than 80 countries. Its Waterville, Maine, location provides unique access to world-class research institutions and civic engagement experiences.