Olivia Fountain

Anne Lunder Leland Curatorial Fellow

This post is part of our “Meet & Greet” series, periodic posts meant to introduce our online audiences to staff members here at the Colby College Museum of Art. Olivia Fountain, the new Anne Lunder Leland Curatorial Fellow, joined the museum this fall. We sat down with Olivia to discuss her role at the museum, her background, and her move to Central Maine.

Olivia with Up and Over (2014) by Martin Puryear. Cast ductile iron, 18 5/8 x 26 1/2 x 12 3/4 in. Museum purchase from the Jere Abbott Acquisition Fund, 2015.003.

How have your first few months working for the Museum been?

They’ve been great! I started in the weeks leading up to the opening of all the fall shows, so it was a kind of baptism by fire. In retrospect, I wouldn’t have it any other way; it allowed me to immediately learn a lot about the museum and the special exhibitions. I also felt so instantaneously welcomed by the museum staff, so two months in and it already feels like I’ve been here for much longer.   

What are your main responsibilities as curatorial fellow?

I assist with the coordination and implementation of exhibitions, which includes everything from doing preliminary research to creating labels to working on installations. In addition to exhibition-related research I also compile information relating to new acquisitions and understudied artists in our collection. I handle outside correspondence sent to the curatorial department, help run the museum’s Instagram, and manage—and will occasionally be writing for—The Lantern. I’m fairly new to the museum world, so in addition to my official capacities I’m here to learn as much as I can from all staff members at the Colby Museum.

What were you doing before you started at the Museum, and how are you hoping to build upon those experiences here?

I graduated from Oberlin College in 2017, and worked as the Curatorial Assistant for the office of Academic Programs at the Allen Memorial Art Museum the following year. The Allen is Oberlin’s excellent museum, and in my position there I worked with college faculty and students to better integrate the Allen’s collection into interdisciplinary courses across campus. It’s been really interesting to make the transition from one academic museum to another, and exciting to be working in a museum that has such incredible teaching resources. While at the Allen, I tried to draw students’ attention to the fact that museums are never neutral spaces and to get them to consider the role of a curator or an institution as a whole in constructing narratives and spotlighting certain artists or periods in art history. It’s been fascinating to be a part of the curatorial side of that conversation after engaging with it from an education standpoint. I also studied classics and art history at Oberlin, so it’s been great to dive back into writing and researching for the curatorial team—I missed it!    

How have you found your first months in Central Maine, and what are you most looking forward to exploring?

The big confession I have to make here is that I don’t know how drive (I grew up in New York City, if that’s an excuse), so I’m working towards getting my license before I’ll be able to really explore Central Maine in the way it deserves to be explored. But as a result I’ve gotten to pour my energies in getting to know Waterville and the immediate area, and it feels good to focus my efforts on the place I now call home. This winter I hope to learn how to ski!

What is one of your favorite artworks at the Museum?

I really love Martin Puryear’s Up and Over. I’m a huge fan of the sculptor Jean Arp and his goal of making sculpture that feels familiar and corporeal without looking like anything specific. Our Puryear, too, evokes a natural form—it reminds me of an insect or a cresting wave—while remaining abstract. I also like how the coaxing, tongue-in-cheek title simultaneously suggests movement and reluctance to move, and the iron surface communicates a heaviness that is at odds with this funny, dainty spiral form. It is a work filled with contradictions and I could look at it forever.