The Bates College Museum of Art is a laboratory for the visual arts. Providing an environment for broad audiences to explore and discover synergies created by visual art across academic disciplines of a liberal arts education, we represent the new academic museum for the 21st century. The museum works collaboratively with artists, students, faculty and other museums to create exhibitions, which offer new scholarly explorations and educational programming linked closely to our communities. Through original exhibitions, programming and a growing collection the museum transcends its commitment to expanding traditional notions of art history and identifying specific artists and artistic trends that address local and global issues in context.
Academic museums have become a powerful force in American culture. Devoted, like their college and university affiliates, to the missions of education and scholarship, these museums make daring and provocative forays into new artistic territory, presenting the work of artists from a striking variety of backgrounds and perspectives. The Museum of Art is taking a leadership role in redefining the Academic art museum for the 21st century. Dedicated to challenging explorations into visual culture and contemporary art through exhibitions and educational programs the museum represents a new cultural space where diversity is championed and the local is as significant as the global.
Today many college and university museums like Colby, Bowdoin, and the University of Maine on the Maine Art Museum Trail are cultural leaders in a museum world defending itself against an environment increasingly dominated by commercialism. Unlike traditional academic museums that became insular by looking to the past for answers about the past, the museum views itself as a new academic museum and cultural leader resisting commercialization. Our museum is dedicated to introducing new ideas and questions about how art transcends and reflects history in our current times, and presents the possibilities of what is to come. It is a laboratory for creative thought, a site of synergy where artists, curators, scholars, students and visitors engage art together.
In support of our new mission and its challenge to traditional museum methodology we recently received a generous gift to the museum: a “synergy” fund dedicated to “the development of education, with focus on the synchronistic parallels in time and space across the subject matter of the liberal arts.” The Synergy Fund supports the museum’s efforts to look more creatively at how it organizes exhibitions and how it experiences and communicates that process. It is a space of adventure, exploration and mystery where more questions are asked than answered, where process is as important as the results.