People living in New York City might take their weekend guests from out-of-town to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We Watervillians recently had the proud privilege of escorting our Massachusetts guests to the Colby College Museum of Art.

Our home will forever be a favorite respite for our friends, we are sure of it.

Not only did we introduce them to a world-class collection of art, we were welcomed to the cool, majestic interior of the museum free of charge.

Can you imagine it? This exquisite gem of a museum, here in our hometown, less than a mile from our house.

We may walk to it whenever the inclination strikes, sit in the quiet solitude of its large, dark, comforting, regal rooms, admiring these gifts given to us by Peter and Paula Lunder, two forward looking, thoughtful and generous people who love their $100 million collection so much they wanted us to love it, too.

Not many small cities across the U.S. can boast such a tribute.

Many wealthy, cultured and worldly people guard their riches with iron fists, but not this couple. They not only have donated them to Colby, they are making them accessible to people who would likely never otherwise be able to enjoy them.

In the museum, people of all ages, from all walks of life and from near and far (we could tell by their vehicle registration plates) filtered into the large lobby and were received with smiles from security guards and young women in uniform who sat at the desk, dispersing museum fliers.

They were not soliciting money, not handing out tickets, or asking for anything at all. Their smiles said, “Welcome to this sacred place.”

We perused the works at our leisure — the James McNeill Whistlers, Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, Norman Rockwell, Dennis Miller Bunker, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alex Katz. There were Ansel Adams photographs, an Alexander Calder mobile, a Tiffany lamp.

I was mesmerized by Paul Kos’ “XC on Brushstrokes,” a work on canvas that employs painting, video and sculpture. The back-lit canvas is painted with white and silver brush strokes representing snow in the woods. A projector on the ceiling launches an image of a cross-country skier with poles onto the scene, appearing large at first and then slowly and methodically making his way up a snowy incline until he becomes smaller and smaller, ultimately disappearing over a ridge.

A few seconds later, he re-emerges and repeats the walk.

It is simply stunning, a real triumph in artistic vision and creativity.

I also was fascinated with the Dara Friedman video “Dancer,” which was transferred from 16 mm film and features a series of men, women and children dancing down city sidewalks. The video repeats, enabling the viewer the luxury of a second and third look.

The museum — the largest in the state — rivals any that we have visited in New York, Boston and other major U.S. cities, as well as those in Italy, Austria and elsewhere in Europe for which we paid many a pretty euro to visit.

I remember working as a reporter for my college newspaper in Connecticut in the 1970s and receiving tickets to the King Tutankhamun exhibit at the Met. That was when the exhibit was touring U.S. cities and making big news everywhere it went. I took the train down to the city and felt very rich and lucky to be among the museum visitors perusing this extraordinary exhibit.

It was an incredible privilege, and I knew it, young as I was.

That feeling came flooding back as I moved deeper and deeper into the darkly painted, cool rooms of the Colby museum where I had the freedom to explore some of the most beautiful works of art in the world.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to the Lunders, who understand the concept that we are, after all, only guardians of works of art — we never really own them.

It’s what we do with our treasures that reveal our true worth.

The Lunders have certainly shown theirs and, in their sharing, have made us all rich.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 25 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]