A $5 million gift from a notable alumnus and his spouse will allow Colby College to establish a new arts lab for students to conceive and develop their own projects.

The Lyons Arts Lab, named for 1985 graduate John Lyons, a film editor, opens this fall on the Waterville campus. Lyons made the donation with his wife, Susannah Gray, a retired pharmaceutical company executive who serves on the board of governors at the Colby College Museum of Art. The donation is an endowed gift, which means much of it will be invested to provide income that will keep the program funded for years to come.

College President David Greene said the lab “opens the door for thrilling new possibilities.”

“Providing students with the resources to create original films, plays, compositions, and more will fuel the creative spirit of this community and prepare students for careers as artists and arts leaders,” he said in a statement. “John Lyons knows this well. The films he made as a student at Colby led to a lifetime of filmmaking and award-winning visual storytelling.

“John and Susannah have been innovators throughout their careers, and their generous and visionary gift will ensure generations of Colby students will follow that path.”

The lab is envisioned as an incubator for student-led work, augmented by industry professionals. The goal is for projects to ultimately be performed for the public. Part of the program will include visiting artists and artists in residence who will offer workshops and master classes, while also developing their own projects.


The lab will be permanently housed in the new Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, which opens next fall.

“This gift is meant to help students have their dreams take shape in the real world and transform their ideas into something that they produce, see, touch, and that other people can experience,” Lyons said in a statement provided by Colby. “It will provide a sort of scaffolding and infrastructure for creative growth and realizing creative ideas – whether it’s having a professional reading of a play, going down to New York to have a hands-on experience with a working artist, or mashing music, dance, science, and math all together for a one-of-a-kind performance piece.”

Lyons added that he hopes students will be emboldened to take creative risks.

The new lab will join three others established at Colby in the last six years. They are: the Linde Packman Lab for Biosciences Innovation, the Buck Lab for Climate and Environment, and the Halloran Lab for Entrepreneurship.

Lyons, who lives in New York, has many film editing credits and is best known for his work with writer/director Ritesh Batra on the 2013 film “The Lunchbox,” a 2017 film starring Jim Broadbent called “The Sense of an Ending,” and another film from 2017, “Our Souls at Night,” starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford.

Lyons also has edited the directorial debuts of actors Paul Bettany and Meg Ryan.

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