Susie J. Silbert (MA 2012), curator of modern and contemporary glass at The Corning Museum of Glass, received a BFA, concentrating in glass, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has held a curatorial fellowship at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, worked on projects for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the New-York Historical Society, and interned at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Craft Council Library. Her recent exhibitions include #F*nked!, exploring the relationship between digital interfaces and handmade objects, at the Kansas City Art Institute; Concept: Process at Parsons The New School for Design; and Material Location at UrbanGlass in Brooklyn.

What attracted you to Bard Graduate Center’s program?

I had been out of school for several years when I began thinking about attending graduate school. It was going to be a big leap—I’d majored in Fine Arts as an undergrad and had spent the past four years working in artists’ studios near the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina—and I wanted to make sure I chose a school that would give me a solid academic background in the history of objects.

I looked at all of the decorative arts programs around at that time, the Cooper-Hewitt, the Corcoran Program (now George Mason), University of Wisconsin-Madison, among others, but ultimately I was won over by the atmosphere of passionate inquiry, academic rigor, and dedication to interpreting the built world that I found among the students, faculty, and staff of Bard Graduate Center.

What was your focus of study? How did you find yourself involved with it?

Some of the most valuable things I learned came from unexpected places. I had anticipated focusing primarily on studio and post studio craft—and I certainly loved every class I took in that area, particularly those with Catherine Whalen—but I was surprised and delighted by many courses outside that area of focus.

Andrew Morrall’s Early Modern Ornament has been a touchstone for me, helping me to draw connections between, for instance, contemporary glass makers and early modern ‘learned craftsman’ such as Bernard Palissy and Wenzel Jamnitzer. I took two classes with Paul Stirton, both of which changed my life: Design Reform in Britain from Pugin to Mackintoshand Other Europes, on Central European modernisms. I could spend my whole life luxuriating in study of the former, and I enjoyed the latter so much that the syllabus formed the itinerary of my honeymoon!

You are curator of modern and contemporary glass at The Corning Museum of Glass. Describe your position—and your current (and or past) projects.

As the new curator of modern and contemporary glass here, I’m entering a curator’s paradise. The Museum just opened a brilliant new 100,000 square-foot building designed by Thomas Phifer in 2015 that includes 26,000 square feet of gallery space devoted to modern and contemporary art and design. The new wing adds to extensive space devoted to modern glass in the rest of the Museum, so I certainly have my hands full thinking of acquisitions, installations, and reinstallations in the space. I’ll also be developing new exhibition ideas, shepherding commissions from artists, and editing The New Glass Review, an annual publication dedicated to showcasing the most cutting edge work in glass from a given year.

In developing exhibitions, I’m interested in bringing my broad curatorial background and diverse interests to my inquiries about glass. For instance, I recently co-curated an exhibition with Anna Walker called #F*nked! investigating the impacts and relationships between contemporary makers in traditional materials and digital interfaces. A multimedia show based in ceramics, the interpretive lens we used to organize #F*nked! combined aspects of low and high culture to create a hybrid neither of us could have anticipated. I could imagine a similar exhibition connecting, say, contemporary artists and the phenomenology of glass.

Ultimately, Corning is a collaborative place, and my job is to work with the rest of the team—including people from education, collections, administration, other curators, etc.—to ensure that the Museum remains the preeminent place for learning, seeing, and thinking about glass.

What ultimately is your professional goal?

My professional goals have been and continue to be to educate and excite people about the past, present, and future of objects and materials through exhibitions, lectures, and publications. Being at The Corning Museum of Glass amplifies my reach, so in many ways, I’m already living my dream!