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Interview with the prestigious curator Susie J. Silbert

Susie Silbert

After seven intense years of work at the Corning Museum of Glass, curator Susie J. Silbert embarks on a new stage in her career.

Silbert has worked in various areas of the CMoG since 2016, serving as editor of the New Glass Review, leading the Museum’s Rakow Commission, awarded annually to an artist whose work is not yet in the CMoG‘s permanent collection.

She led the New Glass Now international exhibition, designed to introduce new approaches to glass, opened at Corning in 2019, and was on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington DC and at the Toyama Museum of Glass in Toyama, Japan.

Her curatorial practice is expansive and she constantly seeks to broaden definitions of what glass artwork is and can be, with the goal of broadening the scope and reflecting contemporary creation.

Silbert received her BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003, worked as a curator and collaborator at the Mark Peiser Studio in Penland, North Carolina, for four years as well as in a variety of other curatorial positions before and after earning an MA in decorative arts, design history, and material culture from Bard Graduate Center in 2012.

After learning about her departure from CMoG from her, we interviewed her to learn about her new projects.

Susie Silbert CMoG Glass Art


How was your experience at CMoG?

I think that the best way to characterize my experience at The Corning Museum of Glass over the last seven years is that it was FULL. Full of incredible highs—New Glass Now, major changes to New Glass Review, historic Rakow Commissions, major reinstalls of the contemporary galleries; full of connections to artists, collectors, scholars, gallerists, and more—and also full of challenges. Big changes like that don’t come without some deserts to cross and hurdles to jump, so my time was full of plenty of those too.

I’m proud of what I achieved while I was there and it is largely because of the collaborations, partnerships, and relationships I enjoyed with so many excellent colleagues across the Museum and artists, collectors, scholars, and others across the field. So I really see my success as the result of a collective and there is no better experience than being part of a good team.

Installation images of New Glass Now 
Susie Silbert CMoG Glass Art
at The Corning Museum of Glass, May 2019 – January 2020.
Was it difficult leaving CMoG? Why did you make this decision?

Absolutely it was difficult to leave the Museum! I have been so incredibly honored to have this role and I appreciate and value the opportunities and responsibilities that came with it.

Getting to be a voice for artists and an advocate for their work from that platform was absolutely a dream and I am very proud of the things I was able to accomplish from that position. BUT, believing in artists, advocating for them, and creating opportunities was my work long before I came to Corning and it will continue to be my work for long after. So I am very hopeful for the future.

And why did I make the decision to leave? The Museum has been in a period of transition. Much of the curatorial team I worked with for so long has left, as have many others across the institution. When an institution goes through that much change, it forces you to take an honest look at where things are headed and where you’re trying to go. I believe deeply in working in service to the artists, their enthusiasts, and the local, national and international communities that would be enthusiasts if we just connected with them. Right now, I think I’m better able to do that work independently.

Susie Silbert CMoG Glass Art

«I believe deeply in working in service to the artists, their enthusiasts, and the local, national and international communities that would be enthusiasts if we just connected with them.» Susie Silbert

Susie Silbert CMoG Glass Art
Anjali Srinivasan (Indian, born 1978)
Made in United States, Massachusetts, Boston, 2020–2022
Blown, mirrored, and cracked glass; silicone; steel; Arduino sensors; electronics; wood
2022.4.1, 35th Rakow Commission, purchased with funds from the Juliette K. and Leonard S. Rakow Endowment Fund 
Photo: The Corning Museum of Glass
What are the contributions that you leave to the museum?
A lot happened in seven years, so there are many contributions I could list: from major acquisitions by contemporary artists like Vanessa German, Larry Bell, and Olafur Eliasson, to pathbreaking Rakow Commissions like Rui Sasaki’s transportative, room-size installation Liquid Sunshine: I am a Pluviophile and David Colton’s Untitled, Corning Museum, the first glass cannabis pipe ever acquired by an art museum. And of course, there is the groundbreaking exhibition New Glass Now which changed the narrative on contemporary glass and brought the work of so many different artists to Corning, to the Renwick Galleries of the Smithsonian and to the Toyama Art Glass Museum in Japan. The things I set in motion will keep unfolding for the next couple of years in exhibition, acquisition, and other areas, which is also nice.

But those are just lists of things, my real contribution—what I am most proud of—is what those things represent: that the field of contemporary glass is open. That what art made from glass IS, who it is made BY, and who it is FOR, are open questions, always evolving and expanding. It has been gratifying to see other institutions move in directions I’ve had a hand in opening up—the Renwick Galleries now have a cannabis pipe, for instance—and crazy rewarding to hear from people who have felt that change. Museum visitors, artists, docents, and others have told me in the last few weeks that I made them feel more included in the Museum and in glass than they ever had before; that they felt like they could be themselves in new way. Nothing could be more gratifying to me than that. It’s hard enough to be a person in the world, so if I contributed, even just a little bit to helping people feel a little better about themselves, that is big success.

Liquid Sunshine/I am a Pluviophile
Rui Sasaki (japonesa, nacida en 1984)
Hecho en Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japón, 2018
Vidrio soplado con material fosforescente, luces UV de espectro completo, detector de movimiento
2018.6.2, 33.ª Comisión Rakow, adquirida con fondos del Juliette K. and Leonard S. Rakow Endowment Fund
Foto: Yasushi Ichikawa
Susie Silbert CMoG Glass Art
The Walker; for how to honor the price of compassion– how not to die of lies
Vanessa German (estadounidense, n. 1976)
Hecho en Estados Unidos, Nueva Jersey, Millville, WheatonArts Glass Studio, 2017
Técnica mixta
2020.4.2, apoyado por el Fondo de Adquisición de Ennion
Foto: Corning Museum of Glass
Sin título, CMoG
David Colton (estadounidense, nacido en 1974)
Estados Unidos, Westhampton, Massachusetts, 2018
Vidrio de borosilicato flameado, acero
2019.4.159, 34.a Comisión Rakow, adquirida con fondos del Juliette K. and Leonard S. Rakow Endowment Fund
Foto cortesía del artista
Your next steps?

For at least right now, I’m going back to being an independent curator, speaker, and writer. I’ve been dreaming of doing an exhibition on glass cannabis pipes for at least 20 years, since before I even knew what a curator was—so the first thing I’m going to do is work on that and an accompanying book project. I am so excited about this that it’s hard to contain myself!

I’m also looking forward to doing more public speaking. Speaking is my favorite medium and my Corning calendar had gotten too busy to do much, so I’m really looking forward to giving more lectures and doing more visiting critic/curator engagements. I also recently had some conversations about an executive director position, so I’m keeping my options open.

Basically, I still believe in artists + want everyone in the world to get as excited about them as I am, so I will be doing my best to keep making people pay attention!