Muriel Silberstein-Storfer: Art Educator, A Legend in Her Own
art is where it all starts,” explains Muriel Silberstein-Storfer,
revered art educator who created the immensely popular Parent-Child
Studio Workshops at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and founded
the non-profit outreach organization, Doing Art Together. If human
beings had not created art, there would be no art today, she reminds
those who regard it as expendable, a luxury for the rich. Art
is a necessity in life, and it is for everyone. Explaining the
hands-on philosophy of her workshops, she quotes an old Chinese
proverb, “What I hear, I forget; what I see, I remember; what
I do, I know.”
Silberstein-Storfer learned to communicate through the arts at
a very early age and credits her art instructor and mentor at
Fieldston High School, Victor d’Amico, with teaching her that
“disciplined art skills and aesthetic awareness could enhance
every area of life.” “He changed my life,” she says. She majored
in Theater Arts, studying costume and scene design, at Carnegie
Tech, now Carnegie Mellon University, and afterward, while attending
a parent-child workshop with her three young children at The Museum
of Modern Art’s Institute of Modern Art, which was headed by d’Amico,
discovered the power of interactive shared experiences and the
wisdom of her mentor’s conviction that parents must encourage
sensory awareness and creativity to help their children grow.
She became an instructor at the MOMA
Institute and after it closed in 1970 continued to teach at various
venues discovering that her methods were effective whatever a
student’s background. In 1972 she was asked by The Metropolitan
Museum of Art to organize parent-child workshops for members.
She started with 2 classes a week and today, thirty years later,
brings her skills and passion to 8 groups of three to five year
olds and their accompanying parents, grandparents, or caregivers.
In many cases, the classes have become a family tradition and
children, when grown, bring their own children to the workshop.
One mother is currently attending with her fifth child, having
already shared the art experience with the other four.
class is disciplined, structured, and joyous. It is not playtime,”
explains Silberstein -Storfer. Children and parents sit on separate
sides of the room and work individually. They learn to use materials,
tools and imagination and to communicate through the non-verbal
language of art. The class begins with a demonstration and discussion;
for example, how various brushstrokes can create different feelings
and environments. By working diligently, the parents in the room
convey to their child the serious pleasure of “doing art.” They
learn art vocabulary and working procedures to use with their
child at home, and they have fun.
In 1982, wanting to reach a broader population, Silberstein-Storfer
established Doing Art Together in collaboration with her colleague,
art educator/studio instructor Electra Askitopoulos Friedman.
They acquired the cooperation of the Board of Education and the
Metropolitan Museum of Art. The mission of this not-for-profit
organization is to foster “hands on” art courses in schools and
social service agencies, including Head Start programs, hospitals
and rehabilitation centers. Mrs. Friedman is the program director,
acting as school liason. She meets with principals and classroom
teachers for orientations, discussions of curriculum and professional
development training.Classrom teachers do the projects along with
the children in six to 24-week programs, which include a museum
visit and a school exhibition of their work. The success of these
initiatives, together of the publication of their book Doing
Art Together in 1982 led to the recognition of the Doing Art
Together organization as a valued asset to the field of art education.
The book is a step-by-step guide to replicating the Met workshops
at home or in other settings. A CD-Rom for children, “look what
I see,” followed in 1997.
That to Muriel Silberstein-Storfer “life and art are inseparably
entwined” is seen by the many roles she plays in the city’s art
world. She is a community trustee emeritus of The Metropolitan
Museum of Art and sits on its education and borough relations
committees. She was a long-time member of the Art Commission of
the City of New York, the agency that reviews all art and architecture
on public land, and currently is on its Associates executive committee.
She received the prestigious Artworks 2000 Art Educator Award
from the New York City Art Teachers Association (NYCATA). She
sits on many boards and commissions and has received numerous
awards. And you can still have the pleasure of learning from her
in her classes, from her book, or by watching her CD-ROM.#
questions about Doing Art Together, call 212-650-2512. For information
about classes at The Met call the membership department at 212-570-3753.
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