Montgomery College

A Lifetime of Helping to Shape Other Artists Is Honored

By Julie Rasicot
Special to the Washington Post
Thursday, February 28, 2008

For Sarah Silberman, sculpting is a passion that she can't give up.

Even at 98, with arthritis hobbling her joints, the Silver Spring artist still enjoys working with clay to make small duplicates of some of the hundreds of works she has created since she first studied sculpture in the 1920s.

"You feel it. It becomes a part of you, an extension of you," Silberman said, shortly after her lifelong commitment to sculpture was celebrated last week with Montgomery College's dedication of the Sarah Silberman Art Gallery on its Rockville campus.

More than 75 relatives, friends, faculty, college officials and students gathered for the gallery's dedication, which also honored Silberman's role as mentor and unofficial artist in residence during the 25 years she took art classes at the community college.

"She has been an inspiration to faculty and students alike," Kathleen H. McCrohan, chairman of the art department at the Rockville campus, told the crowd. "She has taught us the delight of art. That delight will continue as long as we have students coming here."

Silberman donated $500,000 to renovate the second-floor gallery from a dull room with gray carpeting on the walls into a modern space with blond flooring, white walls and new lighting. Her donation also paid for new seating and display cases on the first two floors of the building. More than 30 pieces of Silberman's work are on display.

The sculptor, who has lost most of her hearing, also had anonymously endowed scholarships in ceramics and sculpture over the years. Two students, who didn't learn until recently that their scholarships were funded by Silberman, said the funding enabled them to pursue their artistic interests.

Sophia A. Angelakis, 23, of Washington said her gratitude to Silberman goes beyond the support provided by the scholarship.

"It really gave me the confidence to pursue what I love," she said. "It felt so good that there were people out there willing to help others explore our passion."

Silberman had long been a fixture in the art department on the Rockville campus, where she started taking classes at age 71 and continued until she was 95, taking or auditing more than 170 classes in several mediums, according to school officials.

Bill Silberman said his mother began attending classes "partly to get away from her children and grandchildren. She escaped to a place where they wouldn't bother her so much. Essentially, she married this place," he said of Silberman, whose husband, Dave, a fur business owner, died in 1978.

The gallery dedication was the latest honor the college had bestowed upon the sculptor, who was classically trained at two nationally known art schools and won several awards when she was younger. Silberman publicly exhibited her work in Washington and other cities until 1950, and then spent the next 30 years working in her home studio.

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