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News Release

Date: March 22, 2007
Media Contact: Elizabeth Homan, 301-251-7970; Steve Simon, 301-251-7952

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97-Year-Old Artist, Former Student Makes Major Donation to Montgomery College
Sarah Silberman’s $500,000 Gift to Renovate Rockville Campus Art Gallery

EDITOR: For high resolution images of Sarah Silberman and her artwork, visit

    Future generations of Montgomery College art students will soon have a newly renovated gallery on the Rockville Campus to showcase their artistic talents, thanks to a generous gift by 97-year-old sculptor Sarah Silberman, a renowned artist and longtime student in the art department.

    Silberman—whose extraordinary artistic career has spanned more than 75 years, including three decades when she took hundreds of art classes and mentored fellow students at the College—will donate $500,000 to renovate the Rockville Campus art gallery.

    “[At Montgomery College] I'm with creative people, which is stimulating,” said Silberman about her experience as a student at Montgomery College. “Being my age, I'm the grandmother to most of the kids… Some of [their artwork] is unbelievably beautiful and wonderful.”

    Funds from the Silberman gift will be used to install new floors, walls, and lighting in the gallery. A portion will also go towards new display cases on the first and second floors of the Paul Peck Art Building, where the gallery is located. The cases will feature Silberman’s own artwork, created over her lifetime, plus works created by faculty, students, and community artists. In honor of Silberman’s gift, the gallery will be renamed the Sarah Silberman Art Gallery. The gallery renovation will begin this summer, with completion expected by September.

    “As an artist, student, and benefactor, Sarah Silberman has been incredibly generous in her support of both students and the arts at Montgomery College,” said Dr. Brian K. Johnson, president of Montgomery College. “Through this wonderful gift, she will continue to inspire and support our students and our art department for generations to come, just as she has for more than 25 years.”

    “Working with Sarah Silberman has been a wonderful experience for our faculty, staff, and students,” said Kay McCrohan, chair of the College’s Rockville Campus art department. “Sarah’s talent and dedication to lifelong learning is an inspiration to us all. I can not think of a more fitting tribute than to name the renovated gallery—with expanded exhibition space in the hallway for students, faculty, and professional artists—after this truly remarkable artist.”

    Sarah Gettleman Silberman was born in the Ukraine, but raised in Brazil and the United States. The daughter of furriers, Silberman found her calling in art. Before her senior year of high school, she began taking summer painting and drawing classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Chester Springs, Pa. Every day on the way to class, she walked by the sculpture studio, where the instructor repeatedly asked her to join his class. Finally, she relented and discovered a true love of clay and creating sculptures.

    After high school, Silberman continued her studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA). During that time, she won several prestigious art awards and exhibited her sculptures throughout the Mid-Atlantic area. She married Dave Silberman, a childhood friend who supported her interest in art. When she transferred to the PAFA in Philadephia, she commuted back and forth between the city and Atlantic City, where her husband was in business with her parents. This commuting continued even after she completed her studies at the PAFA. Silberman shared a studio in Philadelphia and also used space in her Atlantic City home.

    In 1941, Silberman, her husband and two sons moved to Washington, D.C. Her cousin, Joe Andelman, was forming Jandel Furs and her husband joined him in business. Promised that she could continue studying art, Silberman registered for classes at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. She practiced sculpture in a studio on 7th Street, in northwest Washington, D.C. In her free time, Silberman gave private sculpture lessons to students, taught children’s classes at the Corcoran, or volunteered at Walter Reed Hospital.

    In 1950, Silberman and her husband purchased six acres in Silver Spring. She set about building a studio with the help of her two sons and a pair of do-it-yourself books. There were no blueprints to guide the team’s work, just rough sketches by Silberman. As work progressed, Silberman earned her electrician’s license, got a permit, and wired the studio. With her attention focused on construction, Silberman withdrew, at that time, from the Washington art scene.

    The studio served as the family’s home, but Silberman had ambitions to build a big, two-story house. She began work on it in 1957 with the help of her son Bill and nephew. During these years, Silberman’s husband left Jandel to pursue his dream to become a doctor of psychology. He served as the executive director of the D.C. Association for Retarded Citizens until his retirement.

    When her daughter-in-law died, Silberman helped her son Bill with his five children, even teaching them art. Her granddaughter, Rebecca Silberman, has since become a professional artist. While raising her grandchildren, Silberman still managed to find time for community art classes and continued to make progress on her house. But, the house’s interior was never finished. Today, it is used as additional studio space and storage for her art.

    After the death of her husband, Silberman found Montgomery College and enrolled in ceramics. She was 71 years old, the age at which many people have long since retired. Silberman eventually took more than 170 art classes in 25 years, becoming a resident artist and mentor to many of the College’s younger students.

    In 2004, the College’s Alumni Association recognized Silberman with its Outstanding Alumni Award for her dedication to lifelong learning. Later that year, the College held an exhibit of Silberman’s sculptures—the first time a current student was honored with a solo exhibit at the Rockville Campus Art Gallery. The exhibit helped spur the College to publish “The Genius of Sarah Silberman: A Lifetime Student of Sculpture,” a book that explores the artistry of Silberman through photos and her life story.

    The College also honored Silberman with its Arts Stars Lifetime Achievement Award and, ultimately, an honorary degree from the College at the May 2006 commencement ceremony.

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Montgomery College is a public, open admissions community college with campuses in Germantown, Rockville, and Takoma Park/Silver Spring, plus workforce development/continuing education centers and off-site programs throughout Montgomery County, Md. The College serves nearly 60,000 students a year, through both credit and noncredit programs, in more than 100 areas of study.

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