Alumni Spotlight: Nelly Silagy Benedek '84

Nelly Silagy Benedek, class of ’84, was a College Scholar and majored in English, Art History, and Near Eastern Studies, concentrating on modernism in art and poetry. Three undergraduate internships were important for her career path: curatorial internships at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum and the Hinckley Museum in Ithaca and a summer internship in the Education Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where she worked with camp groups and conducted gallery talks for adults.

While obtaining her master’s degree in art history from the Institute of Fine Arts, Nelly started working as a freelance educator at The Met and eventually was offered a full-time position. She stayed at The Met for sixteen years coordinating and expanding the High School Apprenticeship Program, conducting educator workshops and gallery talks, teaching school and family programs, managing volunteers, and writing curriculum materials.

Nelly left The Met to become Director of Education at the American Federation of Arts and then Director of Education at the Jewish Museum, where she is currently Deputy Director for Education and Programs. At the Jewish Museum, Nelly and her dedicated staff have transformed the Education Department into one that is a model of excellence for art museum education and a place for experimentation and inclusion. During the height of the Covid 19 pandemic, she and her team transitioned all the Jewish Museum’s programs—including 55 partnerships—to virtual formats and developed new innovative programming like the Virtual Summer Institute which now attracts hundreds of applicants each year. At The Met and at the AFA, Nelly’s exclusive focus was on art history and museum education, but at the Jewish Museum she combines that expertise with her knowledge of Hebrew literature and Jewish culture which she deepened during her time at Cornell.

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Nelly Silagy Benedek