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Crafting her own career
On a Family Weekend gifted with perfect weather and the campus opening of the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, it was fitting that an art lover—Rosanne Brody Raab ’55—should be honored with the eighth Periclean Alumni Scholar Award. Raab, a curator and collection advisor in contemporary craft, accepted the award at the Skidmore honor society’s fall induction ceremony.
|Periclean awardee Rosanne Brody Raab|
Since her name is familiar on campus as the sponsor of the Raab Visiting Artist Lectures, it was surprising to learn that Raab wasn’t an art major, as Tuthill Professor of Studio Art David Miller revealed in his introduction. How a music major became director of her own fine-craft agency made for a remarkable story, which Miller shared with the audience of students and parents.
In her address Raab recalled that Skidmore was very different when she arrived in 1951: “We had curfews,” she said wryly, “and we were not here to prepare for a career.” Married the summer after graduation, Raab earned a degree at Columbia University Teachers College and taught elementary school while husband Ed got his medical degree; they reared two daughters and a son. But the volunteer work she did for her children’s schools and the several key offices she held in Skidmore’s alumni association taught Raab so much about organization and management that she was more than ready when, in the ’70s, “the women’s movement made me realize that I could have a career.”
Always drawn to the art world, she joined the Craftsman’s Gallery in Scarsdale, N.Y., at a time when innovative artisans were blurring the traditional hard line between functional objects and fine art. “Dedicated to the newly emerging craft movement, the Craftsman’s Gallery mounted six to seven group shows a year,” Raab said, which were golden opportunities to “strengthen my vocabulary of crafts and my Rolodex of contacts.” In 1983, she spun that Rolodex into Rosanne Raab Associates, boldly entering “a new world in which I was without credentials but determined to find myself.”
By the ’90s, Raab was a success in the field of fine crafts; she lectured at universities and curated major exhibitions of furniture, jewelry, wearable art, tableware, and other crafts, including Please Be Seated (for the Crafts Council of Ireland) and Borne with a Silver Spoon, a traveling exhibition that came to Skidmore’s Schick Art Gallery in 1994. Raab served as juror for eighteen major craft exhibitions and worked with such distinguished institutions as the American Craft Museum, the Smithsonian, Manhattan’s Cooper-Hewitt Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Author of The Craft Collector, a guide to fine craft in the New York City area, Raab commissions craft pieces for commercial clients and helps artisans market their works.
But Raab’s vibrant enthusiasm for her multifaceted work was most apparent when she zeroed in on examples of the crafts themselves, showing a dozen color slides of unique and often startlingly beautiful works in wood, glass, metal, fiber, and ceramics. “There are so many roles in life open to you,” she told the Periclean crowd, “if you’re willing to learn the vocabulary and determined to make things happen.” —BAM