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Guide to the Parsons School of Design oral history program, 1994, 2010-2014

Collection Overview


Kellen Design Archives

Collection Identifier


Creator - Interviewee

Bannerman, Jane Campbell

Creator - Interviewee

Barrows, Stanley, 1914-1995

Creator - Interviewee

Carlson, Dan, 1981-

Creator - Interviewer

Charleston, Beth Dincuff

Creator - Interviewee

Dwork, Melvin

Creator - Interviewee

Gruber, Ziva S.

Creator - Interviewee

Hannan, Alison Smith

Creator - Interviewee

Matthews, Lydia

Creator - Interviewee

McGrath, Brian


New School (New York, N.Y.). New School Archives and Special Collections.


New School (New York, N.Y.). New School Archives and Special Collections.

Creator - Interviewee

O'Hagan, Helen

Creator - Interviewee

Palumbo, Mike

Creator - Interviewer

Scheir, Wendy

Creator - Interviewee

Sherman, Maurice

Creator - Interviewer

Swadosh, Jeanne F., 1976-

Creator - Interviewee

Wines, James, 1932-


Parsons School of Design oral history program, 1994, 2010-2017, (Bulk, 2010-2014)


99 gb: 70 files

Preferred Citation note

[Identification of item], [date (if known)], Parsons School of Design oral history program, PC.07.01.02, box __, folder __, New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

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Biographical Note

Participant Biographies

Jane Bannerman
Jane Campbell Bannerman grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey. She attended the New York School of Fine and Applied Art, where she studied in the Graphic Advertising and Illustration Department. Bannerman began her education at the New York School of Fine and Applied Art's campus on West 80th Street, then spent the 1929 academic year studying at the school's Paris Ateliers before returning to New York for her third and final year. Following graduation, Bannerman worked in a series of design-related positions. She was employed by the textile design studio Contempora and worked for The Delineator, a women's magazine. In 1932, Bannerman won an award from the Art Alliance of America, an organization promoting excellence in product design and advertising, for her textile designs. She worked for McMillen for approximately three years before leaving the professional sphere to raise a family. After her daughter was older, Bannerman started her own interior decorating business, building a strong clientele through word of mouth. She later returned to McMillen, but left after a year to pursue travel and artistic interests.
Stanley Barrows
Stanley Barrows was born in Texas in 1914 and died in 1995. He first graduated from Washington and Lee University before becoming a graduate of Parsons, and post-graduation worked briefly for Joseph Platt. After serving in Italy in World War II as a draftsman, Barrows returned to Parsons to join the Interior Design Department in 1946. Barrows was director of the Interior Design Department for twenty years, leading the school’s renowned summer trips to Europe. He left in 1968 to serve as chairman of the Interior Design Department at the Fashion Institute of Technology. After retiring in 1985, Barrows became an occasional contributor to Architectural Digest.
Dan Carlson
Dan Carlson is a fine artist whose work explores “the tension between conceptual ideals and existing realities” with a focus on the “materiality of high and low technology.” His mediums include photographs, drawings, videos, sculptures, and installations. Born in 1981 in Providence, Rhode Island, Carlson received a BFA in Studio Art from James Madison University before graduating with a MFA in Fine Arts from Parsons School of Design in 2010. Carlson has exhibited his at Micro Art Space (Cleveland, OH), Soapbox Gallery (Brooklyn, NY), James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA), FiveMyles (Brooklyn, NY), The Wassaic Project (Wassaic, NY), Samson Projects (Boston, MA), Governor's Island Art Fair (New York, NY), and Cameo Gallery (Brooklyn, NY). His work has appeared in ArtFile magazine, One Place One Art, and Panhandler magazine. He has completed artist residencies at Obras Portugal, Micro Art Space, Wassaic Projects, and I-Park Foundation. Carlson was also a recipient of The New School Staff Development Award.
Beth Dincuff Charleston
Beth Dincuff Charleston is a fashion historian and professor at Parsons The New School for Design. Formerly the manager of the Calvin Klein Archives, she maintained a garment archive that served as a creative catalyst for designers from every division of the company. Working with Mr. Klein and the company's creative directors she created an image database to facilitate designer research, as well as to record Calvin Klein's design legacy. As a research associate at the Costume Institute of the Mteropolitan Museum of Art, Dincuff Charleston worked with many well-known fashion designers, costumers and writers, and contributed to the exhibitions Dangerous Liaisons, Goddess and Chanel. She regularly contributes to scholarly publications including the online Grove Dictionary of Art and The Timeline of Art History. Her education includes a BFA in Film from New York University and an MA in Museum Studies: Costume and Textiles from The Fashion Institute of Technology. As acting curator of the Parsons Fashion Archive, Dincuff Charleston organized the exhibition Sophie of Saks: Sophie Gimbel and the Salon Moderne, in 2013.
Melvin Dwork
Melvin Dwork was born in Kansas City, Missouri on February 9, 1922. After graduating from Southeast High School in 1939, he attended the Kansas City Art Institute for two years before moving to New York City, where he enrolled in Interior Architecture and Decoration classes at Parsons School of Design. Dwork served in the U.S. Navy's Hospital Corps beginning in 1943, but he was labeled "undesirable" and dishonorably discharged in 1944 after it was discovered he was involved in a homosexual relationship. Dwork returned to Parsons with the assistance of the school's president, Van Day Truex, and commenced a personal campaign to have his veteran's status changed. In a landmark 2011 decision, the Board for Corrections of Naval Records formally altered his status to "honorable." In 1946, Dwork was hired as an assistant for designer James Pendleton, his first interior design position in New York. Three years later, he obtained a job as a decorator for Edward Garratt, Inc., a position he held for six months before starting his own business, Melvin Dwork Interiors, in 1950, sharing office space with friend and Parsons alumnus Sheridan Kettering. His first commission as head of his own company was completed in 1951 -- a penthouse apartment in the Hotel Lexington belonging to a former Parsons classmate, Gorda Klein, and her husband, Harold. In 1953, the Herbert Charles Company invited Dwork to design a model apartment for a co-operative across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 1025 Fifth Avenue. His designs for the apartment garnered him national visibility, as well as several new clients. In 1956, Dwork closed his business and started working with Irving M. Altman. Later that same year, Altman and Dwork initiated a partnership that included an antiques store and interior design firm located on East 57th Street. This partnership lasted for three years before Dwork joined Yale R. Burge Associates (later Burge-Donghia, Inc.) in 1960. He remained there until 1970, when he re-launched his own business. Frpm 1979 until 1982, Dwork partnered with James Maguire, a Parsons graduate, to form Dwork-Maguire. In 1993, Dwork was inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame. Corporate clients included Aetna Life Insurance and Shearson Lehman Hutton. Dwork designed interiors for numerous executives and artistic figures. By 2011, he was semi-retired. While managing his design business, Dwork also served on the Advisory Committee at Parsons School of Design from 1992 to 1995. In 1997, he established the John Butler Foundation to promote the work of his former partner, a choreographer, who died in 1993. Melvin Dwork died on June 14, 2016 in New York City.
Ziva S. Gruber
Ziva S. Gruber was born in Jerusalem, Israel. Her parents encouraged her to pursue a career in either medicine or law. To that end she studied chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. However, in 1960 Ziva moved to New York to pursue her studies in interior design at Parsons School of Design. In 1965, Ziva took a job with an architectural firm where she learned technical drafting. In 1968, she moved to Ford and Earl Design Associates: a firm at which she would work for the next eight years. During this period Ziva participated in critiques at Parsons. In 1971, the Friends of Central Park Zoo approached Ford and Earl to redesign the zoo pro bono. Ziva brought the project to Parsons and worked as a voluntary instructor and liaison between Ed Frank and Tom Gould (Parsons faculty) and the firm. “The Central Park Redevelopment Study” was completed by nineteen students as their senior project, and was Parsons’ first community design workshop. Between 1977 and 1982, Gruber worked as a designer at a number of firms: Daroff Design, Fulton & Partners, Luss / Kaplan & Associates, and Stanley Felderman Ltd. After 1982, Ziva worked as a private contractor for high end residential buildings and speciality shops, until her retirement in 2011.
Alison Hannan
Alison Smith Hannan was born in New York City in 1925. She was the second of three children. Her mother, Dr. Adelaide Ross Smith, was a medical doctor who worked for the State of New York as an occupational safety inspector. She later became a psychoanalyst in the school of William Alanson White. Alison's father, W. Seymour Smith, was a Wall Street wealth manager. Alison's lived with her parents and two siblings at 172 Sullivan Street, in Greenwich Village. Alison attended City and Country School and Friends Seminary, graduating in 1943. She then attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri from 1943-1945. Having exhibited an interest in clothes from early on, Alison learned how to sew at Stephens. After receiving an Associate's degree from Stephens, Alison returned to New York and attended Parsons School of Design from 1945-1947, first specializing in fashion design, then switching her focus to fashion illustration. She graduated from Parsons in 1947. After graduating from Parsons, Alison worked as a stylist for fashion photographer William Payne and one other fashion photographer. She then worked in the art department at Abraham & Strauss in downtown Brooklyn. In 1950, she spent six months traveling alone in Europe. Upon her return to New York that year, Alison got a job at Time, Inc. She was working at Time when she met Tom Hannan, in 1953. Hannan had arrived in New York in 1950 with a scholarship to study painting at The Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, located on 8th Street in Greenwich Village. Tom and Alison were married in 1954 and moved to 137 Thompson Street, a cold-water flat below Houston Street. Tom met Bob Weinstock, owner of Prestige Records, in 1956 and was hired to design jazz album covers. Alison prepared printer's mechanicals for the album cover designs. She worked at the kitchen table at 137 Thompson Street, while Tom worked in the front room. An artist friend, Bruce Barton, also assisted Tom a few days a week. Three album covers were prepared and delivered each week to Prestige, Blue Note, Columbia, and Roulette records. Evening outings included attending friends' openings at the 10th Street galleries, where many of Hans Hofmann's students showed their work, followed by drinks at the Cedar Tavern. The Hannans also frequented jazz clubs, often "closing out Mingus" at the Five Spot on the Bowery. In 1957, the Hannans moved to a loft on the fourth floor of 156 West 22nd Street, where Tom set up a larger studio. Other artist friends from the Hans Hofmann school lived in the building and nearby, including painters James Gahagan, Gerald Samuels, Joe Stephanelli, and Jan Muller. The Hannans bought their house in Guilford, Vermont in 1959, spending summers in Vermont and winters in New York until moving to Vermont permanently in 1969. Alison sang in choirs for many years, beginning with the Interracial Chorale in New York City from 1950 until it disbanded in the late 1960s. -- Prepared by Pamela Seymour Smith Sharp, with Alison Hannan, September 26, 2011.
Brian McGrath
Brian McGrath was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, into an Irish-American family. He did his undergraduate degrees in architecture and liberal arts at Syracuse University, graduating in 1979. He completed his Master’s of Architecture at Princeton University in 1981. McGrath’s professional career has been a mix of architectural practice and teaching. McGrath’s association with Parsons School of Design began in 1991. At Parsons Brian has held several positions. He served as research chair in Urban Design between 2010 and 2013; between 2013 and 2016, he held the post of professor of Urban Design. In 2016, McGrath completed a three-year term as dean of the School of Constructed Environments. He is also an author and editor of several publications, including Urban Design Ecologies Reader (2013), Resilience in Ecology and Urban Design: Linking Theory and Practice for Sustainable Cities (2013) (with S.T.A. Pickett and Mary Cadenasso), and Cinemetrics: Architectural Drawing Today (2007) (with Jean Gardner).
Lydia Matthews
Lydia Matthews, professor of Visual Culture at Parsons School of Design, is a curator, writer, educator and cultural activist, she trained as a modern and contemporary art historian at UC Berkeley and London’s Courtauld Institute. As Parsons' Dean of Academic Programs between 2007-2012, Matthews designed a collaborative process through which faculty members crafted a new undergraduate curriculum, aiming to provide more cross-disciplinary opportunities for students and faculty across the division. Through a series of "charrettes" (i.e., intensive workshops) and committee work that she facilitated, faculty in the newly established "five schools" of Parsons identified the kinds of skills that young designers and artists would need to work successfully in the 21st Century. Through these dialogues and debates, they envisioned administrative structures and pedagogical strategies that would support the breadth and depth required for their contemporary practice to flourish. The administrative shifts and new Parsons-wide curriculum was ultimately launched in Fall 2014. In her own work, Matthews explores how today’s artists, artisans and designers foster critical democratic debates and intimate community interactions in the public sphere, often in response to a variety of urgent global and local conditions in their daily lives. Her essays have appeared in numerous journals and exhibition catalogs, and she has lectured internationally on socially-engaged art, craft and design practices. Commissioned by Fulbright, Open Society Foundation, Trust for Mutual Understanding, CEC Artslink, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Emre Senan Foundation and the US Embassy in the Republic of Georgia, her participatory curatorial projects in New York, the Post-Soviet region, Turkey and Southern Europe include exhibitions, community-based urban festivals, and multidisciplinary pedagogical exchanges addressing ecological and social sustainability.
Helen O'Hagan
Helen O’Hagan (1931-) was the vice president of public relations and special events at Saks Fifth Avenue from 1955 to 1993. A native of Charleston, South Carolina, O’Hagan had no background in fashion before beginning work at Saks, although her previous theater and photography training would eventually contribute to her success in public relations. In 1955, O’Hagan moved to New York and was soon hired by Countess Grace de Mun to work as an assistant press officer at Saks Fifth Avenue. After the Countess was let go a few years later, O’Hagan succeeded her as the vice president of public relations. Over the years, O’Hagan became a friend and protégée of Sophie Gimbel, fashion designer for the Salon Moderne at Saks, and would help produce publicity fashion shows and photo shoots in addition to writing press releases for the department store. O’Hagan met actress Claudette Colbert on the set of the 1961 film Parrish, and the two remained close friends until Colbert’s death in 1996. O’Hagan had taken an early retirement from Saks Fifth Avenue in 1993 in order to care for Colbert. In 1994, O’Hagan opened her own company, HOH Public Relations, and continues to serve as president of the company. She divides her time between residences in Charleston and New York.
Mike Palumbo
Michael Palumbo was born in Cranston, Rhode Island in 1955. After attending the University of Rhode Island, where he majored in art, Palumbo moved to New York City to attend the Pratt Institute. While focusing on his art, Palumbo also worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of the City of New York before moving to The New School. There, he worked in the Financial Aid office for thirteen years before becoming the Senior Office Assistant in the Fine Arts Department at Parsons School of Design. He is currently the Senior Office Assistant in Parsons School of Art, Media, and Technology. Palumbo remains a practicing artist, working in the mediums of painting, drawing, and land art.
Wendy Scheir
Wendy Scheir came to The New School in 2008 to direct the Kellen Design Archives for Parsons The New School for Design (a unit of The New School Libraries and Archives). In 2012, while continuing to lead the Kellen Design Archives, Scheir established the first ever university archives at The New School. Prior to starting at The New School, Scheir worked for the New York Public Library, where she was project archivist on a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to process the records of the New York World's Fair Corporation, 1939-1940. She holds a BA in English Literature, an MFA in Film, and an MA in History and Archives, all from New York University.
Elsa Schwarz
Elsa Schwarz moved from Argentina to New York City around 1957 with her husband, a chemist at the pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer. About one week after her arrival in America, Schwarz met fashion designer Sophie Gimbel’s personal secretary, who offered to let her take over the position the next day. Schwarz accepted the proposal and worked for Gimbel at the Salon Moderne at Saks Fifth Avenue, where she took care of bookkeeping, internal calls, and other business matters. Schwarz left Saks Fifth Avenue sometime in the 1960s when her husband was transferred to Chile, but continued to visit the Salon Moderne during occasional trips to New York until the salon closed in 1969.
Maurice Sherman
Photographer. Raised in Brooklyn, New York. Graduate of the School of Visual Arts. Active in New York City and Cleveland, Ohio as editorial and fine art photographer. Faculty member of School of Art, Media and Technology of Parsons School of Design, 1999-2013.
Jeanne Swadosh
Jeanne Swadosh (1976-) is an archivist employed with the New School Archives and Special Collections. Prior to joining the New School Libraries' staff as an archivist for the Kellen Design Archives in 2009, Swadosh worked for the Hadassah Archives at the Center for Jewis History and the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences. She holds an MLS from Queens College -- City University of New York and a BS in Media, Culture and Communication Studies from New York University.
James Wines
James Wines is an architect whose artistic work focuses on environmental responsibility and visual imagination. The company he founded in 1970, SITE, is responsible for many iconic buildings and public spaces around the world, including the winning entry for the 1986 Worlds Fair in Vancouver, Canada, the Fondazione Pietro Rossini Pavilion in Briosco, Italy, and the Madison Square Park Shake Shack in New York City. In 1959 Wines received a BFA from the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University where he studied painting, art history, and sculpture. He went on to receive many awards over the course of his career, including the 1995 Chrysler Award for Design Innovation, the 2011 ANCE International Architect Award, and the 2013 National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement. Wines has had a long career in higher education, including teaching in the Sculpture Studio of The New School for Social Research from 1963 to 1965. He returned to The New School as the chair of the Environmental Design Department of Parsons School of Design from 1984 until 1990. Wines has authored numerous books on architecture and related topics. He is currently a tenured professor of architecture at Penn State University.

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Scope and Contents note

This ongoing oral history program documents the lives and work of designers, artists, and others active in the fields of art and design. Interviewees include Parsons alumni, faculty, staff, and professionals without a direct Parsons connection.

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Organization and Arrangement

Interviews are arranged alphabetically by interviewee name.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Kellen Design Archives - May 11, 2017

66 5th Avenue
lobby level
New York, NY, 10011

Preferred Citation note

[Identification of item], [date (if known)], Parsons School of Design oral history program, PC.07.01.02, box __, folder __, New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Please contact archivist@newschool.edu for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact: archivist@newschool.edu.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

All interviews conducted during this program were commissioned by the New School Archives.

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Keywords for Searching Related Subjects


  • Oral histories (document genres).


  • Art -- Study and teaching.
  • Design -- History -- 20th century.
  • Design -- Study and teaching -- France -- Paris.

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Other Finding Aids note

For item-level description and sound files from the Parsons School of Design oral history program, see The New School Archives Digital Collections at http://digitalarchives.library.newschool.edu/index.php/Detail/collections/PC070102.

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Collection Inventory

Audio interview with Jane Bannerman 2010 Oct 27   285 mb
Audio interview with Jane Bannerman  

Interviewed by archivist Wendy Scheir at Jane Campbell Bannerman’s apartment at 88th Street and Park Avenue in New York City. Bannerman mentions her childhood in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and her education at Parsons School of Design’s Paris Ateliers campus at 9 Place des Vosges. At the Paris Ateliers, Bannerman met and studied under Eleanor McMillen, William Odom, Frank Alvah Parsons, and Van Day Truex. Bannerman describes Truex’s educational approach and style of dress in great detail. She later graduated from the illustration department at Parsons School of Design in 1930, and then pursued a career as an interior decorator. As a decorator, Bannerman worked for McMillen, Braunschweig and Fils, and herself.

Audio interview with Stanley Barrows 1994 Sep   0.99 gb2 Broadcast Wave files; 01:03:47 duration; includes PDF transcript.
Audio interview with Stanley Barrows  

Stanley Barrows is interviewed by an unidentified man and woman. The interview focuses on the evolution of the Parsons School of Design aesthetic, and by extension, an American aesthetic, and the construct and definition of “good taste.” Barrows mentions Elsie de Wolfe, Eleanor McMillen Brown, William M. Odom, Van Day Truex, and Frank Alvah Parsons.

Barrows details numerous shifts within the institutional history of Parsons School of Design. He describes the founding of the Paris Ateliers by William M. Odom (at the urging of Frank Alvah Parsons), and development of a scholarship program for international students. He emphasizes the centrality of dynamic symmetry to the Parsons curriculum, and traditional studio practices, heavily based on classical European principles and oriented toward such exercises as museum visits and measuring rooms. He also details a later shift under Dean David C. Levy toward methods that Barrows describes as more experimental and “far out,” and his subsequent departure for the Fashion Institute of Technology.

The recording begins when the conversation is already underway, and abruptly ends in the middle of a sentence.


Audio interview with Dan Carlson 2010 Jul 27   630 mb
Audio interview with Dan Carlson  

Interviewed by archivist Wendy Scheir, Dan Carlson discusses his undergraduate studies at James Madison University, where he studied under Greg Stuart, and his decision to relocate to New York City. At Parsons School of Design, in its MFA in Fine Arts program, Carlson undertook as his thesis a project entitled "Powered by Newton Creek." This project applied refinement techniques to environmental detritus as a model for generating energy. Carlson describes the classes that led to this thesis, including Matt Freedman's "History of Utopia" class, as well as his thesis show at The Kitchen in Chelsea, and his studios in the Greenpoint, Sunset Park, and Bushwick neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

Audio interview with Melvin Dwork 2010 Oct 4   459 mb2 Broadcast Wave files; 00:41:52 duration; includes PDF transcript.
Audio interview with Melvin Dwork  

In this audio recording conducted by archivist Jeanne Swadosh at Parsons School of Design, interior designer Melvin Dwork discusses his design education at Parsons School of Design in the 1940s, his experiences as a gay man serving in the Navy during World War II, and his career spanning over five decades.

Audio interview with Melvin Dwork 2011 Jan 20   478 mb2 Broadcast Wave files; 00:43:37 duration; includes PDF transcript.
Audio interview with Melvin Dwork  

In this audio recording conducted by archivist Jeanne Swadosh in Melvin Dwork's Manhattan home, Dwork discusses his professional practices as an interior designer. The interview touches upon the contexts in which Dwork acquired the knowledge and skills needed to succeed as a designer. Dwork also reflects on the teaching of interior design and changing fashions.

Audio interview with Alison Hannan 2011 Oct 2-3   1424 mb5 Broadcast Wave files; 02:09:50 duration; includes PDF transcript.
Audio interview with Alison Hannan  

Interviewed by archivist Wendy Scheir at Alison Hannan’s home in Guilford, Vermont. Hannan describes her childhood in New York City’s East Village, where she attended the City and Country School, as well as her education at Parsons School of Design in the early 1950s. Hannan details both the studio techniques in which she was trained, as well as the liberal arts (specifically, art history) curriculum intended to complement this practice. Hannan also discusses her time at Parsons’ Paris Ateliers location and furloughs to Italy and Scotland, as well as her studies under Van Day Truex. She also illustrates the school’s long standing support for the LGBT community.

Audio interview with Lydia Matthews 2011 Dec 9   757 mb3 Broadcast Wave files; 01:05:42 duration; includes PDF transcript.
Audio interview with Lydia Matthews  

Lydia Matthews is interviewed by archivist Wendy Scheir in Matthew’s office at Parsons New School for Design. Matthews describes her evolving role within Parsons' administration, particularly as related to the development of undergraduate curriculum. Matthews details the incorporation of charettes and other principals of design practice within Parsons' curriculum and across disciplines. Matthews also discusses the development of dual degree programs between Parsons and Eugene Lang College (BAFA), the launch of The New School's Diversity Initiative, the creation of the Committee for Undergraduate Education (CUE) under Dean Joel Towers, and the founding of Parsons' Sheila Johnson Design Center. She elaborates on institutional influences on the Design Center — including the Wattis Center at the California Center of the Arts, the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Culture Center at University of California, Los Angeles, and the Grey Gallery at New York University — as well as the challenges faced within The New School's administration.

Audio interview with Helen O'Hagan 2011 Mar 8   1086 mb4 Broadcast Wave files; 01:39:03 duration; includes PDF transcript.
Audio interview with Helen O'Hagan  

Helen O’Hagan, former vice president of public relations and special events at Saks Fifth Avenue, discusses her experiences working at the department store with Beth Dincuff Charleston, professor at Parsons The New School for Design. The interview begins with an in-depth discussion about her personal background, including her training in theater, and how she eventually moved from South Carolina and became an employee of Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. O’Hagan and Dincuff Charleston look through multiple binders filled with publicity photographs depicting ensembles by “Sophie of Saks” produced by O’Hagan and her predecessor, Countess Grace de Mun. While looking through these photographs, O’Hagan recounts stories about producing the photo shoots, including details about the garments shown and the models they employed. In addition to providing an intimate look at the history of Saks Fifth Avenue in the mid-twentieth century, including day-to-day life in the fashion offices, O’Hagan talks about her relationships with Saks’ Salon Moderne designer Sophie Gimbel (1898-1981) and her husband, Adam Gimbel (1893-1969), who was the president of the department store until 1969. The interview was recorded at Parsons The New School for Design at 2 West 13th Street in New York.

Audio interview with Mike Palumbo 2017 September 28   
Audio interview with Mike Palumbo  

In this interview conducted by Wendy Scheir, Mike Palumbo discusses his life and professional growth to become the Senior Office Assistant in Parsons School of Art, Media, and Technology. Palumbo recounts his childhood and adolescence in the Italian-American family and community of Cranston, Rhode Island, where he was raised by his mother. Palumbo considers how his early experiences fostered a love of visual art, a passion that developed into an artistic practice through training in fine arts education at the University of Rhode Island and the Pratt Institute. Seeking work that would allow him to continue making art, Palumbo began working in the bookstore and, later, the accounting office of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Palumbo talks about his move from the Met to the Financial Aid Office at The New School, and the impact that this work environment had on his life and art.

Palumbo recounts that by 2001 his artistic practice had been overwhelmed by overtime duties at The New School, and he found a way to regain art-job balance by accepting a position as Senior Office Assistant in the Parsons School of Design Fine Arts program. This job allowed Palumbo to work with fine arts students, and to continue to develop his own aesthetic.

Palumbo also considers the impact the appointment of Coco Fusco as Chair had on the culture of the Parsons Fine Arts program, particularly the aesthetic, personal, and generational difference between her and former Chair Don Porcaro.

The interview ends with Palumbo describing his current tree-planting landscape art project, his thoughts on his life in art and arts education, the history and state of Parsons and The New School, and his plans for the future.


Audio interview with Elsa Schwarz 2013 May 2   1104 mb5 Broadcast Wave files; 01:39:43 duration; includes PDF transcript.
Audio interview with Elsa Schwarz  

Elsa Schwarz, former secretary to Sophie Gimbel, discusses her experiences working at Saks Fifth Avenue with Beth Dincuff Charleston, professor at Parsons The New School for Design, and Wendy Scheir, director of the New School Archives and Special Collections. The interview begins with a discussion about how Schwarz moved to New York City from Argentina and began work at Saks Fifth Avenue without prior knowledge of the store or her employer, fashion designer Sophie Gimbel of Saks’ Salon Moderne. Throughout the interview, Schwarz provides detailed descriptions of day-to-day life working in the Salon Moderne, including fashion shows, employee lunches, and client relationships. Schwarz describes her fellow employees and some of Gimbel’s notable clients, such as Claudette Colbert, Hellen Keller, and Margaret Van Alen Bruguiére. In addition to describing how business was conducted at the Salon Moderne, Schwarz recounts how Saks Fifth Avenue gradually began to introduce ready-to-wear lines and outside fashion designers, such Anne Fogarty and Oleg Cassini, during the mid-twentieth century. The interview was conducted in the Kellen Design Archives at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City.

Audio interview with Maurice Sherman 2013 Jun 12   777 mb3 Broadcast Wave files; 01:17:03 duration; includes PDF transcript.
Audio interview with Maurice Sherman  

Interviewed by archivist Wendy Scheir at Grape & Vine restaurant, 52 West 13th Street, New York City. Maurice Sherman narrates his parents’ post-World War II immigration to the United States, and his subsequent childhood in Coney Island near Sea Gate, Brooklyn. Sherman’s father was a tailor who initially worked for Bergdorf Goodman, then opened up his own shop at 83rd Street and Lexington Avenue. The shop included as its clients Senator Jacob K. Javitz, as well as Marlene Deitrich.

Sherman describes his early art making — for which he received an award from then-Mayor John Lindsay — at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as his studies at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) and early work in advertising. Sherman eventually joined the faculty at SVA, where he became an early adopter of Apple technologies. From SVA, Al Greenberg eventually recruited Sherman for the faculty at Parsons School of Design.

In addition to Greenberg, Sherman also mentions Marshall Arisman, Leon Friend, Martin Solomon, Gilbert Stone, and Henry Wolf, as well as Parsons’ affiliate in the Dominican Republic, Altos de Chavón School of Design.


Audio interview with James Wines 2014 Oct 31   88 mb
Audio interview with James Wines  

In this audio recording, artist, architect, and founding chair of the Environmental Design Department of Parsons School of Design, James Wines, is interviewed by Brian McGrath, dean of the School of Constructed Environments (what the Environmental Design Department gradually became) at Parsons, and Wendy Scheir, director of the New School Archives and Special Collections. Wines describes his upbringing in Oak Park, Illinois and Baltimore, Maryland, as well as his studies at Syracuse University. Wines discusses his career as a sculptor in Rome, the founding of his firm, SITE [Sculpture in the Environment], and the creation of Parsons' Environmental Design program. Additionally, Wines relates numerous anecdotes about contemporary architects, and the many changes New York City, particularly lower Manhattan, has experienced over the decades.

Collection Guide Last Updated: 04/16/2018

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