Sarah A. Lichtman, Director of the Master of Arts program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies at Parsons.

Sarah A. Lichtman, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of design history at Parsons School of Design (The New School, New York), where she directs the Master of Arts program in the history of design and curatorial studies, offered in affiliation with Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. She is co-editor of Screen Interiors: From Country Houses to Cosmic Heterotopias (2021), and the forthcoming Exhibitions Beyond Boundaries: Transnational Exchanges Through Art, Architecture, and Design from 1945. She has published widely on interiors, design and gender, and is the managing editor of the Journal of Design History.  

Did You Know . . .

  • Sarah owned a vintage furniture store before studying design history.

Who in your design education made a lasting impression on you? 

My design mentor, Pat Kirkham. She is a design historian who was seminal in establishing a feminist design methodology. Her lifelong work on the American designers Charles and Ray Eames is monumental in the development of my own design thinking about 20th century design. Kirkham wrote Charles and Ray Eames: Designers of the 20th Century which is a pivotal book in the history of design. It has been formative in my thinking and research about the contributions of women, design partnerships, collaboration, and issues of recognition. 

Child’s Chair (USA); Designed by Charles Eames and Ray Kaiser Eames; molded laminated plywood, red stain; H x W x D: 36.5 x 32.5 x 29cm (14 3/8 x 12 13/16 x 11 7/16in.); Gift of Mrs. Eric Larrabee; 1991-144-1

What are you excited about for the future of design/the Parsons program?  

I’m most excited about getting our students back into the collections. We’ve been working off-site because of the pandemic but as we move closer to the full reopening, I’m eager to get the students around the objects again. During this closure period, the program has been able to work closely with curators through virtual lectures, virtual visits, and virtual object study, which opened new avenues of research but there’s nothing like getting your hands on the objects. 

Where is your favorite place in New York? 

I’m a native New Yorker, born in Brooklyn where I live now, so I have so many places to name, but it was a tossup between Coney Island or Prospect Park. I love Coney Island because it’s amazing that you can take the F-train to the Atlantic Ocean, which is a wonderful part of living in NYC. Then there’s also people watching on the boardwalk and the aquarium, which are quintessential parts of what New York can offer. You can even bring your dog to the beach during the off season, too! There are so many ways to enjoy Coney Island, it’s a great escape. 

Poster, Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale; Designed by Seymour Chwast (American, b. 1931); USA; lithograph on paper; 53.2 x 40.5 cm (20 15/16 x 15 15/16 in.); Gift of Various Donors; 1981-29-84

What is your favorite aspect of your role in the Parsons program? 

Working with the students and getting to know them. I love finding out what they want to study and then helping them think about what they want to do after they graduate. Where do they see themselves in design, design history, curatorial? It’s wonderful to accompany them through this journey and see them find themselves and their place in the field. Over two years, through their coursework, thesis, exams, and curatorial projects they begin to find their own voice and expertise. That is a terrific part, to see them go from students to colleagues.   

If you could explore the depths of the ocean or outer space, which one would you choose?  

I would definitely go into outer space. My 9-year-old son is a Marvel fanatic, and we could go explore the multiverse together and see what that is all about. 

Scene of Outer Space Plate; Manufactured by Dmitrov Porcelain Factory (Russia); porcelain, enamel, gilding; Diameter: 19.8 cm (7 13/16 in.); The Henry and Ludmilla Shapiro Collection; Partial gift and partial purchase through the Decorative Arts Association Acquisition and Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program Funds; 1989-41-43

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