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Sylvia Neuman de Swaan
August 17, 1941 ~ December 7, 2023 (age 82) 82 Years Old
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Sylvia Neuman de Swaan, 82 years young, passed away peacefully at the Wyoming County Skilled Nursing Facility in Warsaw, New York on December 7, 2023. Sylvia de Swaan was born in Czernowitz, Romania in 1941 and fled with her mother (Etka Strum) and elder sister (Paula Neuman Gris) during World War II. She never met her father as he was conscripted to fight for the Russian Army and was never seen again. They eventually immigrated to New York in 1951 where Sylvia attended the High School of Music and Art and Hunter College, which she left to move to Mexico City in the early 1960s and where she became part of the thriving arts community. She moved to New Orleans in the early 1970s and to Central New York in 1975 and called Central New York home until her death.
Sylvia was a visual artist/photographer and one of the founding Executive Directors of Sculpture Space in Utica, New York. Under her guidance, Sculpture Space earned an international reputation, a New York State Governor’s Art award, and a MacArthur Award for its uniqueness. She worked there until she decided to focus on her own photographic work and chose to explore her past returning to Romania to seek out her roots. She worked for Hamilton College, teaching photography for nearly ten years as well as working for The Pratt Institute and the Munson Williams Proctor Institute, in Utica, New York. Throughout her entire life, Sylvia stayed true to herself and to being an artist. Art was her career and her passion and as the nurses at the nursing home learned, it was not something to ever refer to as “her hobby” She was incredibly supportive of other artists but would push them always to be passionate about their work. Sylvia was the recipient of many prizes and awards from the New York Foundation of the Arts, Aaron Siskind Foundation, Paris Photo, Society for Photographic Education, Austrian Ministry of Culture and Bemis Center of Contemporary Arts, among others.
She is survived by her only son, Simon de Swaan, and his husband, Patrick Griswold, as well as by her elder sister, Paula Gris, and her five nephews and nieces: Joy Gris Epstein, Sam Gris, Rebecca Gris Ashburn, Avi Gris and Ben Gris. As well as her extended family in Mexico and Europe from her marriage to her first husband, Sali de Swaan who died in 2020.
Funeral services will be held at Temple Emanu-El, 2710 Genesee Street, Utica, on Sunday, December 10 at 1 PM, with Rabbi Peter Schaktman officiating.
There will be no calling hours and the burial will be immediately after the ceremony at the Temple Emanu-El Cemetery in New Hartford, New York. The family will be sitting Shiva at Temple Emanu-El on Monday between 10 AM and 1 PM as well between 5PM and 7PM with a service to be held at 5:30 PM.
Sylvia’s care at the Wyoming County Skilled Nursing Facility in Warsaw, New York is so greatly appreciated and acknowledged. Special thanks to Sculpture Space for their help during this difficult time.
In lieu of flowers please make donations to Temple Emanu-El in her memory. A memorial service to honor her life will be held at some point in 2024.
Arrangements are with the Mark C. Bentz Funeral Service, Inc., New Hartford.