After a blissful summer in Italy following her freshman year in college at New York University (NYU), Susan Bandes knew she wanted an existence guided by the arts.
“It’s something I never thought about, but it’s a world to discover,” said Bandes.
Bandes was born and raised in Manhattan, NY. She originally pursued a degree in math, yet, after the summer spent in Italy, she knew she belonged elsewhere.
Bandes is now a trained art historian with a doctorate degree in art history from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. She assumed various jobs throughout her career, including teaching art and chemistry courses at a small women’s college in Virginia and conserving museums in Washington D.C. and L.A.
Since 1986, she has worked in Okemos, MI, as the director for the Kresge Art Museum.
“No day is the same; I oversee the staff, make decisions about developing links with the community, work with our volunteers, fundraise, mentor students,” said Bandes of her responsibilities.
Along with these duties, she is also the co-director of the museum studies program at Michigan State University (MSU), gives guest lectures at MSU and is in the middle of planning the groundbreaking of the new museum, scheduled for March 2012.
“My favorite thing about the job is looking at the art and being part of the way the collection grows and interpreting it,” said Bandes.
She works alongside the museum’s curator on artifacts leading up to the 19th century. She was unable to choose a favorite piece.
“They’re all my babies,” said Bandes. “It tends to be what I’m looking at, at that moment; it changes over time.”
Aside from studying art and finding new pieces for the museum, Bandes enjoys examining architecture, antiquing, gardening, cooking and traveling. Her goal for retirement is to perfect her abilities in a foreign language. Currently, she can speak some Italian, French and a bit of German.
“Coming from the 12th floor of an apartment building, it’s surprising I like gardening now,” said Bandes, comparing her residence in Okemos to her childhood apartment in New York. “I drive around in my car so much more than I ever thought I would, too.”
Now, when Bandes returns to New York, she makes it a point to try to visit a new museum. She said for the past six years she has managed to meet that goal.
“I’ve always taken to museums, it’s just been a part of my culture,” said Bandes.