A brief conversation with Eric Silverman, SM ’91, is bound to leave you energized and inspired by his vast knowledge of business and his passion for museums and collecting. A natural extrovert and connector of people, Eric’s time at MIT Sloan helped him build a substantial network and a successful career as both an investor and an entrepreneur. While Eric’s career is an integral part of his life, his work with museums has long been a passion that continues to bring him personal fulfillment.
Raised in Michigan within a family of art collectors and patrons, Eric grew up surrounded by artistic interest and influence. Watching his parents add to their collection over the years and eventually gift it to museums (primarily the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Museum of Modern Art in New York) was a meaningful and educational process that taught him the power of philanthropy and the impact of museums. Over the past 25 years, Eric has carved out his own path for collecting—he and his wife, Svetlana, curated a collection of Soviet-era posters that has been exhibited in museums across the Unites States, and was the subject of a recent catalog. Eric and Svetlana’s plan is to give away all their art over time, just as Eric’s parents had done. “There are enough museums to give meaningfully,” he notes, “and it’s rewarding to do so.”
Eric enjoys a special role with three university museums—the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, where he chairs the museum’s advisory board; the Wolfsonian at Florida International University, where he has exhibited his poster collection; and the MIT Museum, where he serves on the MIT Museum advisory board. For the past five years, Eric has served on the MIT Museum nominating committee and has actively supported the Museum’s efforts, including fundraising and student programming.
Eric notes that the MIT Museum is unique in its sincere engagement with science and technology. “The MIT Museum straddles an important intersection of art and science, which many museums struggle to get right,” he says. The MIT community is well equipped to examine the connections between art and science—students, scientists, artists, and mathematicians are creators, disruptors, and problem-solvers. Additionally, the exploratory culture of the Institute lends itself to a museum: MIT is a place to celebrate the process, not just the product.
For Eric, museums play a significant role in understanding the past and preparing for the future. “It is the responsibility of museums to be an access point for the public to information, data, art, learning, and truth,” Eric says. “Thanks to museums, new generations can come along and see what past generations have done; they end up seeing it in a new way and, in turn, make new discoveries.”
Eric’s support of the MIT Museum at Kendall Square project was straightforward. He cites his investment in the Institute, the dedication of the MIT Museum team, and his family’s tradition of valuing museums as driving factors.
When discussing his decision, Eric references a quote by the ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates: “Ars longa, vitus brevis”—or, Art is long, life is short. Indeed, it is important to recognize the lasting, powerful legacy of museums. “The MIT Museum project is a great place to make a contribution. The legacy of your giving continues long after your lifetime. If you want to make a real, material impact over a long period of time, supporting this project is an important thing to do.”