Helene Zucker Seeman Fund

Friends of the late Helene Zucker Seeman are establishing two exceptional opportunities to honor her life and enthusiasm and enthusiasm for ceramic art. A monetary stipend will be presented to a female-identifying Emerging Artist in her memory, and the NCECA Helene Zucker Seeman Curatorial, Research, Critical Writing Fellowship for Women has been created to encourage, support, and develop curatorial work, research, and critical writing in the field of ceramics. Helene was especially committed to promoting the work of women artists, which she did in a variety of ways. Both of these awards will be announced and presented during NCECA’s annual conference.

Your support will advance the work, inquiry, and careers of women who are shaping the future of ceramic art as makers, curators, and critical thinkers. The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts is a 501-(c)3 organization. Your charitable deduction may be tax deductible depending on your personal circumstances.

Curator, archivist, art historian, author, mentor, wife, mother, friend.  This list describes the varied roles Helene Seeman played, but it only hints at who she was, what she achieved, and how deeply she affected the many people whose lives she touched before hers ended tragically and all too soon the summer of 2010.  

Helene is probably best known for building an internationally acclaimed art collection for the Prudential Companies, but she began building her own career in the late 1970s at the Louis K. Meisel Gallery in Soho. Bronx born and raised, with a newly minted Master’s in Library Science and Archival Research, she landed a job as a receptionist, but her intelligence and energy moved her ahead quickly.  It wasn’t long before she was the gallery’s director.  

While in that position, Helene researched and documented with Meisel and Gregory Battock “Photorealism,” a definitive description of what was, in 1980, a burgeoning new art movement.  Helene was an accomplished writer authoring, “Soho:  A Guide,” co-authored with Alanna Siegfried in 1978. The book was reviewed and well received by the N.Y. Times. Helene’s work was prescient, recognizing Soho as a thriving artists’ community long before it had been discovered by others and become the prototype for arts-driven urban revitalization that other cities have tried to emulate.  

 Helene’s ability to recognize “firsts” was very much in evidence in her role as director of the arts acquisition program at Prudential.  Over nearly two decades, she built a $20 million collection recognized for its range as well as its value.  At Prudential Helene was working with architects and engineers to implement numerous site installations she commissioned with recognized sculptors and artists. The 10,000 works include contemporary painting, sculpture, crafts, glass, ceramics, photography, folk art, and American Indian artifacts.  The Prudential collection reflected the depth of Helene’s knowledge of art, the variety of her interests, and especially her ability to recognize emerging artists.  

Helene was especially committed to promoting the work of women artists, which she did in a variety of ways. As an archivist, she compiled visuals depicting the work of women artists from every country in the world, creating a touring exhibit displayed in museums world-wide.  As a curator, a collector in her own right and as an adviser to other collectors, Helene purchased the works of women artists early in their careers, providing crucial support for many of them.  

 Helene relished the interaction with artists almost as much as she enjoyed experiencing their art.  As important as the financial support she gave so many artists by purchasing, or directing the purchase, of their work, was the encouragement and emotional support she offered them as a trusted advisor, mentor, and friend.  

Always an admirer of ceramics, Helene became an ardent ceramicist.  Working at Greenwich House, she became for the first time a creator of art. Working at Greenwich House, she became for the first time a creator of art, pursuing this new interest with the energy and intensity she brought to everything she did, forging new alliances, expanding her knowledge of art, and deriving immense pleasure from this new experience.    

Helene was also very much involved in the community in which she lived.  Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, she co-founded Battery Park City United, a grass roots community organization dedicated to preserving the Battery Park City neighborhood she lived in with her husband Fred and their two sons, Ford and Curtis.  

Helene’s death stunned and saddened the communities in which she had been so actively involved.  On short notice more than 700 people attended her memorial service.  The tributes – and there have been many – have focused as much on her personal strengths as on her professional achievements:  Her integrity, her warmth, her humor, the passion with which she lived her life, the love with which she enveloped her family and her wide circle of friends.  Many people touch others; few leave their fingerprints behind. Helene left her fingerprints, deep and lasting, on the people she touched and on the art world to which she contributed so much.  


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