Led by curiosity and creativity
Andrea Vizcarrondo ’72 has spent the last 30 years nurturing an appreciation for art in visitors to The Metropolitan Museum of Art as a member of the MET’s rigorous docent program. Vizcarrondo’s path from the College of Human Ecology (CHE), where she studied in the Department of Design & Environmental Analysis (now Human Centered Design), to the halls of the MET took her on some unexpected ventures in the fashion world as she followed her curiosity, creativity and passions.
Vizcarrondo grew up in a middle-class community in Brooklyn and was expected to attend a local state school while living at home, until she learned about CHE.
“It was really a dream come true,” she said. “I loved Cornell, the intellectual stimulation and the people I met, friendships that have lasted to this day. At the time I was very interested in architecture, and even though I didn’t go into that field, DEA gave me a certain discipline. I learned a lot and it was an opportunity to utilize my artistic skills.”
In her junior year, inspired by an Iranian friend who had lived and studied in different countries, Vizcarrondo studied abroad in an art history program in Florence.
It further opened my eyes to another culture and broadened my artistic scope...It was a transformative experience.
“It further opened my eyes to another culture and broadened my artistic scope” she said. “I lived with a family and learned to speak Italian. It was a transformative experience.”
After graduation, Vizcarrondo looked for work in the museum world, but ended up in fashion, first as an assistant buyer at Bloomingdale’s and then as fashion director of the luxury brand department store B. Altman and Company, where she was part of the team that introduced Gianni Versace to the United States.
“I was actually the interpreter for the store, so my Italian came in very handy. With my background in design, my involvement with the Costume Institute at CHE, and my interest in fashion — which I got from my mother — it was just a confluence of things that I followed.”
From there, Vizcarrondo became Fashion Director for VF Corp, working with brands like Lee jeans and Vanity Fair Lingerie, until she left to form her own merchandizing consulting firm.
“In 1976, I married my husband Paul, a fellow Cornellian — we met shortly after college through mutual friends — and I continued working until I had my daughter and then my son three years later. When he was about nine months or so I went to work at the Metropolitan Museum.”
For 33 years, Vizcarrondo led groups of visitors — mostly public elementary, middle and high school students — on inquiry-based tours through the MET. Around 15 years ago, she earned a Master’s in Museum Education from Bank Street College of Education.
“I love art, but I also loved connecting with the children and turning them on to art—seeing their excitement. Just thinking that I might have clicked on a light bulb for them is very rewarding. Some kids weren't necessarily verbal, but then they could express themselves through drawing and some were amazing artists. I loved being with the children and being able to help them access that.”
As the pandemic forced so much online, Vizcarrondo decided to retire so that she and her husband would have more time to spend with their daughter, a film editor in Austin, TX with a toddler, and their son, an assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia. They are looking forward to more travel, learning French for visits to their French apartment, and, when she has a little more time, Vizcarrondo thinks she might get back into painting and drawing.
Photo at top: Andrea Vizcarrondo '72 sits on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art where she served as a Docent for 33 years. She is also a member of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum Advisory Council. Photo: Jesse Winter for Cornell University.