ROCHESTER - The Rochester Museum of Fine Arts will mark its 10th anniversary in November. The museum will host an anniversary celebration and art reception on Nov. 11, from 6-8 p.m.
Founded in 2011, the RMFA strives to make exceptional examples of fine art accessible to all. Lining the halls (and Suite 135) of the James W. Foley Memorial Community Center, the museum has collected art from all over the country, exhibited several internationally recognized artists, and created a model for presenting fine art that is innovative and unlike anything else in the region.
Co-founder Matt Wyatt says the RMFA features something for everyone, no matter their visual preference. "We've worked hard to exhibit a wide variety of art," said Wyatt. "We have everything from painting and works on paper to photography and screen prints. We want as much diversity as possible."
The museum has exhibited several notable artists including Susan Kare, the graphic designer responsible for many of the interface elements and typefaces for the original Apple Macintosh; Eric Carle, author and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a picture book that has been translated into more than 65 languages and sold more than 46 million copies; Wayne White, painter, puppeteer, set designer for Pee Wee's Playhouse; Robert Indiana, creator of the iconic LOVE statue and stamp; Bob Gruen, a famous rock 'n roll photographer for John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, Sex Pistols, and many more; Sunday B. Morning, the screen printing company behind Andy Warhol's second Marilyn Monroe series; and the Picasso Estate Collection.
In 2020, the American Art Awards recognized the RMFA as one of the 25 Best Art Museums in the country, citing art accessibility as the reason for the distinction.
"It's been 10 years but we don't plan to slow down anytime soon," Wyatt continued. "We're an unusual organization. We are a sustainable model for other communities that also want to present art."
Wyatt explains that if a town or city has a Community Center, Library, or Town Hall, with empty walls, it can become a space to feature artists. "Even a small blank wall can become an exhibition opportunity for local art," says Wyatt. "We want people to visit us, see what we've done, and copy us. Take the idea back to your community and improve on it. Art should be everywhere."
Part of the success of the RMFA is its unlikely location. The Community Center welcomes a diverse crowd of people on a daily basis, visiting the building for various reasons. According to Wyatt, the museum works to eliminate the pretentiousness of a traditional art gallery and make people feel welcome and included.
"There's nothing snobby about what we do," said Wyatt. "We're hanging art in a hallway -- It's that simple. Many people that visit the Community Center are not here for art, but they inevitably see it on their way through the building. People that are coming to register their car or attend a basketball game are inevitably seeing art, too. Some of them would likely never visit an art museum or gallery... Now it's part of their everyday life."
City Manager Blaine Cox describes the halls of the Community Center as a blank canvas before the museum took over.
"The museum has totally refreshed the halls and created a space that is warm and welcoming," said Cox. "It's great to see so many people and families visiting the Community Center just to see the art collection. Best of all, it's totally free."
In addition to the exhibits in the Community Center, the RMFA is responsible for many of the city's public art projects, including the large Katydid sculpture on the front lawn of the Recreation Department, three abstract sculptures on Columbus Avenue/RT. 125, and the continuous mountain-scape mural on the downtown jersey barriers that surround temporary outdoor dining areas.
Michael Scala, Director of Economic Development for the City of Rochester, credits the RMFA as a unique leader in the effort to revitalize downtown.
"In order to revitalize downtown, we need vibrancy," said Scala. "The museum is a key component to the culture of Rochester. We're lucky to have dedicated volunteers and artists reimagining our public spaces -- not only in the Community Center but all around the city."
According to Wyatt, the RMFA is planning a celebration for its 10th Anniversary. There will be a new exhibit in the gallery and complimentary refreshments for attendees. No RSVP is required and the public is encouraged to attend.
Amy Regan, RMFA co-founder, describes the 10th Anniversary celebration as a good reason to welcome people that have never visited in the past.
"There are still people in Rochester that are learning about us for the first time -- and that's okay!" Said Regan. "We are always happy to welcome new people, show them around, and talk about our mission in Rochester. Hopefully, they'll visit, enjoy what we do, and tell their friends and neighbors."
Regan says it's hard to believe 10 years have passed and affirms the concept of the community-based model.
"The fact that we are in a public building is why we're still around," said Regan. "We've seen so many fantastic galleries come and go over the years. It's a hard business. Thankfully we don't have the same challenges because of the nature of our organization. It's the reason we'll be around for years to come."
The Rochester Museum of Fine Arts is located in the James W. Foley Memorial Community Center at 150 Wakefield Street, Rochester, NH. Visit www.rochestermfa.org to learn more.
The museum is sponsored by the City of Rochester, Rochester Main Street (501c3 fiscal partner), Waterstone Properties Group, Bernier Insurance, Lenharth Systems, MacEdge, and the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce.