Special Sections » Fall Guide

The scene, seen


Our usual preview of the visual arts season is one-by-one look at institutions, discovering what exciting exhibitions each has planned. But for the past couple of years, some venues have been collaborating more often on big, city-wide projects, with an aim of increasing public engagement with small and medium sized venues and building mutual support between galleries, groups, and alternative spaces.

This arts season, there's no shortage of stand-alone exhibits that spotlight significant artistic talent, but many of the art endeavors that shine this year are collaborative exhibits and events. They present an opportunity for audiences to get out of their routine and into discovery mode.

Here's a preview of some of the notable shows and arts events that Rochester's museums and galleries are presenting through early 2020. Of course, this is just a sampling of what's to come, so look for more info about scheduled shows on individual websites, and check out CITY Newspaper in print and online.

Going strong after two years in operation, Rachel DeGuzman's powerful "At the Crossroads: Activating the Intersection of Art and Justice" series continues to spotlight important social and political issues through collaborative art performances and installations, as well as its community-based Long Table Conversations. Since the fall of 2017, the series has tackled such topics as healthcare, reproductive rights, refugees, and immigration, with a specific emphasis on voices from the intersection of race and gender. Events typically start with a series of short artistic provocations — films, installations, poetry readings, and the like — followed by discussion.

The next scheduled event in the At the Crossroads series is "Black & Female in Rochester: After the Marching Stopped" on September 25 at Visual Studies Workshop (31 Prince Street). That event serves as a prologue to "Black & Female on Film and Video in ROC 1970-1990," to be held January 22, 2020 in collaboration with VSW's Community Curators program. Next up in the ATC series is "Voodoo Demographics: A Long Table Conversation & Installation" scheduled for October 18 at Gallery Seventy-Four (215 Tremon Street). More information about tickets will be available soon. Learn more about the series, past events, and what's coming up at facebook.com/artandjusticeROC.


The annual Flower City Pottery Invitational returns for its fifth year to Flower City Arts Center (713 Monroe Avenue) from Thursday, October 10, through Sunday, October 13. The four-day celebration of contemporary craft in clay includes workshops, demos, and talks with ceramic artists from across North America, as well as a show and sale of work by those artists. It's a chance for collectors to more easily access a wide variety of styles and approaches to clay, and for enthusiasts to learn more about how different artists develop their unique techniques, straight from the artists themselves. Curated by potters Matt Metz, Richard Aerni, and Peter Pincus, this year's lineup includes 20 artists total. Preview their work and get the full schedule at rochesterarts.org/special-events/pottery-invitational-2019. 244-1730; rochesterarts.org.

Rochester Contemporary Art Center (137 East Avenue) has one heck of a full autumn program. Its current in-house exhibition, on view through September 21, is "Take Back the Walls." The show features work by a selection of artists who make their bread and butter working in arts-supporting fields, such as curators and exhibition preparators. Coming up October 4 through November 17 is the annual "State of the City" exhibition, featuring an exciting lineup that includes documentary artist Meredith Davenport, Richmond Futch Jr. of Revelation Rochester ART Center, the folks behind the Artists Sustainability Survey, and others. The center will also continue to host its video art exhibitions and smaller shows in the LAB space, as well as its public arts endeavors. And as always, the center will host its Members Exhibition (opens December 6) and "6x6" (dates TBA). General admission to Rochester Contemporary is $2; free to members. The gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; Friday until 9 p.m. 461-2222; rochestercontemporary.org.

RoCo has also taken the lead in planning and executing the ambitious, collaborative "Current Seen" series of exhibitions, pop-ups, public art and street art installations, and more. Some of the elements have already kicked off, but as a whole, this will roll out in a huge way on October 4. "State of the City" is technically part of "Current Seen," functioning as RoCo's own exhibition in this series of shows and events that will take place in small art venues and alternative spaces along the East Avenue and Main Street corridor, between Prince Street in NOTA and King Street in the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood. The many participating venues include Visual Studies Workshop, Joy Gallery, and RIT City Art Space. Most exhibitions will open on First Friday October 4 and continue through November 17, and nearly all venues will be open Thursdays and Fridays, 1 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free or low-cost. And of course public art elements can be experienced 24/7. More information at currentseen.org.

Let's backtrack a bit in our arts lineup chronology. Held from September 27 to 29, and coming back for year two, is "PLAY/GROUND," an immersive art experience held in the former Medina High School (324 Catherine Street, Medina). The project is co-produced by RoCo, Buffalo's Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, and Buffalo-based arts consultancy RESOURCE:ART. This year, PLAY/GROUND features dozens of participating artists, whose (often interactive) installations have lately been teased on Instagram (@artplaygroundny). The 21+ preview party is Friday, September 27, 7 to 11 p.m. (tickets start at $35). After that, you can only catch the show Saturday, September 28 and Sunday, September 29, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day ($10 general admission, free to ages 12 and younger). Learn more at artplaygroundny.com.

Aside from its participation in "Current Seen," Visual Studies Workshop (31 Prince Street) has a fantastic, full-looking roster of shows scheduled through the spring in its two project spaces. Project Space One and Project Space Two host a series of month-long residencies with artists creating work — often using VSW's archives — that focuses on a variety of social and aesthetic considerations, including perceptions of gender (ImageOut Resident Kes Efstathiou, through October 6), beauty in the mundane ("Breathing the Everyday" by Judith Thorpe, through October 6), imagination and science museum exhibits ("Moonrise" by E Bobrow, October 9-November 3), and abstract-representational tension ("Reprographic Understanding" by Adam Kujawski, Febuary 12-March 8, 2020). VSW also hosts lectures, special events, and screenings throughout the year. VSW's gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m. (until 9 p.m. on First Fridays); Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free. 442-8676; vsw.org.


The Memorial Art Gallery's big autumn exhibition in 2018 focused on beloved French Impressionist Claude Monet's "Waterloo Bridge" variations, revealing the nuance behind his depictions of this specific vista under different light and atmospheric conditions. This year another household-name French crowd-pleaser is featured: "Alphonse Mucha: Master of Art Nouveau" is on view at MAG (500 University Avenue) from October 13 through January 19, 2020.

Perhaps one of the most famous Art Nouveau artists, Mucha is known for framing his depictions of beautiful women with deeply ornate, meticulously balanced natural elements. Heavy outlines flatten the scenes, making them resemble saints in stained glass windows. Countless folk bands have copied the style for album covers and gig posters.

The exhibition takes a deeper dive into Mucha's iconic work. It will showcase more than 70 works, from rare original lithographs to drawings, books, portfolios, and ephemera. There's a $5 surcharge for this exhibit, on top of normal admission fees.

Other significant exhibitions coming up at MAG include "De'Via: The Manifesto Comes of Age" (November 7 to February 16, 2020), which celebrates the 30th anniversary of the creation of a new genre of art. De'VIA was founded in 1989 by a group of deaf artists and a deaf art historian to spotlight the contemporary deaf art movement. The exhibition will draw from the permanent art collection of RIT's Dyer Arts Center at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. And from February 16 to May 24, 2020, MAG will host "The Path to Paradise: Judith Schaechter's Stained-Glass Art," the first survey and major scholarly assessment of this Schaechter's 37-year career. The exhibition will feature 45 of her stained-glass panels and a selection of related drawings and process materials.

Currently on view and continuing through December 8 is a video installation, "Kalup Linzy: Conversations wit de Churen V: As da Art World Might Turn," in which the artist blends elements of soap operas, Def Comedy Jam, Tyler Perry's "Madea," and the early films of John Waters and Andy Warhol.

MAG's hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $6-$15, except Thursday nights, when it's half-price. Children under the age of 5, members, and University of Rochester students get in for free. 276-8900; visit mag.rochester.edu.

The Project Gallery at George Eastman Museum (900 East Avenue) through January 5, 2020, is home to "Woven," Tanya Marcuse's tapestry-esque, periphery-swallowing photographic studies of blooming and decaying natural ephemera. Following that, from January 31 to June 28, the Project Gallery will host "Alejandro Cartagena: Photo Estructura/Photo Structure," for which the artist has specifically produced a new set of works. Cartagena uses deconstruction and reconfiguration of discarded images to create new archives, exploring what formal and theoretical elements define the meaning of a photograph.

Just as Eastman's Dryden Theatre reopens following museum renovations, the theater will host Lena Herzog's video installation, "Last Whispers — Oratorio for Vanishing Voices, Collapsing Universes and a Falling Tree." Described as an elegy about the mass extinction of languages, the work includes historic samples of extinct and endangered tongue, both spoken and sung, layered with the sound of digitally-rendered gravitational waves of collapsing stars and supernovae, and paired visually with a sequence of animation and black-and-white video drone footage taken in natural landscapes. The 46-minute installation is on view October 15 to January 1, 2020.

In the museum's Main Galleries from October 19 to January 5, 2020 is "Anderson & Low: Voyages & Discoveries." The artist duo has created images that strike a careful balance between dreamlike unreality and realism, made from point ship models owned by the Science Museum in London. 


Following that, from January 31 to June 14, 2020 is "Bea Nettles: Harvest of Memory," marking the first large-scale retrospective in the artist's 50-year career. Using a multi-media approach to image-making, Nettles uses fabric and stitching, book formats, instamatic cameras, and hand-applied color, conveying such themes as family, motherhood, dreams, aging, and mythology.

George Eastman Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5-$15, and free to members and children 4 and under. 271-3361; eastman.org.


Opening September 28 at The Strong National Museum of Play, the new interactive exhibit "DC Superheroes: Discover Your Superpower" spotlights Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and others in a series of educational displays and fast-paced activities. On view at the museum (1 Manhattan Square) through January 19, 2020, the exhibit emphasizes the importance of teamwork, self-discovery, and strength as visitors solve problems and fight for justice; challenges include trying to beat The Flash in a virtual race, solving puzzles to defeat villains, and recovering stolen artifacts by navigating a laser maze. An opening celebration weekend on Saturday, September 28 (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and Sunday, September 29 (1 to 4 p.m.) features heroic crafts, costumed fans (including visitors), and displays by Rochester LEGO Users Group.

Admission to The Strong is $16 for ages 2 and up, free to members and babies. The museum's hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. 263-2700; museumofplay.org.

In This Guide...

  • Fall Guide 2019

    To many of us culture enthusiasts, autumn is the most magical time of the year. Sure, the cooler temps are comfortably cozy and fall flavors are seriously palatable, but it's also the top of the season for theater, visual arts, classical music, and other cultural offerings. The arts community comes fully alive again after a relatively slow spell.

  • And we all fall down

    In the upcoming music season there's a lot of bluster centered on some music legends, the offspring of some music legends, artists produced by legendary producers, crooners, bangers, and swamp boogie twangers. A lot of the shows are brewing in the underground so you gotta dig a little so you can dig a little.

  • Now playing: current issues

    The 2019-20 theater season wants to make a statement

  • A chronology of classics

    Rochester's classical music scene for the coming season offers, as always, a great deal of variety and a high level of quality. How to sort it all out? Maybe as good a way as any is chronologically, by repertoire...starting several centuries back.

  • Dog's day out

    The weather's fine; don't leave the doggo at home

  • My favorite season: awards

    The leaves are changing and a fresh chill is in the air, which means Hollywood's thoughts are turning to "serious" art and Oscar glory. On the heels of a lackluster summer movie season, the coming months are looking up film-wise, promising all manner of goodies, from comic book adaptations to biopics about some beloved Hollywood legends, action flicks, and lush period dramas. Even better, when the weather turns colder, I get to feel a little less guilty about spending all that time indoors