Discovering Rochester: The Memorial Art Gallery

Although Rochester might be seem like a sleepy little town in Upstate New York (and the size of New York City certainly overshadows that of Rochester in comparison), Rochester is not as deserted as it might appear.

Rochester is home to some really famous places: the Eastman School of Music, various cinema theaters such as the Little Theatre and Cinema Theater, the George Eastman House, and the Strong Museum of Play. They’re all great places for you to visit. In addition to these and a whole lot more, there is also the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG), a well-known art museum that specializes in contemporary art but also functions as an encyclopedic art museum.

Memorial Art Gallery

Memorial Art Gallery

 

(Being an encyclopedic art museum means that although the MAG might specialize in contemporary art, they also collect works that are not contemporary. More on this later.)

As social chair of the Creative Arts Club (CAC) on campus, I was invited to a meet and greet with the MAG’s “university liaison” (he coined this phrase) organized by Hartnett Gallery. We went to Hartnett’s event where we learned that the MAG is in fact strongly associated with the University of Rochester, and that they are planning to launch a new initiative to get more students from Rochester to visit the gallery’s exhibitions more regularly.

That’s how I found myself and a couple other CAC members receiving a private tour at the Memorial Art Gallery a week later.

Before taking us into the exhibit, we visited the MAG’s Charlotte Whitney Allen Library, which is home to a variety of books on topics such as art history and technique, museum studies, local artists, works in the MAG’s collections, and the museum’s own history, just to name a few. This is definitely a cool, insider tip to keep in mind when reading period and those dreaded finals roll around, and you can’t find a good (and quiet) study spot in Rush Rhees!

Students learning in the Memorial Art Gallery

After our visit, it was time for us to go explore some of the Memorial Art Gallery’s art on display. Because the MAG is an encyclopedic museum, what we came across (and you might come across as well, if you visit) is the stark contrast between seeing a piece considered to be temporary right next to a piece from a much earlier time. This, however, isn’t done to confuse you, but rather to spark an interest, or inspire questions like, “Why are these two paintings (that were clearly created at very different times) next to each other?” “Does looking at one work affect the way you look at the other work?”

Or maybe the artwork puzzles you in a different way: “If this is supposed to be an upside-down chair held up by a fluffy pillow, how does it not fall over?” (Hint: the pillow is made of wood!)

If you don’t believe me about the last one, go have a look for yourself! The Memorial Art Gallery is certainly an interesting place that provides Rochester—and you!—with a bit of extra flavor.

All it takes is a step off campus.

The Memorial Art Gallery is accessible by taking the University’s Orange Line shuttle downtown Monday through Sunday.

About the author

Jackie Heinzelmann

I'm an undergraduate of the Class of 2018 double-majoring in international relations and East Asian studies. As an international student from Switzerland, I've previously been part of Residential Life on campus, and I am currently holding executive board memberships for two clubs on campus. When I'm not busy getting ready for class, writing, or watching movies, I barista at the Starbucks on campus while simultaneously trying to juggle some cool research for political science.

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