In honor of the Memorial Art Gallery’s centennial, we offer five timelines exploring the stories of art & artists in the greater Rochester area from the first explorers and settlers to the present day. Given in trust to the University of Rochester, the Memorial Art Gallery is one of the few university-affiliated art museums in the country that also serve as community art museums. Why that happened, and how the Gallery became Rochester’s fine art museum, is part of the history explored here.
The Memorial Art Gallery’s centennial year was presented by Lynne Lovejoy, with additional support from Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull, ESL Charitable Foundation and Nocon & Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.
When I came to Rochester in 1990 and accepted the directorship of the Charlotte Whitney Allen Library, one of my first tasks was to acquaint myself with the history of the Gallery and of art in Rochester, first through processing Gallery archival material, secondly by reading as widely as possible, and thirdly by consulting colleagues knowledgeable in local history. Over the years, Karl Kabelac and Nancy Martin of the River Campus Libraries Rare Books & Special Collections Department have guided my forays into Rochesteriana.
These timelines could not have been created without the work of many historians and colleagues. First credit goes to Betsy Brayer, whose 1988 MAGnum Opus: the Story of the Memorial Art Gallery first told many of the stories included here. The Gallery’s Archives is the fortunate repository of interview tapes Betsy made while researching MAGnum Opus. Rochester historians Clifford Ulp, Blake McKelvey and their successors also documented much of the early history of art in Rochester, in publications including Rochester History and the Rochester Historical Society’s Publication Fund Series. MAG colleague Shirley Wersinger added many stories in Gallery publications MAGazine and ARTiculate.
For visual resources I am indebted to retired Gallery Visual Resources Coordinator Susan Nurse, for several years work supervising volunteers in scanning images and newspaper clippings from the Gallery’s Archives, for her knowledge of the architectural history of the Prince Street Campus, and for her incredible memory for images. The Rochester Images database hosted by Rochester Public Library, has been an invaluable resource for local images. Lastly, thanks to the Rochester Regional Library Council for its support to member libraries in providing access to CONTENTdm, an image cataloging database that has enabled us to put Gallery archival materials online at the New York Heritage website.
Images shown on this timeline are from the archives and/or permanent collection of the Memorial Art Gallery unless otherwise noted. I have made every attempt to credit non-Gallery sources of images and quotes. Any errors or omissions are my own responsibility, and will be corrected if brought to my attention.
Charlotte Whitney Allen Library