In 1852, Rochesterian Azariah Boody proposed the establishment of a women’s college on what was then his pastureland and is currently the grounds of the Memorial Art Gallery. Originally known as Barleywood Female University, the school was only a year old when it closed. Boody then donated the land to the University of Rochester, which built its first campus (for men) on the site.
For over 150 years, this acreage, bounded by University Avenue, Prince St., College Avenue, and Goodman Street, has been an oasis of learning and creativity for the community, first as Barleywood, then the University of Rochester, and currently the Memorial Art Gallery. Over the course of those years, the grounds have changed with the times. Old buildings have been replaced by newer ones, fences have come and gone and come again, and the neighborhood around the green space has changed as well. Buildings have been repurposed for lofts and studios, and the adjacent blocks from Culver to the Inner Loop have been named “Neighborhood of the Arts”.
In 2008, mindful of its 2013 Centennial, the Gallery initiated a master planning process for its grounds that would extend its mission, “Connecting People with Art”, to include great works of art both inside the building and out. In response to many voices from the community, the new plan includes the removal of sections of the University and Goodman street fence line in order to extend a clear message of welcome to the community. Also, a limestone amphitheatre near the Goodman Street and University corner will provide a performance and event space. Even the parking areas have been designed to enhance visitors’ aesthetic experience from the moment they arrive on the grounds.
Currently, four major artists have been commissioned to create work for Centennial Sculpture Park. Tom Otterness, known internationally for his engaging installations, is creating two heroic figures for the corner of Goodman and University. He depicts a female sculptor who is carving a male figure from a block of stone – which then take you on a path through the trees to a stone quarry where her previous attempts lie scattered. Jackie Ferrara, whose geometric pathways are included in sculpture parks and landscapes around the country, will be designing the path leading from the ‘quarry’ area to the front entrance of MAG. Rochester’s Wendell Castle’s Unicorn Family will provide an outdoor and whimsical cast iron grouping of chairs, a table, and lamp for the community and visitors who would like to spend some time enjoying the passing scene. Wait till you see how “whimsical” and “cast iron” are able to occupy the same space. Also based in Rochester, Albert Paley will contribute Soliloquy, a monumental 25-foot stainless steel sculpture to mark the Goodman Street entrance.
“The Paley commission completes our vision of four new works by internationally acclaimed artists for the Centennial Sculpture Park,” says director Grant Holcomb. “Best of all, two of the four are Rochester’s.”
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