from the pages of Experience Rochester's visitor guide
Read more about two Rochester artists: Annie Mack and Leah Joy Bee
While some art studios are built as a refuge, the ones in the Rochester’s Castle Community—a historic armory that also houses a restaurant—connect the artist and the city. Artists host monthly events and help create in the community a mentality and approach that describes the city’s entire arts and culture scene.
“For a long time, a lot of folks have been focused on the business community [in Rochester],” says Naura Anderson, director of Threshold Arts, Castle’s arts and programming organization. “Now, people are looking at it from more of a holistic approach. What are all the pieces that make for a healthy, vibrant, attractive community?” The arts.
A few of the storied arts and culture cornerstones—Mayo Civic Center, Rochester Civic Theatre Co. and Rochester Art Center—are nestled in one roof. Mayo Civic Center brings the largest events and conventions to the city and is home to local mainstays including the Rochester Dance Co. and the 100-year-old Rochester Symphony Co. The Rochester Civic Theatre Co. has four stages, and between it and the Rochester Art Center’s rotating exhibits, local artists are constantly featured and inspired.
For locally focused art, the SEMVA Gallery has two locations and features exhibits and classes for art across all media. The Rochester Repertory Theatre is one of many theatre companies in the area, and the Charles E. Gagnon Museum and Sculpture Garden provides an immersive experience at the late artist’s home and studio. For the next generation, Spark, the Minnesota Children’s Museum of Rochester, ignites curiosity with interactive exhibits, plus learning and crafts events.
You can visit all of these places—and you should—but when you have a moment, we suggest you simply take a walk to view more art.
ART IN THE EVERY DAY
Depending on where you are downtown, you’ll run into painted geese, sculptures, murals or pieces like the four-tier Central Park Fountain. If you’re near Mayo Clinic, stop by sculptures like “Boy with a Dolphin” or the Mayo Brothers statue.
Boy with Dolphin | TJ Turner
To help take in all of the artwork around town, the Rochester Downtown Alliance created the ARTWalk, an online self-guided tour. Locals love the Art4Trails program that annually places four temporary art installations (that can be purchased after a year of enjoyment) along the bike trails near downtown.
Other spots for art (or a selfie) include Peace Plaza and the gigantic letters spelling out “Rochester Downtown”— the historic Plummer Building, the stainless steel arch, the huge ice cream cone at Flapdoodles and the ear of corn water tower on the city’s fairgrounds.
SATISFYING THE DEMAND
Similar to the public art blossoming all over the city, the rest of the arts and culture scene has developed. Many venues have been there for a while check out Mayo Civic Center’s fall lineup) but newer ones have popped up as well, like Gray Duck Movie Theater & Coffeehouse, which shows independent and critically acclaimed movies.
Gray Duck Theater | AB-PHOTOGRAPHY.US
As a testament to the growing music scene, in 2017, Rochester’s first recording studio, Carpet Booth Studios, opened. Owner Zach Zurn was a Rochester native who moved away and then returned for a one-off recording project. In the years he had been away, though, the Rochester music scene had grown; it had a community that was invested in its artists. So Zurn stayed. “People are finally making the decision to stay and be part of the solution,” Zurn says.
To hear Rochester’s music scene for yourself, check out Art Heads Emporium, a painting and concert venue; or places like the Redwood Room for light jazz and acoustic music, or Café Steam. With the Castle Community and Mayo Civic Center, you truly begin to have the variety of places needed for musicians in all stages of their careers, Zurn says.
The people of Rochester seem to be entering a new creative age, and the vision for the Castle that Anderson has—of programming for everyone from newcomers to masters, of opportunities for those who want to spectate and appreciate—is coming true across not only the Castle, but the whole city.
Whatever you decide to do during your stay, one thing will always be true. Whether it’s a locally focused gallery exhibit, an unforgettable concert or a community event, it’s 100 percent Rochester.