The Roman numeral X marks the spot for the Rochester Art Center.
When Artbash X, the art center’s annual benefit event, is held Oct. 17, it will mark 10 years in the current location — a 36,000-square-foot, zinc- and copper-covered building attached to the south end of Mayo Civic Center in Mayo Park.
Perhaps many local residents have only seen the art center when they walk past it on the way to popular Down by the Riverside concerts in the park.
The art world, however, has taken notice.
“It took some time and momentum, but each year we stretched and grew and grew,” said Shannon Fitzgerald, executive director of the art center. “About midway through those 10 years, people started paying attention. Right now, we’re at the international level.”
Indeed, with a major exhibition by German artist Michael Sailstorfer opening next week, on the heels of exhibitions by internationally known artists such as Tim Eitel, Chiharu Shiota and others, X marks the spot for the national and international art community.
It’s thanks in large part to the 10-year-old building, according to Stephen Troutman, president of the art center’s board of directors.
“Besides being a beautiful edifice, more importantly, the building enables us to do the quality of work we’re going now,” he said.
The building also provides space for the art center’s innovative series of exhibitions by emerging regional artists and the RAC2 program showcasing local artists.
The Rochester Art Center was formed in 1946 and was first housed in unused upstairs rooms of the Rochester Public Library. Two years later, the library moved to a small abandoned church on West Center Street in downtown Rochester. Finally, in 1958, the art center moved to a new building at the north end of Mayo Park. And that’s where the art center stayed until moving into the current building in 2004.
Besides galleries and office space, the building has classrooms, secure storage, a multi-story atrium and a large, glass-enclosed gathering space that looks out over the Zumbro River and Mayo Park. That space, which has become a popular spot for weddings, banquets, receptions and even concerts, this year is booked for two nights each weekend for 43 weeks.
“We’re one of the few buildings that opens up to the river and embraces the river,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s hugely valuable and it’s growing. I hope that continues. It’s going to be key to our survival during construction.”
Ah, the construction of the expansion of Mayo Civic Center, the end result of which will make the art center difficult to see and reach from Civic Center Drive.
“We’re very concerned,” Troutman said. “The access is particularly troubling. The drop off point is going to be out on the street, which puts it at least 100 yards from the door.”
An art center committee is putting together proposals for the civic center regarding signs and other access issues, he said.
“I’m trying to be optimistic,” Fitzgerald said.
After all, it’s difficult to be anything but optimistic on the eve of yet another big week — Artbash X, major exhibit openings — at the Rochester Art Center.