First Friday Rochester offers window into local art communities

On Friday Nov. 4, Upstate Escapes gave students an opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture and excitement of downtown Rochester by sponsoring a trip to First Friday Rochester, a monthly citywide gallery night.

Upon dismounting the bus at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center (RoCo), students received maps with participating gallery locations and were set free to explore what the city had to offer. In this self-guided tour of the Rochester art scene, there was an almost overwhelming amount of culture to discover. Roughly 30 galleries, boutiques, cafes and studios spread throughout downtown Rochester participated in the November First Friday.

The exhibits at these locations showcased the talents of many local Rochester artists working in various mediums. These included everything from video installations in the RoCo's "Scapes" exhibition to a series of oil paintings called "Bubbles from Heaven" by Richmond Futch Jr. at the A.R.T.S. Gallery at Aviv Café.

Some of the galleries went beyond Rochester in their reach of content. The Jembetat Tribal Art Gallery and Café offered a unique exhibition of African art called "Art of the Dogon." Some of the venues featured live music and poetry readings, or even open mic opportunities for patrons to showcase their own talents. The Crafting Social, a local art studio, held an open studio event in which attendees had a chance to create art themselves.

The accessibility of many of the local artists involved was particularly memorable. At the Aviv Café for example, patrons listened to soothing live music by a local band as artists set up their canvases and painted in the background. At the RoCo, Rochester artists Jason and Debora Bernagozzi were available to give patrons a first-hand explanation of their works.

The Upstate Escapes programming intern, sophomore Frankie Mandracchia, planned the First Friday Rochester trips. He said that his goal was to "benefit students through culture" as a part of his internship. He has also organized an Upstate Escapes trip to see "Billy Elliot" in Rochester later in the semester. Mandracchia said that his general objective in planning events is to emphasize "things that are not normally in Upstate Escapes programming."

First Friday Rochester highlighted the tight-knit bond between the members of the Rochester art community and provided a way for others to engage with, and learn from, the multiplicity of artists.