Rochester Art Center offers the opportunity for all people to understand and value the arts through innovative experiences with contemporary art. Through world-class exhibitions and programs, we present a welcoming, integrated, and diverse experience that encourages questioning, creativity, and critical thinking. These exhibitions and programs are designed to reflect the dynamic relationship between art and society. They educate, challenge, and connect individuals to our world in compelling new ways. We are committed to being a cultural center in our community and to enhancing our region as a destination for creativity and innovation. We provide value through engagement with broad communities, strong collaborations with other organizations, and a history of excellence.
From the Executive Director
Art offers us ways to ask questions, present ideas, solve problems and even to heal. For these reasons, our arts and cultural institutions are especially important in times of complex social and cultural challenges.
I am honored to be here, in this moment, to help expand accessibility for all income levels, and to nurture inclusivity and equality. I am proud of our commitment to racial equality, gender equity, freedom of thought and expression.
The board and staff recognize that the organization itself must also embrace internal changes on its path toward sustainability, and fulfilling its mission in a new era. I am pleased to be guiding a plan for greater diversity through succession and growth.
Through open dialog we will emerge from the uncertainties of our time as better people, a stronger art center and valued community partner, serving all greater southeast Minnesota residents and our global community.
Thank you for being part of our efforts to enhance quality of life for everyone through the arts.
Pamela Caserta Hugdahl
Board of Directors 2020
Rose Anderson – President | Product Manager, Mayo Clinic
Brett Olson – Vice President | Creative Director, Renewing The Countryside
Jon Zurn, MBA – Treasurer & Finance Chair | Senior Program Manager, Mayo Clinic
Brian Dukerschein – Secretary & New Member Recruitment Officer | Managing Editor, Exhibitor Magazine
Rochester Art Center: Our History
Rochester Art Center began in 1946 as a dream of its first board president Newton Holland. Seventy years later, Rochester Art Center continues to offer patrons the opportunity to know, practice and enjoy the arts. The founding board members wanted “to join with the schools, the churches, the library and other community groups to make Rochester a cultural center worthy of its scientific achievement,” as stated in Art Center’s original mission statement.
Its first humble home began in the unused upstairs rooms of the Rochester public library building, moving in 1948 to a small abandoned church on the corner of West Center Street and Third Avenue Northwest. Holland, Dr. Hiram Essex, and other art patrons led a fund drive that enabled the purchase of the church and lease of the lot on which it stood. Their first exhibition: Everyday Art for Everybody, held April, 1948 featured a display of well-designed, useful articles for the home.
However, the RAC board realized by the mid-1950’s that the little church was too small to accommodate all the art center’s many activities, including classes, exhibitions, lectures, demonstrations, meetings, and even the first rehearsals and founding meeting of the Rochester Civic Theatre.
The board of directors requested public land in Mayo Park from the City of Rochester and the City Council granted their request. On November 15, 1956, the Rochester Art Center leased land along the Zumbro River for 50 years for the sum of one dollar per year. The groundbreaking ceremony occurred on September 1, 1957, followed by a fund drive to build a new art center. The new building opened March 23, 1958.
During the 1950’s, Rochester Art Center included exhibitions that featured local, regional, national and international art, such as the 1959 touring exhibition of Israeli Art, traveling under the auspices of Jerusalem Art Center in New York. Through the years, Rochester Art Center continued to feature the varied work of many artists from different ethnic backgrounds, including exhibits of Hispanic, Asian, and African American artists. One of the Art Center’s major exhibitions was a bead working exhibition Pure Vision: American Bead Artists in 1994. It was the first exhibition that traveled to other major art centers across the nation, giving Rochester Art Center a national presence for the first time.
In the late 1990s, the expansion of the Mayo Civic Center severely decreased access to the Art Center, making it imperative to move. The Board of Directors launched a Capital Campaign in 1999, which reached the goal of $8.2 million in 2003. Rochester Art Center moved into its current 36,000 square-foot facility in spring of 2004.