ARTIST VIEW: Preserving Art in Rochester for Nearly 100 Years

By on September 4, 2012
Memorial Art Gallery
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The Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) is nothing short of joy to behold; who would have ever expected that inside this modest Rochester attraction lays a veritable treasure house showcasing some of the arts’ most celebrated pieces past and present? MAG is home to over 10,000 exhibits-many from the private collections of the most esteemed families in Rochester (the Sibleys, Watsons, Eastman, etc.)-and featuring the likes of Monet, Homer, Matisse, Rembrandt, Guanyin, Benton and Lachaise.

It was founded nearly a century ago in memoriam to Hiram Sibley’s grandson James George Averell, who died at 26 years of age. It was added to the University of Rochester’s campus under the direction of then University president Rush Rhees. To celebrate its centennial, MAG is planning a unique exhibition in which 100 objects in the Gallery, representing the best of the previous 100 years, will be carefully selected for invited, illustrious artists of today to interpret in their own medium.

Exhibitions like the aforementioned are a constant at MAG. The features change quite frequently, so you’re sure to be exposed to something new and different upon each visit. The Memorial Art Gallery Council is chiefly responsible for conceptualizing new ideas and creative approaches to fund raising and public awareness about the gallery.

Rochester Woman Magazine recently interviewed Gallery Council President Mary Sue Jack about her experiences in such a remarkable atmosphere as in the hidden gem of MAG.

Art truly unites all sorts from different opinions, different persuasions, different geographical locations, different cultures, etc. I found it so fascinating to learn that Mary Sue Jack had come from a nursing background before stepping in as Gallery Council President in 2010.

Originally hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jack came to the Flower City to attain her PhD. in nursing from the U of R. Always an art enthusiast, Jack had been a longtime Gallery Council Member. Although Jack admits she was initially reluctant to accept the position of Council President, she has come to love her work immensely-so much so that Jack is poised to serve her second term.

“The Art Gallery is so much a part of the community-not just the artists’ community, but the Rochester community in general, there are so many outreach programs. And the whole focus of the Gallery is to educate and to make people interested, knowledgeable, and appreciate of art,” says Jack (who maintains that her favorite piece in all the Gallery is Asher B. Durand’s Genesee Oaks).

To say that Jack is passionate about her role in the gallery council is somewhat of an understatement. Upon chatting with her, it’s hard not to match her enthusiasm for one of the finest establishments in the city. “There’s not a day that goes by in the Gallery that I don’t learn something,” says Jack. She even took the opportunity to take art history courses with aspiring docents at the Gallery. Jack also stresses that simply being present at the Gallery, among the timeless treasures and among the exceptional staff, is a striking experience-an overwhelming crash course in the best that humankind has to offer.

“I know so many of my Council colleagues and I can come to the Gallery even in our busy lives, and if we’re experiencing some bad thing-we come to the Gallery and it’s like a place of peace. It’s a place where you can sort of be calm and regroup. My colleagues will say, ‘Mary Sue, I just had to come today. It just feels so good to be at the gallery,’” explains Jack.

Aside from anticipating their centennial campaign with the “Art Reflected” exhibit, Mary Sue Jack and the Gallery Council are anxiously awaiting the completion of construction for the outdoor sculpture park. “It’s going to be so appealing and so whimsical that it’s going to draw people into the Gallery,” says Jack. “Once they drive by and see those sculptures, they’re going to say, ‘This is a place that looks like fun!’”

To learn more about how you get involved in the gallery council, please visit

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