They say you shouldn't talk religion or politics at the dinner table. Sound advice. But we think art falls in the same category. Ever bring a still-life lover to an art installation where doll parts hang from the ceiling? Chain a free-spirited drumming-circle dancer in front of a four-hour ballet? There are some very strongly held beliefs out there about what qualifies as art and culture. We know that some people would rather watch performance art than Broadway musicals, while others are more into a well-planned literary lecture than free-form poetry.
So we've organized this list to give you some places to start, both for the straight-aheads and the veer-off-courses. This isn't every venue or group dedicated to the arts. If you already know what you like, check the weekly listings in City for all the events and groups out there trying to keep you cultured.
Safe bets: If you're of the they-call-this-art?!? ilk, you don't have to sweat trips to the MemorialArtGallery or the George Eastman House. Both are established institutions with world-class exhibits in art and photography, respectively. You also can't beat GeneseeCenter for the Arts for pottery and photography (both disciplines are taught there, and sales are held throughout the year). Oxford Gallery shows artwork with a more traditional aesthetic, mostly paintings.
And the Arts & Cultural Council knows all the Rochester artists, so you know the work it displays will be the pick of the litter. For the history buff, UR's Rare Books Library chooses items from its collection with care; exhibits are linked to events at the university and in the community.
Newcomer on the scene Image City Photography Gallery has so many shows (every three weeks) and uses so much of its available gallery space, at any given moment there's bound to be something you like.
Worth a gamble: The alt-art quartet: A\V, Rochester Contemporary, Visual Studies Workshop, and (newbie) Door7. These places are run by (often harried) devoted individuals with a love of the off-balance. Be patient with erratic hours and low budgets and you'll be rewarded by seeing art you didn't know could exist. Sound and video installations, pop-up books, hat pins, and drawing robots --- you'd better believe they call this art.
To be wowed by sheer quantity (and some definite quality) try ARTISANworks. The whole place is a marvel.
All Things Art 65 S Main Street, Canandaigua, 396-0087
American Association of University Women494 East Avenue, 244-8890
Anderson Alley Artists 250 N Goodman Street, #212,461-3940, www.andersonalleyartists.com
Art Stop Gallery 10 North Avenue, Webster, 872-5710, www.artstopllc.com
ARTISANworks565 Blossom Road, Suite L, 288-7170, www.artisanworks.net
A\V 8 Public Market, 423-0320, www.avspace.org
CasaItalianaNazarethCollege, Le Chase Lounge, 389-2468
Friendly Home Memorial Gallery 3156 East Avenue, 385-0298
Galleryblue277 Alexander Street, Suite 204, 703-6087, www.galleryblue.com
Genesee Center for the Arts713 Monroe Avenue, 271-5183, www.geneseearts.org
George Eastman House900 East Avenue, 271-3361, www.eastmanhouse.org
Image City Photography Gallery 722 University Avenue, 271-2359
Little Theatre Café 240 East Avenue, 232-3906, www.little-theatre.com
LinkGalleryCity Hall, 30 Church Street
Memorial Art Gallery 500 University Avenue, 473-7720, mag.rochester.edu
MercerGalleryMonroeCommunity College, 1000 E Henrietta Road, 292-2021
MillArtCenter and Gallery61 N Main Street, HoneoyeFalls, 624-7740
My Sister's Gallery Episcopal Church Home, 505 Mt Hope Avenue
New Gallery Arts & Cultural Council, 277 N Goodman Street, 473-4000, www.artsrochester.org
Nan Miller Gallery3450 Winton Place, 292-1430, www.nanmillergallery.com
Oxford Gallery 267 Oxford Street, 271-5885, www.oxfordgallery.com
Rochester Contemporary137 East Avenue, 461-2222, www.rochestercontemporary.org
Rochester Institute of TechnologyBevierGalleryJamesE.BoothBuilding, 475-7680 | Gallery r775 Park Avenue, 242-9470, www.rit.edu/~galleryr | NTIDDyerArtsCenterJohnsonBuilding, 475-6855 | SPAS Gallery Gannett Bldg 7B, 475-2770
SUNY GeneseoLederer Gallery Brodie Hall, 245-5211 | Lockhart Gallery McClellan House, 245-5814 | OpusGalleryMacVittieCollegeUnion, 245-5516
TowerFineArtsCenter and Rainbow GallerySUNY Brockport, 180 Holley Street, Brockport, 395-2805
University of Rochester Gallery at the Art and Music Library Rush Rhees Library, River Campus, 275-4476 | HartnettGalleryWilsonCommons, River Campus, 275-4188 | Rare Books and SpecialCollectionsLibraryRiver Campus, 275-4477 | Rossell Hope Robbins Library Rush Rhees Library, River Campus, 275-0110
Visual Studies Workshop 31 Prince Street, 442-8676, www.vsw.org
WilliamsGalleryFirstUnitarianChurch, 220 S Winton Road, 271-9070
Williams-Insalaco Gallery34 Finger Lakes Community College, 4355 Lakeshore Drive, Canandaigua, 394-3500
Safe bets: The George Eastman House is grand and the gardens are beautiful, as are the house and grounds at Sonnenberg. If you have kids you can't avoid trips to Strong Museum (visiting exhibits, Sesame Street, a kids' grocery store) or Rochester Museum and Science Center (planetarium, interactive exhibits, Science Saturdays), and why would you want to?
Seneca Park Zoo is, well, a zoo, replete with animals of every climate and temperament. GeneseeCountryVillage and Museum is a paradise of the 19th-century --- butter-churning, quilt-making, old-school baseball-playing and all.
Worth a gamble: Unless there's a sponsored event going on, the interaction at the outdoor ARTWalk is of your own design. Sit on a bench, admire the sculptures, or think, "I could do that."
There may be limits to all you want to know about Jell-O. But the museum may be worth a trip if only because when you talk about Rochester to outsiders, everyone's heard of Jell-O. Not so with garbage plates or white hots.
ARTWalk University Avenue, 234-6670, www.rochesterartwalk.org
Center at High Falls 60 Browns Race, 325-2030, www.centerathighfalls.org
Charlotte-GeneseeLighthouseMuseum 70 Lighthouse Street, 621-6179
Ganondagan State Historic Site 1488 Route 444, Victor, 742-1690, www.ganondagan.org
Geneva Historical Society Museum543 S Main Street, Geneva, 315-789-5151, www.genevahistoricalsociety.com
Granger Homestead & Carriage Museum 295 N Main Street, Canandaigua, 394-1472, www.grangerhomestead.org
GreeceHistoricalMuseum 595 Long Pond Road, Greece, 225-7221, historicalsociety.greeceny.org
Honeoye Falls-Mendon Historical Society1 Allen Park Drive, Honeoye Falls, 624-9803
JELL-OMuseum23 E Main, LeRoy, 768-7433
New York Museum of Transportation6393 E River Road, 533-1113, www.nymtmuseum.org
Ontario County Historical Society Museum 55 N Main Street, Canandaigua, 394-4975, www.ochs.org
Rochester Museum and Science Center657 East Avenue, 271-1880, www.rmsc.org
Seneca Park Zoo 2222 St Paul Street, 467-WILD, www.senecaparkzoo.org
Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion151 Charlotte Street, Canandaigua, 394-4922, www.sonnenberg.org
Strong Museum1 Manhattan Square, 263-2700, www.strongmuseum.org
Susan B. Anthony House17 Madison Street, 235-6124, www.susanbanthonyhouse.org
TinkerHomestead & FarmMuseum475 Calkins Road, 359-7042
Poetry and literature
Safe bets:Rochester Arts & Lectures brings household-name writers to town to talk about their work. It's almost always a sellout, and it may be the most attentive you'll ever be in a church pew. The Brockport Writers Forum is also top-notch, with both creative writers and poets on tap. BOA Editions' volumes are, if you like poetry, always a treat. It's a tremendous little press with big standards and several award-winning poets on its roster.
Worth a gamble: You never know what you're going to get from a writing class; the right chemistry comes from a delicate balance of students, teacher, muses, and celestial alignment. But if you need to find out if you're the next Faulkner or Frey, Writers & Books is your place. For a more trial-by-fire type of test, bring your notebook and your courage to the Pure Kona Poetry open mic. Yes, there are others, but this is the oldest.
Blackstorytelling League of Rochester 234-7710, www.blackstorytellingleague.org
BOA EditionsLimited260 East Avenue, 546-3410, www.boaeditions.org
Brockport Writers Forum SUNY Brockport, 395-5713, www.brockport.edu/wforum/
HazMat Review www.hazmatlitreview.org
Lake Affect Magazine 288-4239, www.lakeaffectmag.com
Pure Kona Poetry Daily Perks Coffee House, 389 Gregory Street, 271-2340, www.dailyperkscoffeehouse.com
Writers & Books 740 University Avenue, 473-2590, www.wab.org
Safe bets: You like to dance? This is quite a dance-centric town. Garth Fagan is an award-winning choreographer (he did Lion King), and his shows, always reviewed in the Times, are must-sees when he brings his troupe home from world tours. Also popular are Rochester City Ballet's performances; the troupe dances the Nutcracker every Thanksgiving and usually one spring show as well.
Worth a gamble: Modern dance isn't everybody's thing, but there are some talented people around here contorting their bodies for your amusement: SUNY Brockport has a great dance department with frequent shows for a song, and the Contemporary Dance Collective, a group of local choreographers, is in its third year of spring performances of new, regional choreography in a family-friendly Sunday-afternoon format.
But if you really want to gamble, prove you like to dance and join in with any of the participatory groups around town. Bush Mango is a great place for West African style accompanied by drums and the Swing Dance Network is a tireless, well-organized option for swing and its outcroppings, but there are at least a dozen others listed every week in City's community calendar, from Argentine tango to contra to Irish folk.
Bush Mango Drum & Dance 34 Elton Street, 235-3960, www.bushmango.com
Elizabeth Clark Dance Ensemble 442-5988
Garth Fagan Dance50 Chestnut Street, 454-3260, www.garthfagandance.org
Hallmark Danceworks www.hallmarkdanceworks.org
Park Avenue Dance 461-2766, www.parkavenuedancecompany.org
Rochester City Ballet 1326 University Avenue, 461-5850, www.rochestercityballet.org
Rochester Swing Dance Network 244-2815, www.rochesterswingdance.com
SUNY Brockport 350 New Campus Drive, Brockport, 395-2787, www.brockport.edu/finearts
Safe bet:GevaTheatreCenter is our biggest regional professional theater and the shows range from Shakespeare classics to established musicals to commissioned works. With two stages, one for larger-scale shows and one for newer plays, there's bound to be something you like, and you know it will be done with care and sparkle.
Rochester Broadway Theatre League brings the big touring musicals to us poor souls up here in the sticks. They're polished, they're showy: you can't go wrong.
Downstairs Cabaret Theatre is the most prolific little theater with three locations and all the musical and ensemble theater you could want. Lots of fringe-festival favorites have come through in recent years, all in a cabaret-style setting.
Blackfriars is a community theater that consistently puts on solid shows --- well-acted and well-designed. You can tell they put time into these.
Worth a gamble: We don't know what you find funny, so in a way Nuts and Bolts and Geva Comedy Improv are a bit of a gamble, though both are very talented troupes of quick-on-their-feet comedians.
Same with opera. But Mercury Opera (a merger last year of three groups) tries to help you along with supertitled performances and introductory programs throughout the year. And the voices are excellent.
Shipping Dock Theatre is a small theater group that picks some of the most weighty, emotional, and difficult-to-stage plays out there. It's always worth a try; whether you like it or not just depends in some measure on if you want your entertainment to make you think.
Blackfriars Theatre 28 Lawn Street, 454-1260, www.blackfriars.org
Downstairs Cabaret Theatre 20 Windsor Street, 172 W Main Street, and 540 E Main Street, 325-4370, www.downstairscabaret.com
Geva Comedy Improv 232-4382, www.gevatheatre.org
Geva Theatre Center 75 Woodbury Boulevard, 232-4382, www.gevatheatre.org
Greater Rochester Repertory Companies 624-8360, www.grrc-arts.org
JCCenterstage Jewish Community Center, 1200 Edgewood Avenue, 461-2000, www.jccrochester.org
A Magical Journey Thru Stages 935-7173, www.mjstages.com
Mercury Opera 473-6567, www.operafactory.org
Nuts and Bolts Comedy Improv 503-7815, www.nutsandboltsimprov.com
Off-Monroe Players 234-0500, www.off-monroeplayers.org
Rochester Association of Performing Arts727 E Main Street, 325-3366, www.ggw.org/rapa/index.html
Rochester Children's TheaterNazarethCollege, 4245 East Avenue, 385-0510, www.rochesterchildrenstheatre.org
Shipping Dock Theatre Visual Studies Workshop, 31 Prince Street, 232-2250, www.shippingdocktheatre.org
Safe bet: The old, grand Cinema Theater has $3 double features. Three dollars. Beat that, city folk. The Little Theatre (a nonprofit movie house) is your place for arthouse films. You may even catch some protests outside as you're waiting in line.
Worth a gamble: The Dryden Theatre (in the George Eastman House) has access to crazy underground vaults of all kinds of film footage. Every day of the week there's something different. Some of it may be too weird for you, but there are well-loved classics in there, too, and every frame is film history.
The High Falls Film Festival (dedicated to women in film) and the ImageOut Film Festival (dedicated to gay and lesbian films) bring a golden sheen to each Rochester fall. There are more movies, shorts, parties, panel discussions, and workshops than you could possibly attend, and a lot of the films are still raw. But who wants to be safe all the time?
Cinema Theater 957 S Clinton Avenue, 271-1785
Dryden Theatre George Eastman House, 900 East Avenue,271-4090, www.eastmanhouse.org
HighFalls Film FestivalNovember 8-13, 279-8307, www.highfallsfilmfestival.com
ImageOut Lesbian & Gay Film & Video Festival October 6-15, 271-2640, www.imageout.org
Little Theatre 240 East Avenue, 232-3906, www.thelittle.org