The Rye Arts Center was founded in 1960 by five local Rye families and four hundred odd dollars and was housed in an unused barn. In the sixties the Rye Art Center outgrew the barn and moved to the Rye Presbyterian Church then to the Chrysler Building on Theodore Fremd Avenue, and once again to Purchase Street above the Woolworth building. In 1972, the Center moved to 51 Milton Road. The Arts Center offered classes in the visual arts and held exhibitions of works by local adult artists and Community Theater was moved to the RAC from Rye High School.
From 1984, when the building was vacated for safety reasons, until 1987, the Rye Art Center operated as a “center without walls” while a loyal and generous community organized to fund and carry out the 51 Milton Campaign — a $1.2 million campaign to restore and expand the Art Center’s home. The Rye Arts Center re-opened in 1987 with a facility doubled to 13,250 square feet and today is climate-controlled, with a Gallery, performance and lecture space, a professional dance studio, specially equipped art, clay, and multi-use studio, B/W photography darkroom, media lab, music classrooms, offices, kitchen, security system, and storage areas — every bit of it wheelchair accessible. In 1987 the Center merged with The Rye Performing Arts Council, inspiring a new dedication to performing arts symbolized in the change of its name from the Rye Art Center to The Rye Arts Center.
Today, the RAC is truly a center for art and maintains a multi-disciplinary program with a wide range of classes in the visual, performing, media and literary arts. The diverse programming consist of various art and cultural movements plus arts-in-education and public outreach services. The Center serves approximately 17,000 residents annually in approximately 30 town/villages which covers a diverse region in Westchester and lower Fairfield Counties. Its programs, which cost in excess of $850,000 a year to operate, are supported by tuition, memberships, private and public grant-making agencies, corporate contributions, special events, and the generosity of private individuals. Board-run Development, Membership and Special Event Committees work with the Executive Director to raise funds for RAC.
The Rye Arts Center publishes a course catalog and newsletter three times a year, maintains an interactive website and Facebook page, offers online registration to its students, and produces bi-monthly email blasts to keep our members and community informed.