Fifty Years of Inspiring Interest and Maximum Participation in the Arts…
1960: Incorporated as The Rye Art Center
- Founding families are Patricia and John Carey, Susan and Whitney Blair, Katherine and David Moore, Nancy and Russell Cecil, Cristine and Herbert Jamison.
- Susan Blair and Nancy Cecil teach the first classes (oil painting, print making and drawing) to 20 students in the Moore family’s barn on Greenacres Lane.
- First student and faculty exhibit held in the Rye Free Reading Room.
- 1st lecture series held at Rye Free Reading Room.
- Art classes and headquarters move to 22 Purchase St., over Woolworth’s store.
- Rye Art Center rents the basement of 51 Milton Road for sculpture; adds more courses; holds classes throughout Rye; offers Evenings with the Artist lectures and exhibitions at library, as well as the New Cinema film series at the Osborne School; gives 1st teenage scholarship; hosts teenage summer workshops with Rye Country Day and Rye High School; sponsors Arts for All summer art training for disadvantaged children; holds all day arts festival in June; hosts annual Fine Arts Ball.
- All classes move to 51 Milton Road, where they are held until 200-year old historic building declared unsafe for occupancy in 1984.
- The Ballet Class comes to 51 Milton in 1978; photography program expands in 1979; first juried exhibition takes place in the gallery in 1980. Head Start program for preschoolers begins in 1981. Famous Artists adult docent training program serving local schools starts in 1986. RAC enrollment grows from 20 to over 1,100 students in 25 years. Number of classes grows from the original 4 in 1960 to 138 in 1984. Participants in classes, gallery and museum tours, workshops, exhibitions and special events exceed 7,000.
- Classes temporarily relocate while RAC Board and volunteers mobilize the community to save the historic structure at 51 Milton as a community arts center; 51 Milton Campaign raises $1.2 million dollars for the renovation.
- Sept. 1987. The Rye Arts Center reopens its doors, changing the “Art” in its name to “Arts” to reflect its merger with the Rye Performing Arts Council. Program Director Bertin Rowser engages hundreds of Westchester residents of all ages in community theater productions, summer workshops, acting and comedy classes. Players & Playwrights, with John Cunningham and Francis Sternhagen, has a stellar 9 year run. Volunteers bring big name performers to the community on a regular basis; curate 2 museum-caliber exhibitions a year and organize annual shows of student and teacher work. RAC hosts Artist’s Forum, a monthly discussion group for artists and art lovers, followed by Writer’s Forum in 1993. Head Start extends to fourth grade. Suzuki Violin Outreach starts in 1997. In 1999, Kids Focus, a county-wide photography exhibit and contest, debuts. A memorial service is held for Bertin Rowser and the Performing Arts Room is renamed in his honor.
- RAC presents A Rye Community Healing Concert at Rye High School in response to the tragedy of 9/11; hosts the first Painters on Location Plein-Air Paint Out and Auction in 2001; receives the 2002 Westchester Arts Award for its Head Start program; celebrates the contemporary arts of India with Colors of India in 2003; launches the Media School and debuts Stand Up/Ladies Comedy Night in 2004; introduces the Adult Members Show in 2005. Contribute Magazine recognizes the RAC for program focus, fundraising efficiency, sustainability and financial stability in 2006 and 2007; Outreach programs grow to include nursing home residents as well as satellite projects in Port Chester and Mamaroneck school districts.
- Today the RAC serves 17,000 constituents; offers nearly 400 multi-session classes; reaches out with an interactive website, online registration and a newsletter; provides creative arts programming during school holidays and summer vacations; attracts students from over 30 communities in Westchester, as well as from Connecticut, New Jersey and the greater New York region. The
Art, Music and Media Schools and volunteer-run enterprises such as Famous Artists and the Gallery and Performing Arts Committees are guided and inspired by the mission statement.