All photos by Quajay Donnell.
Are you looking for an adventure in Rochester that would be easy to explore by car, bike or a social distancing walk? Exploring public art fits that bill. The true beauty in public art is the accessibility. It’s outdoors, and essentially open to everyone. Within city limits, there’s dozens of places to explore and hundreds of pieces of art to take in. We’re fortunate to have a robust scene, with some incredibly talented artists creating here year-round, and many others who visit and whose creations make up the fabric of our city. This list features a few of my personal favorite murals and areas to enjoy. This is just a small portion of the breathtaking public art the city has to offer. What I hope you’ll find in this list is a discovery of many other works of art while on the hunt for those listed here. Have fun exploring and remember, public art matters.
Atlantic and Greenleaf
One of my favorite stretches of public art in Rochester is along Atlantic Avenue between Russell and Mayberry. There you’ll find a large collection of murals curated by WALL\THERAPY, with wall art by Pixel Pancho (Italy), Vexta (NYC), Eder Muniz (Brazil), Andreas Englund (Sweden), Li-Hill (Brooklyn), Peeta (Italy), Faust (NYC), Bones (Rochester) and more. For more information, visit wall-therapy.com.
I Am Speaking: John Lewis Mural, 55 State Street
At 55 State Street, less than a block from City Hall and near the site where Frederick Douglass gave one of his most famous speeches “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July,” you’ll find the 3,000-square-foot photorealistic mural of the late Rep. John Lewis. The mural is based on the 1963 photograph by civil rights chronicler Danny Lyon and was hand-painted by Darius Dennis, Daniel Harrington, Jared Diaz, and Ephraim Gebre.
Her Voice Carries
At 114 University is one of the five murals by Sarah C. Rutherford that are part of Her Voice Carries, a public art project featuring women who are lifting up the voices of others. These women have incredible stories and Rutherford has created powerful monuments for each of them. For more information, visit hervoicecarries.com.
There’s a lot of art in South Wedge to seek out, including ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors,” by German artist Case. This mural located near the Historic German House is one of four by Case that are located in Rochester.
14 Capron St
Tucked away in the lot near Geva Theater, Fuego Coffee and Washington Square, you’ll find Detecting Machine from Swiss based duo NEVERCREW.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park at Manhattan Square
In 2019, the park received a colorful upgrade with two new murals. The first is at street-level, dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr., and also includes two of Rochester’s most known citizens – Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. That work was done by Shawn Dunwoody. The second, located down in the amphitheater, is entitled “This is Triumphant Music” and features three talented local musicians (Moses Rockwell, Danielle Ponder and Mikaela Davis). This wall was installed by three incredible Rochester based artists: Brittany Williams, Sarah C. Rutherford and Justin Suarez for WALL\THERAPY with help from the ROC Paint Division.
Fedder Industrial Park, 1237 E. Main S.
The former factory on East Main Street is home to several murals, including Monsters vs. Robots by Matthew Roberts and Joe Guy Allard. For more information, visit wall-therapy.com.
The Bicycling Woman
This mural by Lucy Ray is located in the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood on the SewGreen Rochester building at 438 West Main Street. She completed it on the 100th anniversary of the ratified 19th Amendment during Summer 2020. The mural is the newest in the neighborhood, with much more to enjoy.
999 South Avenue
Douglass Family Homesite, the rural second home of Frederick Douglass and his family in Rochester is now home to the Anna Murray-Douglass School, Frederick Douglass Library and Frederick Douglass R-Center. You’ll find quotes and images of Douglass all around the structure, including this Shawn Dunwoody piece in the school’s front courtyard on South Avenue.
Public Market District
The Rochester Public Market has one of the largest concentrations of murals in Rochester to enjoy. There you’ll find some work from domestic and international muralists, alongside early projects from Rochester based artists Sarah Rutherford and Justin Suarez. There’s also work from several other local artists – Thievin Stephen, John Perry, Todd Stahl, Dellarious, Shawn Dunwoody, FUA Krew, and Athesia Benjamin.
Henrietta & Jaques St
Tucked away just off South Goodman and a few steps from Highland Park Diner is “We’re All the Same’ from Icy and Sot. It’s one of more than a dozen pieces you’ll find in the Swillburg Neighborhood.
Stories of Strength, Times Square Building
The interactive mural at 45 Exchange Blvd is in honor of domestic violence survivors and was installed in September 2020 by Sarah Rutherford in partnership with Willow Domestic Violence Center and Truth Collective.
Water Towers at Cobb’s Hill
The long-abandoned water towers at Cobb’s Hill is truly a Rochester hidden gem. They act as a bit of a revolving outdoor art gallery, featuring work from many talented Rochester based street artists.
Frederick Douglass Statues
Rochester is home to Stanley W. Edwards statue of Frederick Douglass in Highland Park, as well as a series of life-size monuments of Douglass inspired by that statue. They are the work of Olivia Kim and were installed around the city in locations of significance to the 25 years that Douglass and his family called Rochester home. For more information, visit www.douglasstour.com
Silver & King Street
You’ll find this beautiful 2014 WALL\THERAPY mural from Alice Mizrachi at Silver and King, right in the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood. Make sure to stop and have tea with Anthony and Frederick Douglass in Susan B. Anthony Square before exploring the many other walls and rich history throughout the neighborhood.