The Rochester Public Library (RPL) and City of Rochester commissioned a public art installation as part of exterior renovations at the Rundel Memorial Library building. A structural rehabilitation of the Rundel building’s north terrace, including reconstruction of the terrace as a civic plaza, is part of the City’s ROC the Riverway program. Click here to learn more about the site. Photographs above courtesy of Jon Spurr Photography.

Rundel North Terrace – click image to view detail

The RPL released a Call for Artists/Request for Qualifications in summer 2018. A public art selection committee comprised of Library, City, community volunteers and artists managed the process and ultimately recommended Chevo Studios, from Commerce City, Colorado. Chevo Studios was selected in part due to their desire to narrate Rochester’s story through their work. Based on public and stakeholder input gathered from fall 2018 through spring 2019, emerging themes to guide Chevo Studios work included the impact of water at the site, Rochester’s rich history of social and political progressivism, and industrial innovation’s transformative impact on the region.

Chevo Studios, in collaboration with the project design and construction teams provided four distinct installations on the Rundel building north terrace as follows:

  • North Terrace Gateway, the focal piece of the plaza and artist engagement
  • Runnel lighting feature throughout terrace plaza
  • Interpretive seating
  • Interactive water feature at the Terrace overlook to the Genesee River

Chevo Studios, under artist and principal Andrew Dufford, has provided installations that evoke the story of Rochester by highlighting the distinct relationship between the river and surrounding city. As he has stated for the overall project, “each artwork is designed to be both a beautiful piece of sculpture and a welcoming place to be…to allow visitors to engage with the sculptures and explore the chapters of history that reside on the site. The intention is to deepen visitors’ understanding, appreciation and care.”

The Gateway sits at the historic confluence of Genesee River and the Erie Canal. The relationship to water was a primary driver of the City’s development and modernization, attracting newcomers and sparking the growth of innovations which spread beyond the riverbanks and into downtown. As viewers look toward the river through the gateway, images provide a glimpse into the layers of the river ecology, transportation, hydropower and art that all flow from the riverside origin.
Looking through the lens from the opposite side, out toward South Avenue and Broad Street, the imagery speaks to Rochester’s evolution and notable innovations throughout the City’s history. The renovated RPL plaza extends this tradition of evolution and innovation by providing a connecting place for people, ideas, expression and sharing.

Gateway, City View – click image to view detail

Gateway, River View – click image to view detail

All artworks pay tribute to the legacy of waterpower, industry, transportation and creativity inspired by history of the river and the development of Rochester, with an interpretive water runnel connecting the plaza that is lighted to support connections throughout day and night.

The Water Table on the plaza overlook highlights key historical features like Child’s Basin and the Market Bridge, which was part of Main Street and ran over the river one block north of the canal aqueduct. The 1833 map captures the way the city looked at the dawn of its incorporation. The river connected Rochester to the rest of the world via the Erie Canal. Canal boats became a highway for the transportation of goods, people, and ideas. The Mill Wheel is a reminder that waterpower provided the industrial growth for the flour city.

Water Table, Narrative Carving – click image to view detail

The RPL has documented much of the history of this time and maintains original imagery and artifacts of the early canal era. You can learn more about the history of the site here.

The terrace gateway installation and runnel lighting feature are funded through the City of Rochester as part of the Rundel North Terrace Revitalization Project. The interpretive seating and water table are funded from the Friends and Foundation of the Rochester Public Library and private endowments of the RPL.