Written By Sarah & Brad Butler. Butler of Main Street Arts
Reprinted with permission from Main Street Arts | Get To Know Us blog series | Copyright 2020
Brad and I have what I think is the start of a really great art collection hanging on the walls of our home. Being the directors of an arts organization that hosts several exhibitions per year gives us the chance to see all types of work from new and familiar artists all the time. Sometimes we can’t let a piece of art leave the gallery unless it’s in our car and on its journey to our house. (Okay, maybe not sometimes…maybe often.)
We have many pieces in our collection that we’ve acquired from our Main Street Arts connections including work shown in exhibitions, work from our gallery shop artists, and pieces from former artists in residence.
Hanging in area of our stairwell is a drawing of our four-legged kids by July/August 2019 resident Geena Massaro that hangs below a Robert Marx painting that was included in his two-person exhibition in 2017. In another area, a painting of mushrooms by October/November 2018 resident Emily Tyman is paired with a painting by Jim Mott that was included in the Upstate New York Painting Invitational at Main Street Arts in 2017 and a ceramic sculpture by Autumn Hasthor, a now RIT alum, who had her BFA show Sewn Solid on the second floor of the gallery in 2018. Also included in the grouping, a ceramic sculpture by Lane Chapman (a former resident at the Flower City Arts Center) and a RoCo 6×6 featuring an elegant little glass mushroom by Sage Churchill Foster whose work is regularly featured in the gallery shop at Main Street Arts.
The mantle in our living room features a mixed media piece by July 2017 artist in residence Cathy Gordon, alongside one of own Brad’s paintings, and a vessel by Rochester artist Peter Pincus from his solo exhibition at Main Street Arts in 2014. Also on the mantle: a tiki sculpture purchased from a Hawaiian artist working on the street in Lahaina, Maui from our honeymoon in February 2008, and a Mata Ortiz vessel by Mexican artist Octavio Silveiro which we acquired on a trip to Mexico in 2017.
Main Street Arts is a wonderful resource in finding new and inspiring works to add to our personal collection, but we also love to find pieces to add when we visit other local arts organizations. Every year we attend the Flower City Pottery Invitational at the Flower City Arts Center, the Memorial Art Gallery’s Clothesline Festival and Fine Craft Show, and exhibitions at Rochester Contemporary including their 6×6 exhibition.
We’ve acquired several cups from our annual juried exhibition The Cup, The Mug at Main Street Arts, as well as from the Flower City Arts Center, The Memorial Art Gallery, trips we’ve been on, and we even have a collaborative mug from August 2018 Main Street Arts residents Maliya Travers-Crumb and Jill Grimes. In addition to cups and mugs, we’ve started adding some beautiful bowls to our “cup cabinet” including work by ceramic artists Sang Joon Park and Kaete Brittin Shaw, and glass artist Nicolas Kekic—artists we were introduced to at the 2018 and 2019 MAG Fine Craft Show. Our collection is quickly outgrowing this space and I don’t see it slowing anytime soon!
We also like finding gems from smaller galleries or artist studios. Last year we purchased this really wonderful piece by Pete Monicelli from his exhibition at Colleen Buzzard’s studio. It’s still waiting to be framed so I haven’t been able to fully appreciate its beauty as a part of the collection hanging on our walls yet, but I knew when we saw it that it would make a wonderful addition.
We collect art because the work speaks to us in some way and reminds us of connections we have with the artists who created them—the reminders of residents who spent time with us at Main Street Arts, hot dog lunches and studio visits with Robert and Francie Marx, or a special vacation where we met the artist working on his or her craft. I wish that I could showcase each piece of art or grouping on our walls, but it’s hard to do because there is so much to say about each piece and the stories made when they are seen together in our home.
For me, living with original art is a personal requirement right after food and shelter. I know that my quality of life would suffer without the variety of art objects I interact with every day. Working from home during this pandemic has made this even more clear.
As I make my way downstairs at the start of each day, I am greeted by so many thought-provoking paintings, photographs, sculptures, drawings, and prints.
Any beverages I drink each day, from cups of coffee to glasses—or ceramic tea bowls—of wine, have been made by an artist I know or whose work I admire. I have favorite cups and mugs in our collection but I find such joy in using a different cup every day.
Where and how artwork is hung is important. I like to install the work in our home as I would in the gallery and enjoy bringing seemingly different kinds of art together in close proximity—this is an added benefit when you live in an old house. The walls of our own personal exhibition are always evolving. When something new is acquired, it finds its place next to pieces that we have already lived with for years.
Continuing to add new artwork to our walls will often present new ways to view the work and I will notice new things. A new way to perceive the composition, a color that stands out differently on a particular day, or a new personal meaning to the piece.
I know that my tendency to like certain types of artwork is informed by my own aesthetics and motivations as a painter. I like the blurred lines between my roles as a curator, collector, and artist. Sarah’s interests and background as a graphic designer play an equal role in the art we collect and I love the way we continue to influence each other’s taste in art.
Sarah Butler is a graphic designer with a BFA in graphic design from Rochester Institute of Technology and an MPS in the business of art and design from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Sarah runs the business-side of things at Main Street Arts and does all of the graphic design work for the organization. She also manages our bookstore, Sulfur Books.
In addition to being Main Street Arts Executive Director and Gallery Curator, Bradley Butler is an artist who makes atmospheric, abstract paintings. He has an MFA from Rochester Institute of Technology and is a native of the Finger Lakes region. Bradley has been with Main Street Arts before the renovations to the building were completed. He selects, curates, and hangs all of the exhibitions at Main Street Arts and is working to continually expand our program offerings.
We are very pleased to announce Mark Harrington has become the 300th member of Rochester Art Collectors!
It seems Mark was destined to appreciate and collect art. At the age of eight, without his parents knowledge, he rode his bike ten blocks to a local grocery store and bought a small oil painting of ducks in flight with his allowance. He gave that painting to his Mom. She kept it on her desk until she passed. It now hangs in his study in Pittsford. That was just the beginning..
During his early school years Mark's interest in art intensified and his activities expanded to include collecting. In high school Mark became friends with the daughter of the curator at the McNay Art Institute. While attending a exhibition at the McNay Mark was introduced to Lita Albuquerque, whose work is in the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection. Lita and her work made a lasting impression on Mark. Their friendship blossomed. While attending college in Austin Mark began collecting art with some regularity. He made a practice of visiting student art exhibitions, purchasing work that spoke to him along the way.
After business school while living in New York City in 1979 Mark became acquainted with Dorothy and Herb Vogel through Tom Armstrong, then curator of the Whitney Museum. The Vogels were two of the most remarkable people Mark had the pleasure of knowing. They were a fixture on the NYC art scene. The Vogels introduced Mark to important art dealers and taught him the ropes. Thanks to the Vogels he met Gracie Mansion at the opening of the first gallery exhibit of “graffiti art” created by Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat.
During their lifetimes the Dorothy and Herb Vogel amassed over 4,000 minimalist and conceptual works along with a fair number of abstract expressionist works. They built their massive collection on modest civil servants’ salaries. Herb worked in the Post Office and Dorothy worked as a librarian. They lived in a small two-bedroom walkup on 86th Street in Manhattan. Ultimately their collection was bequeathed to 50 different museums: 50 works to each of 50 museums in 50 states.
Harrington says, "The Vogels taught me the importance of getting to know the artist and seeing their work progress over time. Most importantly, they stressed that if a work moved me, and it was the first thing I saw in my mind when I woke up, go buy it on the spot." As with the Vogels, I never have and never will sell any piece I buy. Investment value is unimportant to me. What matters is how my heart and soul respond. Herb said he never wanted to build a collection, it just happened. He taught me to think of each piece as a friend that lived with me.
"I joined Rochester Art Collectors to participate in a vibrant community of art lovers, to support artists and to purchase beautiful works of art."
Header image © Roy Sowers 1999
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