Big Ideas. Small Venues.

Current Seen supports the region’s growing contemporary art community by bringing new curatorial voices and new artists together near East Ave. and Main St., connecting audiences along these historic streets. Core Venues (Rochester Contemporary Art Center, Rochester Public Library, Visual Studies Workshop, and RIT City Space, and Framework Venues (galleries, community and alternative spaces, and pop-up venues) will host curated exhibitions of local and national artists related to the general theme: our current moment / our changing city. 


In 2015, Rochester Contemporary Art Center (RoCo) inherited the brand “Rochester Biennial” from The Memorial Art Gallery. RoCo’s goal was to work with other small & mid-sized venues to build a multi-site contemporary art program in Downtown Rochester. For the 2017 edition RBNL, RoCo, VSW, and RIT City Art Space (then Gallery r) each presented exhibitions which investigated collaboration and influence. Curated experiences, a Placemaking Processional, and a series of progressive artist talks linked the venues.

A Small Venue Biennial

Now focus branded, Current Seen expands upon the 2017 program to bring together more community partners and create a contiguous string of contemporary visual art exhibitions, pop-ups, and public art along East Ave. and Main St. This geographic focus addresses the corridor as both a dividing line and a connective thread.

Current Seen draws upon various models, yet is dedicated to supporting Rochester’s small and mid-sized venues who are committed to advancing the regional art community. Like the influential 4th Berlin Biennial was built upon the historic and complicated Auguststraße, Current Seen laces together programs near some of Rochester’s most recognizable addresses, and offers a new history of the corridor by Gerry Szymanski and Kyle Semmel. Like Rochester’s own Wall Therapy has mixed international and local artists to build a highly visible mural arts program, Current Seen features artists ranging from the legendary British filmmaker John Maybury to regionally emerging artists exhibiting in their first solo exhibition post-graduation.

Building upon First Friday, Current Seen is intended to foster collaboration, help spaces achieve greater collective impact, celebrate the act of curation, and aid artists in reaching new expanded audiences. The list of programs includes more than 20 exhibitions and events organized by both experienced and emerging curators spanning three generations. Organizers are named on each individual exhibition page. A series of Thursday night after parties are planned and will be hosted by Current Seen partners. The lead organizer of Current Seen is Bleu Cease, Executive Director of RoCo.

Sites & Hours

Sites are within 2 blocks of East Ave. & Main St. between Prince St. & King St. Most exhibitions will open to the public on First Friday October 4. Nearly all venues will be open Thursdays 1-5pm, Fridays 1-9pm, and Saturdays 1-5pm. Some venues are open additional hours. Exhibitions are free or nearly free. Public Art projects are available to be experienced 24/7. 


Many organizations and groups are committed to supporting Current Seen including Arts in the Loop and The Arts & Cultural Council for Greater Rochester. See all Partners and exhibition sponsors here.

The mission of Arts In The Loop is to energize Rochester’s center city by leveraging the Arts, Entertainment and Media sectors. Arts in the Loop shares the enthusiasm for the theme: our current moment / our changing city and will organize several projects as part of Current Seen furthering their research and audience engagement.

The Arts & Cultural Council for Greater Rochester is a nonprofit corporation and industry association serving arts, culture, and heritage in our region.

Thanks to all our partners as we work together to further advance and celebrate contemporary art in Downtown Rochester in 2019, 2021 and beyond.

Want to get involved?

1. Curate an Exhibition
There is still time to organize a project in one of several available spaces, or other possible locations along East Ave. & Main St. We’ve asked that all Framework Venues make a few basic commitments. If you are interested, please email us (exhibitions@rochestercontemporary.org) right away.

2. Adopt a Framework Venue
Several spaces are extending their capacity to be a part of, and to help build Current Seen. They need your help. Please contact the venue curator directly if you would like to volunteer or donate to a project.

3. Help Promote and Attend
Mark your calendar for the opening receptions on First Friday October 4 and make sure you visit all the projects before November 17. Follow us: @CurrentSeenROC

4. Write about our current scene
We are seeking to encourage new and diverse art writing, expand the reach of Current Seen programming, and convey Rochester’s art community to a larger public. Contact Sarah Webb (sew.rochester@gmail.com) for more information.

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