In Appreciation of Rochester Landmarks & Public Art

PUBLIC ART is revolutionary. Art teaches people to see for themselves, to trust what they feel, and to imagine. It encourages people to step out of line, to think for themselves, challenge authority, be individuals, test the limits, and create new relationships between themselves and the world.

PUBLIC ART is heroic, not only in scale but in the risk it demands of the artist. Making a piece that will be there forever, however long that may be, requires a lot of courage. It must be "good", whatever that means, because it will be one of the most prominent pieces the artist ever creates.

PUBLIC ART is controversial. Like a lightening rod that attracts the first strike of an approaching storm, there is always something to criticize. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, commemorating those who died in the Civil War, includes no black soldiers. That is what prompted John W. Thompson to propose a new monument, resulting in the wonderful sculpture of Frederick Douglas. But that too was not without its critics.

PUBLIC ART is about the values of the community. They are monuments to great accomplishments, revealing much about the history of the place. We study cave paintings to learn about our ancestors. Those who want to know about Rochester, the Image Centre of the World, only need look at our public art and learn about us.

—Richard Margolis
September 3, 1992

Richard Margolis is an architectural photographer with a studio on the 4th floor of a former shoe factory in the Neighborhood of the Arts. You can visit his studio on the "FIRST FRIDAY" of each month, from October through May, or by appointment. Look at www.AndersonAlleyArtists.com for directions and hours.


"Public" means that no restrictions are imposed or admission charged. Most items are out-of-doors, but could be inside. Usually, they are in prominent locations and easy to find.

"Art" requires a considerable degree of creativity, often reaching beyond one’s area of comfort and involving challenges and risk of failure. It requires courage to put something out there, forever (whatever that means) for everyone to see, and criticize. When the risk is eliminated the result is just decoration.

The best art creates a response in viewers. Sometimes it provokes emotion or thought, but I am not judging quality. If the work is finished, installed and I find it, then I include it. This is more a catalog than accreditation.

Inscribed monuments are important, but not included. Relief sculpture on a monument will be included because of the aesthetic judgment they require.

The future of the project

I plan to add new items to the catalog and correct mistakes;
I am considering a map to better identify locations;
I may create walking tours (that could be downloaded and printed) for areas with high concentrations of public art;
and I am interested in a Hebrew language version but that would require a sponsor or assistance.
Financial contributions to expand the project are welcome.

—Richard Margolis March 25, 2010 at 16:27

About the Photographer

Richard Margolis moved to Rochester for graduate school when it was called the "Center of Photography." He taught in the art departments at Nazareth College, Visual Studies Workshop, SuNY Brockport, Community College of the Finger Lakes, and Wells College. He now has a studio on the top floor of the former shoe factory, the Anderson Arts Building in the Neighborhood of the Arts. 

His projects include Bridges, Big Trees, Landmarks, Public Art that include digital color photographs for clients and web sites and at the same time uses film for b&W prints. His studio is usually open for First Friday events from October through May. 

Richard Margolis
Art + Architectural Photography
250 North Goodman Street
Rochester, New York 14607