Memorial Art Gallery: Pulling in an audience

I decided to visit the Memorial Art Gallery — I love art museums and, in now four years of living in Rochester, I haven’t gone, so this class was a perfect excuse to go.

I definitely noticed that MAG does an incredible job at pulling in the viewer. From the moment I pulled up to the front of the museum, I was intrigued, by both the cathedral-like building that houses the museum and the large red sign on the outside of the front door that exclaimed “Knowledge is power!” in black letters. The sign was only there because of a traveling exhibit, but it was a great way to start the visit, mulling over the message of “knowledge is power.”

Walking into the main gallery, I was presented with another example at how the museum pulls in viewers.


An eclectic collection of portraits graces the front wall as you first walked through the doors. The text on the left of the wall welcomes you to the gallery with a simple question: “What better way to begin a conversation about art than with images of the human face?” By presenting a visual as ubiquitous as the human face, the MAG is able to display a variety of styles and eras to the viewer, sparking their interest and desire to explore the museum and find where each of these pieces came from, as well as start a conversation on how artists approach the same subject differently — how different styles evolve or influence the works we see. To me, this was a very clever, visual way of introducing a visit to an art museum.

As I continued exploring, I found how the layout of the museum encourages you to wander and explore every nook and cranny. Most museums I’ve been to consist of wide open rooms with a few larger works in the center. Columns and hallways zigzag through the MAG, gently leading you toward the displays of works. Each section is clearly labeled by subject, making it easy to navigate and know exactly where you were and what you were looking at.

Overall, I enjoyed my visit to the MAG. It’s a lot smaller than other museums I have been to, but its smaller size almost made it a much more intimate visit. The focus was purely on the work itself, and not much else, which I greatly appreciated.


5 thoughts on “Memorial Art Gallery: Pulling in an audience

  1. I appreciated the way you discussed the layout of the museum. I had never really thought about how the design of the actual rooms would affect the way a visitor could perceive the museum, but it makes a lot of sense. Having hallways and columns that wind throughout the museum, like you said, definitely guides people in specific directions and draws their attention towards different exhibits. This seems like it would be helpful in emphasizing certain parts of the museum. Also, like you, many museums I’ve been to are also just big rooms with lots of things to look at. I tend to get overwhelmed with so many exhibits like that. I wish more museums used unique layouts to make the museum better organized and easier to navigate for an overwhelmed observer.

    I also found your picture very interesting. That wall of portraits is very eye-catching to the viewer. I like how they are arranged on the wall in a very scattered manner, where none are the same size and none are quite lined up. Also, they do a great job of representing a variety of different styles of art and summarizing what you are about to see in the museum.

    I have never been to the Memorial Art Gallery but you have definitely made me interested in visiting!

  2. I’m glad that as a resident of the area you finally found the chance to check out MAG! I haven’t been there recently, but I find myself intrigued with the current layout of the exhibition. Over the Summer, I went several times to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Upon entering the space, I had to snake my way through a line to purchase a ticket, and then move towards the rotunda in the middle of the museum. From there, I would consult a map to decide which exhibit I should head to. Though I didn’t have any objections to this process at the time, your recent visit to MAG has made me reconsider.

    I am very interested in the opening collection of art in the Memorial Art Gallery. It shows a great sample of work shown throughout the space and encourages the visitor to find those exhibitions. I feel that it helps to give a more complete visual overview of the museum in a concise manner.

  3. This is such an interesting way to welcome visitors to a museum, and had I been the visitor myself, I would have been happy to be seeing it. To be greeted by such a wide array of styles and eras of art all essentially showing their own versions of the same thing would immediately intrigue me and make me want to see the entire museum. Many other museums that I have been to open to a large display with several other large, open displays around a central hub, but I really appreciate how the Memorial Art Gallery has their’s set up!

    That said, I also like how you mentioned they have a more intimate layout than other museums. Having big open spaces I have always felt may help with the flow of traffic, but also encourages people to pass by works that you may see from a distance. Having to wind your way through the exhibits makes for a much more immersive experience, and I can only imagine, a much more enjoyable one as well.

  4. I also went to the MAG for the first time after living in Rochester for a few years and I was very sad I had not explored it earlier! I thought the lay out of the whole museum made it very easy to stay interested and enjoy yourself. I also really enjoyed the second floor with the older collection of paintings, sculptures, and wood working. Having just come from Italy and seeing a lot of exhibits with old pieces at times it was hard to stay interested because there was just so much to see and absorb. I really felt like MAG had the perfect amount of pieces and the placement kept me enjoying my time there! I will for sure be back to that museum!

  5. The first time i went to the MAG I walked in and was immediately drawn to the picture on the bottom, second from the left, the face. I fell in love with it instantly. It drew me in and I was mesmerized by the technique and materials used. It’s the perfect way to open up and begin the entire tour. They’re right when they say “knowledge is power” and I would go back there all the time if I could.

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