The Rye Art Center was founded in 1960 by five Rye families and four hundred odd dollars.
The Rye Art Center's original home was an unused barn, where the organization first started offering classes and held exhibitions in the visual arts. When The Rye Art Center outgrew the barn it moved to the Rye Presbyterian Church, then to the Chrysler building on Theodore Fremd Avenue, and once again to Purchase Street above the Woolworth building. In 1972, the Center moved to 51 Milton Road.
From 1984, when the building was vacated for safety reasons, until 1987, The Rye Art Center operated as a “center without walls” while a loyal and generous community organized to fund and carry out the 51 Milton Campaign — a $1.2 million campaign to restore and expand the Art Center’s home. In 1987 the facility doubled in size to 13,250 square feet and The Rye Art Center became The Rye Arts Center, embracing all art forms.
The facility now includes an art gallery, children and adult arts studios, a pre-school studio, a Maker Space, a performing arts room, a dance studio, a ceramics studio, a digital arts lab, and practice rooms for music instruction.
The Rye Arts Center has grown into the largest multi-arts center in the region. Our diverse programming consists of classes, lessons, exhibitions, performances, and more. In addition The Rye Arts Center works with dozens of partners throughout the community to offer a range of outreach programs.
The Rye Arts Center serves more than 35,000 residents annually in approximately 30 town/villages which covers a diverse region in Westchester and lower Fairfield Counties. Its programs, which cost in excess of $1,200,000 a year to operate, are supported by tuition, memberships, private and public grant-making agencies, corporate contributions, special events, and the generous donations of individuals in the communities we serve.
Inspiring Interest and Maximum Participation in the Arts since 1960…
- The Rye Art Center was founded in 1960 by Patricia and John Carey, Susan and Whitney Blair, Katherine and David Moore, Nancy and Russell Cecil, Cristine and Herbert Jamison.
- In 1961 Susan Blair and Nancy Cecil taught the first classes (oil painting, print making and drawing) to 20 students in the Moore family’s barn on Greenacres Lane.
- The Rye Art Center presented its first student and faculty exhibit as well as its first lecture series at the Rye Free Reading Room in 1961.
- In 1963 The Rye Arts Center found a new home at 22 Purchase Street, above the Woolworth’s store.
- The Rye Art Center began renting space at 51 Milton Road as early a 1964.
- Programming rapidly expanded: class options grew and were offered throughout Rye; "Evenings with the Artist" lectures and exhibitions were held at the Rye Free Reading Room; "New Cinema" film series began at the Osborne School; the first teenage scholarship was awarded; teen summer workshops were created with Rye Country Day and Rye High School; "Arts for All" provided summer art training to disadvantaged children; the first all day arts festival was held as well as the first Fine Arts Ball.
- All classes moved to 51 Milton Road in 1972. This 200-year-old building was owned by The City of Rye and leased for $1 a year.
- Lynn Stetson began The Ballet Class at The Rye Art Center in 1978.
- The photography program expanded in 1979.
- The first juried photography exhibition took place in the gallery in 1980.
- The Rye Art Center began its longstanding relationship with Port Chester Head Start in 1981, offering arts education for under-served preschool children.
- In 1984 the building was deemed unsafe for occupancy and The Rye Art Center operated without a home.
- The 51 Milton Campaign was launched to raise the $1.2 million dollars necessary for the renovation.
- In its first 25 years The Rye Art Center's enrollment grew from 20 to more than 1,100 students. The number of classes grew from the original 4 in 1960 to 138 in 1984. In total The Rye Art Center reached 7,000 people through its range of programs.
- In 1986 "The Famous Artists" program began training parents to bring arts lessons directly into their children's classrooms.
- In September 1987 The Rye Arts Center reopened its door and change the “Art” in its name to “Arts” to reflect its merger with the Rye Performing Arts Council.
- Program Director Bertin Rowser engaged hundreds of Westchester residents of all ages in community theater productions, summer workshops, acting and comedy classes.
- "Players & Playwrights" with John Cunningham and Francis Sternhagen began a 9 year run.
- The Rye Arts Center began hosting "Artist’s Forum", a monthly discussion group for artists and art lovers. "Writer’s Forum" was created soon thereafter.
- Suzuki Violin Outreach starts in 1997.
- "Kids Focus", a county-wide photography exhibit and contest, debut in 1999.
- A memorial service was held for Bertin Rowser and the Performing Arts Room was renamed in his honor.
- The Rye Arts Center presented A Rye Community Healing Concert at Rye High School in response to the tragedy of 9/11.
- The first "Painters on Location" Plein-Air Paint Out and Auction was held in 2001.
- In 2002 The Rye Arts Center received the Westchester Arts Award for its Head Start program.
- The Rye Arts Center established a digital arts lab and through the vision and leadership of Barbara and Paul Elliot become an early leader in STEAM education.
- Stand Up/Ladies Comedy Night made its debut in 2004.
- Outreach programs grew to include nursing home residents as well as satellite projects in Port Chester and Mamaroneck school districts.
- "Half Day for Half Pints", a pre-school arts program was created.
- The Rye Arts Center began offering Dance for Parkinson's Disease classes.
- In 2014 The Rye Arts Center opened its Maker Space through the generous support of Gail Harrison Roman and The Wallace Fox Foundation.
- Rye resident, Irving Harper, exhibited his groundbreaking collection of paper sculptures.
- By 2015 The Rye Arts Center had expanded its reach to more than 20,000 people.
- In 2016 The Rye Arts Center received ArtsWestchester's Education Award for its innovative STEAM programming.
- The Public Art Initiative began in 2016 bringing large-scale art works to public spaces in Rye.