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ARTS: Rochester Contemporary Art Center buys its building 

Exciting news concerning the future of Rochester Contemporary Art Center was announced tonight amid the 300 works that make up the 22nd Annual Members Exhibition. Art Center Executive Director Bleu Cease thanked the people who have supported the institution throughout its nearly 36 years before he released the news that RoCo, which throughout its history has been a tenant of various area buildings, now has a permanent address, as it has purchased the building that currently houses its galleries and studios at 137 East Avenue.

The news was met by cheers and applause from the audience, which packed the gallery. Rochester Contemporary's history, like many relatively young institutions, has been challenged at times by financial hardship. But ownership of the building will alleviate the institution of "considerable rental expense," says Cease.

But the struggle isn't over, as RoCo now faces 60 hefty mortgage payments of $1387.94. Cease hopes the mortgage will be paid off in five years (the paperwork was signed in late October), at which point Rochester Contemporary will own the building outright, freeing up expense to be dedicated toward "unforeseen opportunities and to cover emergencies," he says. In the near future, the building will need a new roof and a new HVHC system.

To meet this need, Cease has set up a Future Fund, "RoCo's first piggy bank," as he calls it, through which supporters may donate amounts, large and small, or pledge a mortgage payment. The end goal of the fund is $550,000, of which $330,000 has been raised to date. Board president Stuart Davis joined Cease to unveil a donor wall, which already lists the names of many who have contributed funds and pledges toward the fund, and read names from a list of supporters, among which are founders of Pyramid Arts Center, the original institution from which Rochester Contemporary arose.

The side room off the main gallery space, which formerly housed the P.L.A.N.T. project room, has been rededicated as a gallery and sales room of artworks donated by collectors to raise funds the Future Fund, including prints by Jerome Witkin and Thomas Seawell.

Rochester Contemporary has been in need of a solid base, says Cease. Through the years, it has worked to solidify its position as a lasting cultural institution in the community general, and the East End neighborhood specifically. "We're not going anywhere," Cease says. "We own it."

The current members exhibit continues through January 13, and a series of dozens of back-to-back artists' talks will take place 1-6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, December 8-9. For more information on the exhibitions, programming, and the Future Fund, visit rochestercontemporary.org.

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