Some are surprised that a university with the name “Rochester Institute of Technology” has such a strong art culture. They might think that most of the university’s support would primarily go to equipping and promoting science laboratories and research centers, and spare little to no support to uphold galleries and art workshops. However, there is no doubt that RIT has a long and rich history of being well-rounded by offering multifaceted and highly developed classes in both arts and sciences. The university’s goal has always been to offer a versatile education nurturing both the left and right brain. The university first began offering fine arts classes in topics such as freehand drawing, architectural drawing, and design since 1886, when it was still known as the Mechanics Institute.
Eventually the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute established the Department of Fine Arts, which was made possible with the support and donations of Susan Bevier. She was an art enthusiast, collector and champion for art education. With her many donations, the Institute memorialized a building at its downtown Rochester campus in her name in 1910 after her passing. This building was constructed to equip and host the Institute’s art courses with classrooms, workshops and a permanent gallery. The first Bevier Memorial Gallery opened in 1911.
Ultimately when RIT made the decision to relocate the campus to suburban Henrietta, the Bevier Memorial Building was marked as a historical landmark because of this rich history. The Bevier Gallery was moved to Booth Hall and has since displayed the art of thousands of students on campus. If you have ever entered Booth Hall from the breezeway connecting the building to Gannett Hall, directly on your left you will see the awe-inspiring and fascinating work of undergraduates, graduates, faculty and even high school students that have had the opportunity to showcase their hard work. If you have not, I implore you to see the artistic side that RIT has to offer— this was truly Bevier’s legacy.