ARTISANWorks: Art in All Things
by Catherine Rafferty | published Nov. 5th, 2019
Creative. Overwhelming. Stunning. Genius. A lot of words come to mind when you step into the 50,000-square-foot transformed warehouse that is ARTISANworks. Part museum, part gallery and part event space, ARTISANworks is the brainchild of founder Louis Perticone — a Rochester native who’s been a collector since he was a child.
“We've had people — really articulate people — try to explain what the experience is and you can't,” Perticone said.
“We've had people — really articulate people — try to explain what the experience is and you can't.”
Upon your arrival, piano music greets you at the door from a woman named Ruth who’s playing like there’s no tomorrow. From there, you are transported from one otherworldly microcosm to another. Ornate area rugs line the floors in every room. Floor to ceiling is bursting with wild self-expression, from antique cars and model airplanes, to large canvases painted in broad strokes of acrylic paint and prints by your favorite famous photographers.
In Perticone’s eyes, it’s all art and it’s all good. It doesn’t matter if you like art or whether you've been taught how to properly appreciate it — at ARTISANworks, cars are art, taxidermy is art, crafts are art, the stuff of life becomes art.
“I was never that interested in actually being an artist,” Perticone said. “But I always loved creating spaces.”
The ARTISANworks experience is themed rooms that are built around the objects in their massive collection. The Marilyn Monroe Room and Prairie Room pay tribute to famous figures in entertainment and design. A 1950s dentist office mixed with inspiration from "A Little Shop of Horrors" was created for Les Krim’s “Idiosyncratic Pictures” retrospective show. The Mississippi Juke Joint is based on Jeff Dunas's “State of the Blues.” There’s a cozy bar dedicated to the film Casablanca. It’s like being on the movie set.
At the same time, you enter corners that radiate with what Perticone describes as “the warmth of something that’s original,” filling the space in rooms that loom so large. In curating thousands of pieces of art, Perticone looks for the artists who’ve found their voice.
“The reality is you can always tell when somebody found their hand,” he said.
It’s About the Artists
ARTISANworks’s mission is to be a place where people can experience creation and inspiration. They also want to make sure artists are supported financially so they can keep creating.
Galleries typically purchase art for consignment and take a large part of the profit. In their unique approach, all the pieces in the collection are paid in full by Perticone, usually bought as entire bodies of work. There are just over 500,000 pieces in the collection stored in warehouses offsite.
Perticone used to discover artists by going to gallery openings and clearing out the unsold pieces. After 20 years in the business, artists have now discovered how much the organization values art and will search out ARTISANworks themselves.
"Because we're nuts," Perticone said. "We buy whole books of photography. Why wouldn't you find us?"
According to Perticone, ARTISANworks funds and buys more artworks than all other Rochester art organizations cumulatively. They no longer do gallery openings because it's unnecessary with ARTISANworks purchasing the work displayed. This takes the typical art world business and turns it upside down.
The organization believes the arts should be able to fund themselves. A 501(c)(3) non-profit, ARTISANworks is completely self-funded without government aid. This is done in a few ways.
Primarily, it's through hosting over 300 events a year in their themed rooms throughout their various buildings in one large industrial complex on Blossom Road. They also get corporate sponsors through their lease-to-own art program, one of their largest benefactors being Rochester Regional Health. They support projects through their incubator program in which artists are creating whole bodies of work with funding from ARTISANworks. They also sell memberships, accept donations and now lease office space in their newer building.
These are all just a means to get more people to experience art in their lives in a new and interesting venue, as well as to support the creative community.
"This is never about the money. It's about how to feed the creative process."
“This is never about the money. It's about how to feed the creative process,” Perticone described.
Linda LaTempa, Perticone’s sister, sits as the front desk receptionist at ARTISANworks. She observed that local people come through for events, but visitors come to the warehouse as a tourist destination.
“Ninety-nine percent of people who come through here are in awe,” she said.
One of the gallery's next steps is to hopefully make tours a new form of income. Perticone anticipates ARTISANworks evolving to accommodate even larger and more diverse crowds.
“ARTISANworks’s job is to create experience," he said. "Not for hundreds of thousands, but hopefully for millions someday.”
So, what is the best way to really embrace ARTISANworks for what it is?
“We're not going to tell them [visitors] what to look for,” Perticone said. “But they have to come here with zero preconceptions. That's the key to what they'll get out of it.”
How to Visit
Where: 565 Blossom Road
Hours: Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Admission: Adults $12, seniors and students $8, children five and under free, members free. Introductory tours every Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., included with admission.
For more information, visit www.artisanworks.com or call (585) 288-7170.
This year is the 20th anniversary of ARTISANworks’s main event space. They will be hosting a celebratory Old and New Auction on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019 from 1 to 5 p.m. It’s free admission with a cash bar.