Small Artworks with a Big Impact
Rochester Contemporary Art Center presents its 10th annual 6×6 event, bringing thousands of small artworks — all in the six by six inch format
By Jana Eisenberg
A fundraiser where you buy art without knowing who the artist is? Original small artworks for $20 a piece, for a good cause? A chance to create and donate art of your own, and find out whether it appeals to buyers? A great party with lots of energy and buzz?
Rochester Contemporary Art Center (RoCo) says “Yes” to all of that.
RoCo has become a gathering place and neighborhood anchor for artists, audiences and community in downtown Rochester. One of its widely anticipated signature events is the 6×6 fundraiser — it’s billed as an “international small-art phenomenon.”
Here are the basics: every year, during the buildup to the actual event, anyone and everyone is invited to create and donate artworks with a single caveat — each piece in any medium, and whether two- or three-dimensional, must be six by six inches (15 by 15 centimeters) or be mounted to a six-by-six inch board. (The submission period for this year has closed.)
Thousands of pieces are contributed by people locally and around the world, ranging from celebrities and designers to schoolchildren, college students, professional and amateur artists and older people.
“The event is great for people of all ages, and it’s become especially welcoming and accessible to those learning or rediscovering art-making after retirement,” said Bleu Cease, RoCo’s executive director and curator.
Paulette Davis, a fiber artist, has participated in 6×6 multiple times. “As a retired senior, my goals are to keep mentally happy, fit, and active; to do things I couldn’t do when I was working,” she said. “Art is the centralizing focus of my retirement. Through 6×6 and its annual members shows, RoCo allows me to exhibit to a huge audience.”
The artwork parameters present a challenge in a good way, said Davis. “I use 6×6 to try out ideas in a smaller format. I like to move out from the wall toward the viewer; I’ve been working in sculptural forms,” she said. “The size limitation spurs me to be more creative, and to work for maximum visual impact.”
All submitted 6×6 entries (limit of up to four per person) are exhibited anonymously both in the gallery and online. And when the event finally arrives, the pieces are sold for $20 each with the proceeds benefitting RoCo. The artists’ names and details are revealed to the buyer upon purchase.
Essie Germanow, 95, a RoCo member, volunteer, supporter and 6×6 contributing artist (she works in collage), said that the rules of the unique event provide both fun and rewards.
As an artist, she said, her goal is to create something that will resonate: “It’s exciting when you find out your piece has sold. Also, people have started having 6×6 parties where they get together to work on their pieces. It can be very social.”
As a purchaser, there’s the mystery. “You may purchase something that’s interesting to you, and then learn that it was done by a 15- or 6-year-old, or a professional artist,” Germanow added.
Managing the event is an impressive feat, attested artist Davis, who, in addition to being a RoCo founding member, also volunteers occasionally. “I’m in awe of how the gallery organizes and handles all of the work; I’ve learned a lot from volunteering during its installation. RoCo is very democratic and fair,” she said. “As they receive the works, everything is kept in order, photographed and catalogued. They use a laser system to make the grid to hang everything. It’s fun to see the pieces up close, and of course, you hope for a good spot for your own work.”
An online preview of all the works begins May 19, and in-gallery preview is available from May 29 through June 2. The main event — an opening party and first chance to acquire the works in person — takes place on June 3. (Tickets are $12; $8 for members.) The exhibit and sale continue through July 16.
The opening party is also fun, asserts Germanow. “There are all ages at the event, in all types of dress,” she said. “The atmosphere stimulates a lot of conversations about the pieces, which is part of the success of the gallery and this event.”
After June 6, the rest of the world is invited to purchase the artworks online. Purchased artwork remains on display, and may be picked up between July 16-19.
“We started this project to help fill a funding shortfall in 2008, and it’s continued to grow and evolve in recent years,” said Cease, RoCo’s executive director. “We appreciate everyone’s generosity and support through this fun fundraiser. This is our 10th year!”
If You Go
An online preview of all the works presented by Rochester Contemporary Art Center’s 6x6x2017 begins May 19, and in-gallery preview is available from May 29 through June 2. The main event — an opening party and first chance to acquire the works in person — takes place on June 3.
Tickets for RoCo’s 6x6x2017 opening night party and sale are available online at rochestercontemporary.org or by phone at 585-461-2222.
The Rochester Contemporary Art Center is located at 137 East Ave. in Rochester.
For the online preview, go to roco6x6.org.