After Ten Years, Syracuse's ArtRage Gallery is Still Giving a Voice to the Voiceless

Oct 4, 2018

"Invisible People: Portraits of the Homeless" will be on display through October 27th.
Credit Scott Willis/WAER News

It’s been ten years since the ArtRage Gallery on Hawley Avenue opened its doors, mounting exhibitions of progressive art that promote social awareness and maybe inspire resistance and change.  They held an anniversary gala Wednesday evening.


Community Engagement Organizer Kimberly McCoy remembers wondering a decade ago if there would be enough interest in the gallery to support it.

"When we started out, it was just an idea, not sure. Are we going to be able to keep this going? Is there going to be the interest in the community? Are we going to be able to find enough artists to fit our mission? When we started, one of our goals was to include as many local artists as possible. I guess, in good news, it's continued to work well. More and more artists we're discovering their work is fantastic. We've been able to exhibit, I think, at least two to three local artists each exhibition season."

The gallery's director, Rose Viviano, suspected that there would be a high level of interest from like-minded artists looking for a home.

ArtRage's Community Engagement Organizer Kimberly McCoy (left) and Director Rose Viviano (right) have spent a decade featuring socially conscious exhibits. They stand in front of a portrait of Wayne.
Credit Scott Willis/WAER News

"The gallery was begun with a concerted effort to have a place where artists who have something to say about more than their internal angst. There have always been large shows specifically tailored to what they might call 'political art' or 'activist art' and you could apply to be in a show maybe once a year or something like that in a large institution, but there wasn't any gallery that specifically was your home, a place where your voice could be heard."

That includes the current exhibit of large portraits called "Invisible People: Portraits of the Homeless"  by San Diego-based artist Neil Shigley. McCoy says even though this is their first exhibit focusing on homelessness, it is typical of what the gallery looks for in an exhibit.

"It's similar to other exhibitions that we've done in the way that it tries to give a voice to those who feel voiceless. It's different in that we haven't done an exhibition about homelessness before. Being a city that struggles with homelessness and certainly with poverty, we thought it was an important issue that we should be addressing."

“Invisible People” will be on display through October 27th.  Viviano says, in some ways, they still feel a little invisible themselves in Syracuse. But she says they work hard at making connections with local businesses, and even welcoming elementary school students in order to expand the gallery's reach.

San Diego-based artist Neil Shigley made this portrait of 7-year-old Bella.
Credit Scott Willis/WAER News

"We have Dr. Weeks Elementary School students. They walk here to see exhibitions and learn about, not just the artist, but the issues that are surrounding that specific exhibition. Issues that, many times, they can relate to, even as children and it's a relationship that took a while to develop. But it has developed, and it's very strong."

Viviano says they’re a bit in awe that they’re still doing well after ten years, but said they have no plans to stop.  More information about ArtRage is at artragegallery.org.