Discovering a Unique American Perspective at the Rockwell Museum

The buffalo bursting out of the museum is named
Artemus (for “art is a must”), and is the museum’s mascot
The Rockwell Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate museum of American art located in the Finger Lakes region in downtown Corning, NY. The Rockwell Museum explores the people, land and ideas that shape America through the eyes of American artists such as N.C. Wyeth, Charles M Russel, Andy Warhol and Bertha Lum.
If the woman in the wagon was scared to death at the sight of the prairie, I surely had cause
to be afraid; but I was not. I was uplifted, 1921, N.C. Wyeth, oil on canvas.

The museum founder, Robert F. Rockwell, Jr., moved to Corning in 1933 to run his grandfather’s department store; he purchased his first Western painting in 1959.

The Buffalo Hunt, 1947, William Robinson Leigh, oil on canvas.
Over the next 25 years he collected paintings, bronze sculptures, etchings and drawings, and Native American ethnographic materials. These form the core of the Rockwell Museum’s collection.
Dinah, 2017, Lauren Tilden, oil on panel.
Rockwell always intended to share his collection with the public — for years he displayed the growing collection in the Rockwell Department Store on Market Street (Corning’s main thoroughfare).
Demons, Xochopilli ‘The Flower Prince,’ page 91 from Indigenous Woman
Magazine, 2018, Martine Gutierrez, c-print mounted on sintra, handpainted artist frame. 
But in 1973, a few Corning Glass Works’ executives pledged the company’s support to provide a proper museum home for Rockwell’s collection, and settled on the old City Hall building as a museum to showcase the collection.
In November 1975, the museum opened. The diverse collection includes a mix of nineteenth-century American paintings, historic bronzes, Native American objects,  20th century modernists, illustration art and contemporary photography.
A Mix Up, 1910, Charles M Russell, oil on canvas.
The collection includes a number of Charles M Russell paintings. Known as “the cowboy artist,” his more than two thousand paintings focused on the American “Old West” and in Alberta, Canada, and included paintings and sculptures of cowboys, Native Americans and landscapes.
Sun River War Party, 1903, Charles M Russell, oil on canvas.
The West, 1913, Charles M Russell, oil on canvas.

As you park in the parking lot behind the museum, you’ll notice some murals. In 2010, the “Alley Art Project” was launched with the mural painting, “The Tree of Life.” The Rockwell Education Department partners with the Corning-Painted Post School District High School Learning Center to create student-designed and painted murals that use The Rockwell’s art collection as inspiration.

The High School Learning Center provides an alternative setting for students who may otherwise be at risk of dropping out of school.
The collection is housed in airy, spacious galleries spanning the three floors of the old City Hall, allowing you to absorb the art collectively but also hone in and appreciate individual works selectively.
Maine Landscape, late 20th century, Barbara Cleary, oil on canvas.
I’ve always been a fan of smaller art museums, which not only provides access to important works in a geographically diverse regions, such as upstate New York, but allows visitors to appreciate a museum’s collection without being overwhelmed.
Marilyn, 2014, Roger Shimomura, lithograph on paper.

Getting there: 111 Cedar St, Corning, NY

Hours: open every day 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the fall, winter and spring. Memorial Day through Labor Day, hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Museum is closed January 1, Thanksgiving Day, December 24 and 25.


Annie Oakley, 1986, Andy Warhol, silkscreen on paper.
Check out other fun things to do in the Finger Lakes region: