Arts & Culture in Central New York

In arts and culture, Central New York plays above its size. The performing arts, visual arts, and cultural amenities make CNY a rich and entertaining place to live. The region's low cost of living makes it fun and easy to enjoy all the diverse riches.

Let your creativity run wild

Central New York has big-league options that regions of similar size only dream of having in theater, music, dance, literature, and intellectual pursuits. There are two reasons. First is the proliferation of great universities and colleges. They provide the intellectual capital of students, professors, and alumni that value the arts. Second is the region's long history of innovation, invention, and entrepreneurship - a creative class of people that understands how the arts inspire.


When you live in Central New York, there are many options for live theater. You might start with Syracuse Stage, the nonprofit professional theatre company founded in 1974, and the Redhouse Arts Center, a new multi-theater complex in the heart of downtown. Syracuse City Ballet, founded in 1996, provides a big city ballet presence. Syracuse Opera is the only year-round professional opera company serving upstate New York. Both perform at the Crouse Hinds Theater, which also hosts many other stage and concert productions. The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn stages year round, but is best known for the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival, judged by The New York Times as one of the nation's top theater festivals. The Hangar Theatre and Kitchen Theatre Company stage bold productions in Ithaca. The Cortland Repertory Theatre stages in downtown Cortland and expands each summer lakeside at the Little York Pavilion.

Groups like Famous Artists bring in touring Broadway shows at the renowned Landmark Theatre and Crouse Hinds Theater. Community groups organize classics at Shakespeare in the Park. There are so many community theaters, and so many performances at Syracuse, Cornell, Le Moyne, and SUNY Oswego. Appreciation for the performing arts starts early - many CNY high schools put on great performances and see graduates go on to Broadway. Every year, performers, cast, crew and orchestra members are recognized at the Syracuse High School Theatre Awards, a Tony Awards-inspired production at the Landmark Theatre.


In a region of so many colleges and so much creativity, fine art is created, celebrated, and displayed. The Everson Museum of Art in downtown Syracuse became a showcase for American art and ceramic arts. It displays the nation's the most comprehensive holding of ceramic art. The Everson is among groups that encourage Central New Yorkers to participate in the arts: Since the 1970s, the Everson has organized “On My Own Time.” Amateur artists display their creations where they work. A professional juried selection recognizes the outstanding works and showcases them in the Everson. The Everson building, by the way, is itself a work of art, designed by architect I.M. Pei to be an intriguing sculptural object.

The Everson is one of many museums and galleries throughout the region: The Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute is in the heart of Utica. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University is one of the stops on the Greater Ithaca Art Trail. Galleries dot CNY neighborhoods and some specialized galleries are noteworthy: ArtRage Gallery, 505 Hawley Ave., focuses on social-justice issues in a neighborhood known for its LGBT community. Community Folk Art Center, 805 E. Genesee St., showcases African Diaspora artists. Punto de Contacto/Point of Contact, 350 W. Fayette St., explores diversity and the exchange of ideas through the verbal and visual arts.


For classical music, Symphoria is Syracuse's musician-led cooperative orchestra, one of only two in the United States. The Skaneateles Festival brings in world-class musicians every summer for outdoor concerts overlooking Skaneateles Lake.

Since the 1990s, the Rosamond Gifford Lecture Series has brought dozens of world-famous authors to Syracuse to entertain, inform, and inspire a Central New York audience. It's the largest library-related lecture series in the country. Light Work is a non-profit artist-run center for photography and draws photographers from around the world.

The Delavan Center is an old factory repurposed in 1959 to rent studios and space to artists and encourage collaboration. The Downtown Writers Center brings together aspiring authors, hosts visiting authors and writers, and organizes the annual CNY Book Awards for local authors. Syracuse is a center of literacy and the region is rich with neighborhood libraries that can direct you to a book club, a visiting author, and resources for any pursuit.

And don't miss the Syracuse Arts & Crafts Festival, a spectacular three-day showcase of the country's most talented artists, craftspeople and entertainers centered around historic Columbus Circle in Downtown Syracuse. Showcasing more than 160 artists and crafters from 25 states and Canada, the fest attracts more than 50,000 visitors annually to shop, browse and enjoy live music, multi-cultural performances, refreshments and more. This event is one of the premier events of ArtsWeek, a partnership among several organizations dedicated to celebrating the arts in Downtown Syracuse.

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