Geneva arts academy to hold virtual Dinner for the Arts

St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy’s 10th annual Dinner for the Arts will be a bit more personalized this year.

The event, the Geneva organization’s only annual fundraiser, will consist of a 4-course meal from Beef and Brew, offered as a curbside pick-up, a link to a video presentation of awards, updates and a tour of the construction underway to create the new state-of-the-art art studio, and an online silent auction.

The annual dinner raises funds for the Community Arts Academy operations and financial aid fund. Tickets for the April 11 event are $75 with an option to purchase a bottle of Finger Lakes red or white wine.

Jeremy Trowbridge
Jeremy Trowbridge

“I’m so thankful for all the opportunities that I’ve received from St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy,” said student Jeremy Trowbridge. “The teachers, musical experiences and friendships I’ve made have been such a blessing. SPCAA is like a second home and I couldn’t imagine what my life would be without it.”

The video has been pre-recorded. Father Jim Adams will honor the recipients of this year’s Community Award for Extraordinary Support for Music and the Arts to Geneva’s Legott Family and the Distinguished Alumni Award to Waterloo High School graduate Changhee Lee. The video link will be shared with ticket holders and allows viewers to watch at a time most convenient for them. The video also will include an update on the capital campaign and a sneak peek at the renovations that have taken place at the Academy over the past several months.

This year’s silent auction will be held online beginning on March 26. The auction will close on April 12 and winners will be able to schedule times to come to the church and pick up their items.

The Legott family will receive this year’s Extraordinary Support award for the way it has given back to the Geneva community, from nourishment of the body to nourishment of the soul, officials noted. Club 86 stands as a marker of heritage and historical relevance in Geneva because of the purposeful, approachable, meticulous and adaptable nature of the Legott family.

Opened in the early 1900s as Legott’s Bar and Restaurant, the ballroom space was added in the 1940s by son Jim Legott and his wife Eileen when they returned from serving in World War II. This launched the establishment into its next reincarnation, from eatery to entertainment destination. The Club hosted some of the biggest jazz figures in the country including Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Nat King Cole, Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich and Tony Bennett. In the 1960s, The Club transitioned again from nightclub to lively private party house.

Lee attended Waterloo High School and was a scholarship student of St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy, where he studied piano. He also sang in the senior choir. As a student there, he accompanied the St. Nicholas Choir and the Suzuki string group. He studied piano performance at the Université de Montréal and at the Eastman School of Music. He has taught courses in theory, musicianship, keyboard skills and piano at these schools, as well as at McGill University. He wrote his doctoral thesis on keyboard improvisation pedagogy for classically trained pianists. He has improvised silent film accompaniments and was featured in an improvisation masterclass sponsored by the Montreal International Piano Competition.

More information is available at

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Flower City Arts names new leader

The Flower City Arts Center has named Cheryl McKeiver as its new executive director.

McKeiver brings decades of experience to the role including leadership roles in finance, operations management, in academia, for-profit and nonprofit organizations statewide. Prior to her arrival at FCAC, she retired as a vice president and director of training and development at Citibank/Citicorp.

Cheryl McKeiver
Cheryl McKeiver

McKeiver has held numerous positions within Citibank at its corporate offices in New York City and Richmond, Va. She has influenced the education community of Rochester at Monroe Community College, the College at Brockport, at REOC and Consumer Credit. She has been a longtime financial strategist, offering live, on-air financial guidance on WDKX – 103.9FM.

“I come to the FCAC with great enthusiasm knowing this organization was succeeding in its mission to transform lives through art. I believe that through art and FCAC’s creative and dynamic programming-people come together and are inspired to put beauty back into the world,” McKeiver said in a statement. “It is with great joy and honor to be named executive director, and I look forward to working with the board and staff to strengthen partnerships between the artists and the broader community. I believe there’s an artist in each of us that just needs a bit of nurturing – and that’s the power of our accessible, engaging and educational programs at FCAC.”

Founded in 1970, Flower City Arts Center is a darkroom, photography and digital arts facility, a ceramics workshop, a printmaking and book arts center, and continues to expand to include other forms of community art resources. The center uses its resources to provide youth programs in schools, offers more than 300 classes to the general public and rents space to artists and others interested in the visual arts.

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Chambers of commerce seeking additional funding for arts and humanities

The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives is seeking additional funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act for nonprofits that serve the arts and humanities. Members of ACCE include the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce Inc. and Visit Rochester Inc.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, ACCE contends that while the CARES Act provided much-needed relief to many of the group’s 205 chamber members, critical gaps remain.

ACCE notes that an American Alliance of Museums survey found that nearly one-third of museums surveyed fear possible permanent closures as soon as this fall and that Americans for the Arts estimates the total economic impact on arts and culture organizations to be $9.1 billion in losses to date, with an additional $10.4 billion in event-related spending losses by arts consumers at local businesses like restaurants and retail. More than 327 million arts visitors have been lost since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

ACCE is requesting federal funding of “at least” $6 billion for the Institute of Museums and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide direct economic relief for nonprofit museums, aquariums, zoos and performing arts centers.

The chambers also are asking that the Federal Reserve be required to broaden its nonprofit lending facility under the Main Street Lending Program to specifically benefit mid-size nonprofits to those with more than 500 employees, with loan forgiveness and option.

ACCE has asked to increase and extend the Paycheck Protection Program and loan forgiveness provisions in the CARES Act by enabling a second round of funding for all nonprofits including those in the arts with more than 500 staffers.

Finally, ACCE is seeking an expansion of the universal charitable deduction provision by enacting the provisions of a bill to increase the amount to one-third of the standard deduction, while also allowing all taxpayers to claim the deduction on their 2019 and 2020 returns. The letter also asks for an extension of the charitable deduction provided by the CARES Act through 2021.

“Collectively, the nation’s performing arts centers, museums, zoos and aquariums are losing nearly $33 million a day due to closures and are in desperate need of significant federal support to continue to employ many thousands of people, rebuild our nation’s tourism industry and simply survive the months to come,” the letter states. “As cash-based businesses, their economic stability depends on revenue generated from visitors.”

To date, the letter says, more than 62,000 employees have been laid off, nearly 50,000 furloughed and an additional 8,000 jobs remain unfilled due to hiring freezes in the arts and culture sector.

“Over and above losses in earned revenue and unremitted expenses, these organizations are projecting a decline in charitable contributions as donors reassess their capacity to give,” according to the letter.

ACCE suggests that the request is the “minimum required support mechanisms” to ensure that Americans still have their arts and culture institutions.

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Local arts organizations receive CARES Act grants

Six area arts establishments have been awarded $10,000 each in CARES Act funding to support staff salaries, fees for artists or contractual personnel and facilities costs.

A total of $490,000 was awarded to 49 arts organizations in nine New York State regions and 23 counties. The New York State Council on the Arts National Endowment for the Arts CARES grants will support a broad constituency across New York, including a wide range of organizations that reach primarily underserved areas, including communities with ethnically diverse and immigrant populations, those that are geographically remote and those with limited economic resources.

In the Finger Lakes region, the following agencies have been awarded grants:
• Borinquen Dance Theatre
• Community Design Center Rochester
• Bristol Valley Theater
• Ganondagan
• PUSH Physical Theatre
• Writers & Books

“The arts and culture are critical to the health of our communities, our state and our country, and will be vital to our recovery,” said NYSCA Executive Director Mara Manus. “Throughout the unprecedented challenges of the past months, our state’s cultural sector has shown incredible ingenuity and resilience. As we begin to navigate reopening, NYSCA is committed to supporting New York’s vibrant arts community that provides important educational, civic and economic opportunities across the state.”

NYSCA CARES grant recipients each had annual budgets of $1.5 million or less; 53 percent had budgets of $500,000 or less. Officials noted that arts and culture contribute $120 billion annually to New York’s economy and account for 460,000 jobs.

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Flower City Arts director to step down

Janice Gouldthorpe has announced she will step down from her position as executive director of Flower City Arts Center, following a 15-year tenure at the local nonprofit.

Janice Gouldthorpe
Janice Gouldthorpe

During her time with the organization, Gouldthorpe stabilized its financial foundation and led a group of professionals who developed initiatives for youth, veterans, seniors and other underrepresented groups, and continued numerous programs and services for artists at all levels.

The center welcomes ceramicists, photographers and print artists in its historic firehouse building.

“We wish Janice every success in her future endeavors,” said board president Margi Ochs in a statement this week. “During her time as executive director, the center has flourished, expanding to include many new programs and art forms. Her legacy is a place where people of all ages and abilities can be inspired and educated through art.”

Gouldthorpe said she was leaving her role at the organization to “pursue other interests.”

Flower City Arts Center was founded 50 years ago and is a darkroom, photography and digital arts facility, a ceramics workshop, a printmaking and book arts center. The organization continues to expand to include other forms of community arts resources. The agency provides youth programs in schools, offers more than 300 classes to the general public and rents space to artists and others interested in the visual arts.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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RIT’s Munson discusses joys, challenges of his time in Rochester so far

RIT President David Munson
RIT President David Munson (Photo by Kate Melton)

Rochester Institute of Technology, with its more than 19,000 students and focus on career-minded majors and job creation, is the fifth-largest employer in the Rochester area. Locally the university employs 4,123 people with the vast majority of those in full-time jobs.

RBJ Reporter Diana Louise Carter and Editor Ben Jacobs sat down in March with the man who manages all that, RIT President David C. Munson. He arrived less than two years ago but in that time, he has proved to be a quick study on Rochester, and quick to come up with bold plans for RIT.  This interview has been edited for length.

RBJ: How have you and your wife settled into the RIT community and Rochester at large?

Munson: I think we’ve settled in well.  Rochester is probably the friendliest place we’ve lived, and we’ve lived in really friendly places in the past. It’s a very welcoming community. Obviously it’s a philanthropic community. There is a lot of arts and culture supported around the city. We happen to like the outdoors and so that’s been great, too. You don’t have to get very far outside Rochester for hiking or kayaking. That’s been terrific. The only hard part really has been that we have four sons and four grandchildren and none of them are here. So we have to occasionally slip out of town for birthdays and things like that.

RBJ: Has anything surprised you about RIT or Rochester?

Munson: Certainly no big surprises. When I was thinking about this position I looked into RIT really carefully and was somewhat familiar with the Rochester area. I had visited here a couple of times. I had visited the research labs at Kodak,  and I attended a technical conference that was at the convention center. When I was in grad school in Princeton, my brother was in grad school at the same time in Cornell. (We had) a lot of visits back and forth. So I knew this part of the state pretty well.

That doesn’t mean that things were in any way dull or unexciting.  I had been at the University of Illinois for a long time and later at the University of Michigan and I decided I wanted to go to a different kind of university. So I looked into RIT very carefully and decided, at least for me, it was a very different kind of university. When I got here it was different in just the ways I expected. We have a lot of really creative students who have ideas and they just can’t sit still. They’ve got to get their hands dirty. They want to create something. They want to do something.

I also knew RIT was very strong in the arts. For me that was a major attraction. I don’t have much affinity at all for universities that only do technology. … RIT is also a place , and I found this attractive, that has rapidly been getting better for at least the last 20 years. And there’s a lot of headroom to be doing even more. People are excited about doing more and doing better. So the job here is not just to maintain quality where it is, but to shoot for the stars and just keep doing one new thing after another. That had happened under Al Simone, it happened under Bill Destler.  And it’s still happening.

RBJ: How important to your choice was RIT’s involvement in Rochester’s economic development?

Munson: It was really important. There’s another university I won’t name where they were courting me for president. That particular university sits right adjacent to the community and I just didn’t see much interaction and I wondered what was wrong, what’s going on. It was almost as if–they hadn’t literally built a wall around the university, but it felt like that. You were right on the edge of campus. Where were all the restaurants and things, where do students hang out? There weren’t any. Everything happened on campus. Now here, we’re out on–I jokingly refer to this as “The Farm”–but we do a lot to integrate with the city. We’ve got programs that bring our students into the city for cultural events, we have programs that involve our students giving service, and as I mentioned, I’m very involved with some of the economic development agencies. I’m downtown a lot. Of course, we own the old bank building at 40 Franklin Street. Recently we leased space in the revitalized, rehabbed Sibley building for an art gallery and various kinds of events. We haven’t decided what else we will do in the city, but we’re certainly considering things that are much more major than done in the past.  A lot of people sort of chuckle because, hey, we started in the city and then we came out here. Now the new president talks about going back to the city. Of course, we wouldn’t take the entire campus back to the city, but I would like to see us do more in the city.

RBJ: One of those stars that you’re shooting for, that you mentioned when you first arrived, was doing more with the performing arts. How’s that going?

Munson: It’s going well. And let me be clear, obviously we’re not going to compete with Eastman. We already have an outstanding classical-type musical school. I think we’re going to emphasize a lot of things Eastman probably doesn’t work so hard at. The centerpiece for us ultimately is going to be musical theater because that involves music, theater, dance and technology, which we’re really good at. We’re going to need some new facilities to push that along, so we’re thinking about that. And we have a list of the types of faculty we want to hire in the performing arts. We’re getting started–and I don’t really want to tell you everything we’re doing yet, because there are a whole lot of things cooking behind the scenes.

This semester we started the steel drum band. That’s just sort of the tiny little tip of the iceberg. Not every university has a steel drum band, but now we do. We’re very strong in the realm of a cappella groups. We’ve got about 10 a cappella groups.  The men’s group called Eight Beat Measure is really absolutely outstanding. … There’s a huge intersection in terms of how human brains work, in talent in math and science and talent in music. So we’ve got so many students who are good in math and science, and a lot of those students are also really good in music.

We have some other things we’ll be hatching pretty soon but we’re not ready to announce. Some things that will involve more being in the community and not just sit on our campus here.

RBJ: Do you foresee partnerships with any of Rochester’s performing arts organizations?

Munson: Well, so we’ve talked to a couple. We’ll see how that develops and I can’t say for sure. Our geography makes some things difficult because we do need to have some new facilities right here on our campus just for the sake of convenience. But we certainly have thought about possibly having some facilities downtown that could be shared with others.

RBJ: What do you think your best work has been in this job so far?

Munson: Oh, boy. Now you’re really putting me on the spot. Really others should make that judgment. I don’t think that’s my call.

I guess what I’m told is that there’s a lot of excitement and enthusiasm around the campus for where we’re headed. A lot of that is charted out in our strategic plan. So when I first arrived, the campus was operating under a strategic plan but it had an enormous number of goals and objectives. I thought maybe we should try to focus more. So we spent a lot of my first year kind of whittling down that strategic plan and then adding a number of new elements to it. We got the number of goals and objectives down from about 121, I think it was, down to 25. And 25 that fall into four categories: people, programs, places—including the physical facilities–and partnerships including the external world. One can just go to our website…there’s a high-level description of it there.

Another thing just has to do with that people category. We really just have to continually strive to bring in–as good as our faculty and students are–even better faculty and students. That’s something that I’ve always worked on, probably harder than anything else. It was all about accumulating talent. Kind of whoever has the best talent, they end up winning at the end of the day.

Our former provost left to take another position and the first thing we did was recruit a really unbelievable provost, Ellen Granberg. She was at Clemson and was one of the sparkplugs behind really raising the profile and kind of the reality of Clemson in a major way.

We’re also very fortunate to recruit Ian Mortimer, who is our new vice president for enrollment management. Ian had been at Nazareth and was looking to be at a bigger place. And Ian doesn’t just recruit students. He gets involved in a lot of the strategic conversations around RIT. He’s only been with us since August but already making major impacts. Our number of applications are way up. I think the selectivity of RIT is going to be coming way down in the sense that it’s going to be a lot harder to get in here. We’re going to have many, many more applications. We’ve got now a much bigger focus on New York City, that area of the state, and we’re going to be developing  a much bigger focus on the international realm, as well as some other selected areas in the nation. We’re a tuition-driven institution, so we really have to be able to recruit students, including some families who can pay something close to full price. With Ian on board we’re set. It’s just really exciting to be pulling some talent into the administration. But we’re also hard at work recruiting deans, and this will trickle down into department chairs, and we’re also looking at how we’re going to be taking talent away from other universities.

RIT President Dr. David Munson
RIT President Dr. David Munson (Photo by Kate Melton)

RBJ: What have been your greatest challenges since you started here?

Munson: There have been some challenges. They’ve been more on the internal communications, sort of public relations side. We have a very activist student body.  I like that. In fact, depending on what they’re protesting, I’ll be out there with them. But there were a couple of things that occurred in my first year. And one had to do with the level of care that we–medical care, health-related care–that we offered to transgender students. When I arrived, there was a doc in our health center who had been working with some transgender students. And she had been let go. I can’t really comment on why and what happened there; it’s a personnel thing. I just kind of walked right into that. I had nothing to do with the decisions or anything that occurred before that. But our student body, understandably, was very upset. We took a lot of criticism over that, not just from our students but from some faculty and staff, from some alumni. And we took our time to figure out what we were going to do. We don’t really and didn’t at the time have experts in providing hormone therapy to transgender students. So we contracted with a doc at the UR and he’s been spending time now, this whole academic year, with our staff. Our staff is getting trained and the doc is assisting in developing care plans, if you will, for the trans community. That’s turned out well, but it was really rough for a while. Could we have communicated better or differently? I’m not so sure, because when you have personnel issues, you simply cannot talk about them.

Then a second thing that occurred, completely unrelated, was the student suicide…at the end of October.  In a big community, we lose people to all sorts of things, whether it’s student member or faculty member. We do have suicides, we do have drug overdoses, we do have deaths due to various medical kinds of conditions. We do have deaths due to automotive accidents. When your community is big…the numbers are so large that things like that are pretty much going to happen every year. But in the case of suicides, a lot of times they’re not visible to the community. This one was very visible. …This one was different, which involved the young man leaping out of the top floor of a building. Another complicating factor, though, is that we couldn’t really talk about it very openly, especially early on. You’ve got to figure out what is going on, what has occurred. ….

We immediately–because of all the uproar we had heard from the student body–scheduled an open forum for all of our students to attend. If you get in front of the students and talk about the services you offer and all the ways we might be able to help, a lot of students take that as defensive. They want to be able to talk about what happened, not about how great we are, or that we’ve got this amount of counselors, or that we’ve increased the staff in some way in mental health counseling or whatever. So we decided to hold a listening session. That occurred just a day or two after the suicide, so it was very quick. It was scheduled to go on, for I don’t know, an hour and a half or two hours, but there were students that probably stayed for three and four hours.

That was difficult, I think, for the whole community because most of the session involved students walking up to microphones we had in Ingle Auditorium and telling their own personal stories. Again, in a community this size, there are going to be people that have almost tragic kinds of stories. A lot of students displayed an awful lot of courage to talk about their own personal situation. I think that kind of session has a way of kind of unravelling things a little bit. You’re not starting to feel better, for a while you’re going to feel worse. And that’s what happened.

We took the weekend to decide how we would respond. On Monday we sent out an announcement to the campus that we were going to add a lot more staff in the mental health counseling area and a bunch of other actions we were going to take, including that we’ve launched a mental health task force, and a number of other things. I think the whole campus is now feeling way better about where we are. We’ve hired a number of those new counselors, the mental health task force is off and running and doing a great job. There’s a lot of student representation on that task force. We also have set up, or are setting up …more of a standing committee, not just for mental health but for overall health and wellness, which will include students, faculty and staff, and provide advice for the services we offer. We’re in a better spot now. That was rough. I never would have anticipated this sort of thing.

In my previous position at the University of Michigan, I certainly encountered numerous student deaths. That was always the hardest part of my job, even if you didn’t know the student. (Munson went on to describe two “totally heart-breaking” tragedies from his former university job. Both involved motor vehicle deaths of international students, whose parents had to come from abroad in the aftermath.) 

These things happen and our students, some of them, want to see a real emotional response. But we also do need to talk about the kinds of services and counseling and things that are available. So we advertise those things. You’re kind of walking this fine line where you kind of want to mourn with the community, but you also have to provide at least some leadership about how we’re going to create a path forward out of this chaos if you will. I’m still figuring some of that out.

RBJ: Recently a black-face photo from RIT’s past emerged and you responded immediately. Can you tell us about your decision process?

Munson: We’ve got a lot more emphasis on what I would label as crisis communication. That has developed since my arrival. I don’t take a lot of credit for it. There was a whole team of us that tried to figure out what we needed to try to better in this realm. So we actually made a new hire in Bob’s organization (Bob Finnerty, chief communications officer for RIT) and he’s heading up crisis communication. He was in place when this photo emerged. By that time I think we all had decided that we’re going to be really proactive on certain things and not kind of wait and to see what community reaction develops and then we’ll comment. But rather if we see something and we think we’re going to need to comment, let’s comment sooner rather than later. Bob and his team alerted me that this was being looked into by USA Today, that they had found something in one of our old yearbooks. Frankly, when I saw particularly the one photo with the students dressed up in the Ku Klux Klan outfits, I went ballistic. I wasn’t here at the time, obviously, but man, oh man, oh man. This was in the late ’70s, hey, I was in college in the late ’70s. That was not acceptable. We came out with a very strong statement alerting our community that something might come out. We felt better just telling our community ahead of time: We heard something and it’s not good and then I used the words “we condemn this in the strongest possible terms,” and that’s accurate. It turned out it took a little while for the USA Today and affiliates to put the story together but ultimately it did come out. By the time it came out, our community had already been warned about it, and they already knew how we felt about it. I think we managed that as well as we could.

Now, once the photo’s out and people see what it is, obviously people are upset, we’re all upset. We have a discussion group called “Grey Matters.’ That group discusses a lot of difficult topics throughout the year. So we just convened a special session and invited everyone to attend. There were a hundred or so people that attended. I think we had a lot of good conversation. (Racism) is something we’re always working on. I’m not going to pat ourselves on the back or anything, but I think we handled things as well as we could.

RBJ: How do you react to systemic issues, such as the recent scandal about parents paying for test takers and athletic positions so their children can attend Ivy League colleges?

Munson: The first thing is I don’t think it’s systemic. Maybe we’ll hear something else. As far as I know it’s not systemic. What occurred is definitely pretty atrocious stuff.. They’ve identified so far , I guess, 50 students or something that benefited from this fraudulent scheme. That’s 50 students out of millions, right? We’ll see.

On the other hand, the biggest negative is it’s coloring all of higher education. In my time in academia in three different institutions, I never heard a single story even remotely like this involving our students.

RBJ: Does that spark a larger conversation about colleges giving preferences to legacy students or children of large donors, which isn’t illegal?

Munson: That conversation might get a little bigger but that’s not a new conversation. It’s been going on for decades. It’s picked up steam in recent years. I think it’s a conversation worth having. I think it’s true that at some of the quote wealthier schools, wealthy donors can have at least some influence on the admissions process and there are two camps on that. Some people say, hey, that’s wrong! But other people say, wait a minute, if this person gave enough money for a whole facility or a gigantic number of scholarships, that benefits the campus, that benefits the students on the campus, so maybe it’s OK. I think it’s a healthy conversation to talk about that.

RBJ: What evidence will there be in the future of your tenure here?

Munson: The things spelled out in the strategic plan are the things I want to achieve. If we get all those things done, I’m going to be feeling good, not just for myself, but for the whole organization. I’ll feel like we really accomplished something.

The trick is to elevate the whole institution in about every possible way but try to remain distinctive as we do that. We’re not trying to be like any other university and that’s a very strong sort of desire or request from our alumni base. So when I talk about us elevating our research and development programs, I have alums that will put their hand up and say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, that’s what every other university does.” So I point out to them that I don’t think everything Harvard and MIT do is necessarily bad. There are some things that are probably OK. And I also point out we can do more than one thing at once.  The students, they’re passionate about ice hockey, but they’re also equally passionate about Humans vs. Zombies. There’s a lot of craziness on this campus and we want to keep that going.

RBJ: RIT is the fifth largest employer in Rochester area. Do you feel any particular responsibility because of that status?

Munson: We do. Because of our size, we’re one of the larger entities in the community so I think we have to feel responsibility. For example, the United Way Fund Drive. We take that very seriously. We just kicked that off. We have a nice-size goal and we feel we have to do our part. I already mentioned economic development. I serve on the boards of (Greater Rochester Enterprise, The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council and the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce.) Anytime Matt Hurlbutt at GRE has a company coming into town that might need talent that RIT could provide, we’re right there, meeting with people and trying to get them to move here. We’ve had some big successes recently. I’ll give most of the credit to Matt and his people but we were instrumental in a number of companies coming here.

There are a couple of (alumni) that have been attracted here recently. They’re in the bay area, but they’ve opened a branch here in Rochester. The one that’s probably getting the most attention is called EmployeeChannel. The alum is Mark Oney. He’s become a huge Rochester champion. He lives in the bay area of California, but he’s talking up Rochester: “Hey let’s all move to Rochester. There’s a lot of talent available there, the cost of living is low and you can actually hang on to your employees, they don’t just skip around from one company to the next every year or two.” He’s  thrilled to be here. We’re talking to other alums, too, saying “Rochester is it, you’ve got to think about Rochester.”

RBJ: What are your thoughts about the Rochester economy?

Munson: The Rochester economy is doing better than people think. Rochester has been through this long period where the number of employees at Kodak, at Xerox, at Bausch and Lomb, what have you, has been declining, declining.  Especially with Kodak, which I understand in its heyday had 64,000 employees and now has something closer to 1,000. The thing people have to remember is at some point those declines are over. At some point you hit zero. We’re getting pretty close, right? For the last few years, actually, I think if you look at the job statistics, we’re actually growing a little bit. I think from here on out, we’re going to see just steady growth. That’s the way I look at it.

Some of the companies that have been brought to town recently, I’ll mention another one by name, LiveTiles, based in Australia. We played a role in getting them to move here. They’re looking to hire 500 employees. They work in artificial intelligence. Man, it doesn’t get more cutting edge than that. They’ve already hired a whole bunch of employees. We just couldn’t be happier that they’re here. It benefits the community obviously to have this kind of economic activity but it benefits the university, too. If more of our alums stay here locally, we can interact with them. They can work with our students. It’s all a great thing.

I should also mention we have other kinds of start-up activity here. We’ve got massive startups for our undergrads. We have the Simone Center, that works in the area of entrepreneurship on campus. Right adjacent to campus we have on John Street, we have Venture Creations. At any one time we have about 25 startup companies there. I kind of jokingly refer to them as the grown-up startup companies because they tend to be faculty or faculty and graduate students and others. We have a remarkable success rate out of Venture Creations. About 80 percent of the companies that have graduated out of there are still in business. Some of them are really poised to do amazing things. We’re just blessed across the board in entrepreneurship and economic development.

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Gallery to offer immersive art experience for children

Students enjoy an exhibition at Clifton Springs' Main Street Arts. (Photo provided)
Students enjoy an exhibition at Clifton Springs’ Main Street Arts. (Photo provided)

An Ontario County art gallery this month will begin an after school program to bring art to children, and children to art.

Main Street Arts in Clifton Springs will begin “The After School Art Experience,” a four-week immersive art program for youth in grades 2–8 Nov. 28 and 29. Students will see hundreds of pieces of art in two national juried exhibitions including “Small Works” and “The Cup, The Mug.”

Officials said the focus will be on ways that small art can make a big statement, and can take just as much time and thought. A variety of art media will be explored, including making cups and mugs out of clay.

Pamela Viggiani will serve as the instructor of the weekly experience. A mixed-media artist and art educator living in Canandaigua, Viggiani began teaching art in 1986 and continues to foster enthusiasm and creativity in her students today.

“Pam Viggiani was the most influential teacher of my youth,” former student Jessica Bryant said in a statement. “She inspired me to love and pursue art into adulthood. It’s such an amazing opportunity to be taught by her.”

Lessons will be inspired by the artwork featured in current exhibitions at Main Street Arts. Students will have the chance to talk about the artwork as well as work hands-on with a variety of art media.

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