CITY February 2023

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An addendum to our entry in the “Best Food Truck” category in our January “Best of Rochester” edition mistakenly reported that Scott Phomvongsa immigrated to the United States from Laos. He did not. His family emigrated from Laos.

February 2023

Vol 51 No 6 280 State Street Rochester, New York 14614 phone (585) 244-3329


Rochester Area Media Partners LLC, Norm Silverstein, chairman


Bill and Mary Anna Towler


Editor: David Andreatta

Deputy editor: Jeremy Moule

Staff writer: Gino Fanelli

Arts editor: Daniel J. Kushner

Life editor: Rebecca Rafferty

Contributors: Noelle Evans, Patrick Hosken, Dario Joseph, Lauren Petracca, Max Schulte


Director, Strategy: Ryan Williamson

Art director: Jacob Walsh


Sales manager: Alison Zero Jones

Advertising consultant/

Project manager: David White


Operations manager: Ryan Williamson

Circulation manager: Katherine Stathis

CITY is available free of charge. Additional copies of the current issue may be purchased by calling 585-784-3503. CITY may be distributed only by authorized distributors. No person may, without prior written permission of CITY, take more than one copy of each monthly issue.

CITY (ISSN 1551-3262) is published monthly 12 times per year by Rochester Area Media Partners, a subsidiary of WXXI Public Broadcasting. Periodical postage paid at Rochester, NY (USPS 022-138). Address changes: CITY, 280 State Street, Rochester, NY 14614. Member of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia and the New York Press Association.

Copyright by Rochester Area Media Partners LLC, 2021 - all rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, photocopying, recording or by any information storage retrieval system without permission of the copyright owner.

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BE A PART OF OUR TEAM! We’re looking to hire regular and substitute drivers to deliver CITY to Greater Rochester and beyond. CONTACT KATE FOR MORE INFO: KSTATHIS@ROCHESTERCITYNEWS.COM Do you ♥ CITY?

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The city has hired Michael Furlano to ramp up residential code enforcement.



Paul Vick became the youngest sole survivor of a plane crash when his father leapt with him from a doomed airliner over China.


One for every day of the month of love.


FLUSH WITH TALENT Alt-country’s Public Water Supply hoards songwriters like the well is going dry.



All Richard Colón wanted was to rent a small space in The Mercantile. He got an art gallery instead.



AI art is opening a Pandora’s box. Five artists weigh in. BY



Our recommendations for live music, theater, stand-up comedy, art exhibits, and random fun things to do for every day of the month.



Everyone and their mother seems to be playing pickleball. What’s the draw, and is it really a workout?

BURNIN’ LOVE Spicy dishes that’ll get you hot in ROC.

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Pickleballer Paul Burek. CITY visited Dinkers Pickleball in East Rochester. See page 40. PHOTO BY LAUREN PETRACCA
Crackdown: City attorney Michael Furlano has sued roughly two dozen property owners for neglect in recent months.


Neglectful property owners be afraid, be very afraid.

On Riley Park, a tiny throughstreet on Rochester’s west side, sits an all-too familiar sight: A modest two-story house with boarded up windows, an untended lawn, and a deteriorating roof. A few car tires scattered in front of its open and empty garage accentuate the blight.

City records suggest it has looked that way for four years. But it may not look that way much longer.

Recently, the city asked a court for permission to demolish it, arguing that it has been abandoned. The case is one of roughly two dozen code enforcement lawsuits filed against

neglectful property owners by the city in the last four months.

Behind each of them is Michael Furlano, an experienced housing attorney who the city hired last fall to ramp up residential code enforcement. Since then, he has focused on the worst-of-the-worst properties — like the one on Riley Park — that pose a public hazard.

He said, though, that he also intends to take on negligent landlords who ignore their tenants’ pleas to fix major problems.

“At the point where we’re considering a court case should be the

end of the line,” Furlano said. “We’ve given you enough opportunity, now we’re going to bring the hammer down. We’re going to demand that you fix these issues or we’re going to get a court order to tell us to do so.”

There has been no shortage of problem rental properties in the city in recent years. In one egregious case, a landlord was collecting rent from tenants in a condemned building.

Residents and housing rights activists have repeatedly drawn attention to apartment buildings with pervasive mold, collapsing ceilings, water leaks, rodent and insect

infestations, unreliable heat, insecure entrances, drafty windows, and more. The topic routinely dominates the public open forum prior to monthly City Council meetings.

Furlano cut his teeth representing tenants facing eviction in Rochester City Court. A native of Windsor, Ontario, he moved to Rochester roughly nine years ago for a public interest fellowship at the Legal Aid Society of Rochester. After the fellowship, the agency hired him.

“You don’t go to law school to



become a housing attorney, but it’s something you kind of stumble into,” Furlano said. “You enjoy the stories, you have a direct impact.”

During his time at the Legal Aid Society, Furlano worked with tenants residing in dilapidated buildings and began thinking about how to best force landlords to act.

In January 2020, Furlano won a case he brought on behalf of Linda Barger, who lived in an apartment on Sherman Street infested with mice and in disrepair. He had asked a judge to order the apartment’s owner to address the rodents and to make repairs to the apartment, a request the judge granted. The case was the first of its kind in Rochester City Court, and the victory showed that tenants do have a legal mechanism to compel landlords to fix serious problems.

Barger died shortly after that decision, putting a damper on legal follow through.

Furlano later handled housing matters for the Empire Justice Center, another legal assistance advocacy group. He jumped over to the job in the city’s Law Department, he said, because it put him in a position where he could pursue lawsuits against problem landlords and properties, similar in scope to the one he litigated on Barger’s behalf.

Linda Kingsley, City Hall’s top attorney, said her department has been enforcing code violations at places of business, but that it didn’t have the staff to focus aggressively on prosecuting housing violations. Furlano filled that void.

“ We’re not saying we’re going to make life miserable for you if you want to own real property for rental, but we’re saying we’re going to have certain expectations, just like we have expectations of the bar owners and the corner store owners and every other business that runs in this city,” Kingsley said. “It’s a business, they’ve got to do it.”

Furlano echoed the sentiment. The city’s main goal, he said, is not to bleed landlords for money, but to improve the quality of housing for tenants.

The city won’t throw its full weight behind “ticky tacky” violations, he said. But it will seek to prosecute landlords for issues such as vermin infestation, health and safety concerns, problems with windows or doors, and for blowing off complaints from tenants.

Furlano said he also plans to target landlords who are found to have retaliated against complaining tenants by evicting them.

“Your home is your refuge, it’s your safe space,” Furlano said. “If you don’t feel safe and secure in your home that’s going to have a detrimental effect on every other aspect of your life, so I think it’s important that we emphasize safe and habitable housing.”

Michael Furlano outside his new office at City Hall. Furlano was hired in the fall to ramp up residential code enforcement. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
Paul Vick cherishes a colorized portrait of him and his family — parents Robert and Dorothy, and older brother Teddy — taken shortly before the plane crash that took their lives. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE



Paul Vick became the world’s youngest sole survivor of a plane crash.

Paul Vick was just 16 months old on Jan. 28, 1947, when he fell from a clear blue sky into a cotton field in a remote region of China clasped in his father’s arms.

A few hours earlier, he and his parents and 3-year-old brother Teddy had boarded a China National Aviation Corporation airliner in Shanghai bound for Chongqing, where his father and mother were to carry out a commitment as Baptist missionaries.

About 40 minutes into the second leg of the flight, the left engine exploded and the wing fell off over a village about 90 miles west of Hankou. The plane, a twin-engine C-46 wartime cargo aircraft converted to ferry passengers, began spinning violently toward the earth in flames.

During the descent, as the story has been recounted to Vick, a crewmember managed to open a rear hatch. Luggage and people were sucked out of the plane. Clutching the fuselage and their children, Vick’s parents, Robert and Dorothy Vick, watched the ground rapidly approaching and saw no alternative.

“My mother grabbed my brother and I was grabbed by my father, and jumped,” said Vick, now 77, who spoke from the dining room table in his Brighton home strewn with memorabilia related to the disaster.

Below, villagers watched the fiery aircraft hurtle toward their cotton field, spewing items and bodies along the way. Repelled by the heat of the burning wreckage after it crashed, they searched their surroundings for survivors.

They would find none, save for a man groaning in pain and a toddler lying quietly beside him in mud with his eyes open. Vick and his father were the only survivors among the 26 people on board.

“Everybody else on the plane, if they stayed on the plane, they were burned,” Vick said. “But if they were able to have gotten out, they died instantaneously from the jump. My mother was found holding my brother.”

Dorothy Vick was 25 years old.

Villagers took Robert, who was 29, to a medicine man. They brought Vick to a woman whose own infant had recently died and could nourish him with breastmilk. Father and son were eventually transported to a small Catholic mission hospital.

Robert, suffering from extensive internal injuries, would die there three days later, but not before being presented with his son and telling a priest that the boy was to be raised by his paternal grandparents in his hometown of Rochester.

Incredibly, Vick’s injuries were relatively superficial: two broken legs, partial facial paralysis, singed hair, and cuts and bruises. His legs were put in traction for about two months.

“I didn’t really show any other signs of the accident,” Vick said. “The observation that almost everyone that saw me there made was how happy I looked, you know, that I was joking around with the nurses . . . When I was with my father, something must have happened there because I hadn’t uttered a word. I hadn’t uttered a sound.

“There’s a lot of mystery in life that we don’t understand,” he went on. “As

my grandfather, my mother’s dad, always said, ‘We may not understand now, but someday we will.’”

Vick chronicled the crash, his recuperation, and the life he went on to live — from growing up in the charge of his grandparents on Harvard Street, to graduating from the seminary and law school, to becoming a grandfather of seven — in a memoir, “Where the Cotton Grows,” which he self-published in 2021.

He is from a prominent Rochester family, a relation of the wealthy horticulturalist and seedsman James Vick, who built a racetrack on what are

now the streets Vick Park A and Vick Park B.

But Vick attained a reluctant fame all his own from the tragedy.

News of the crash and his survival made newspapers around the world. For years, any mention of him in the press was preceded by phrases like “air crash baby” and “orphan.” A Wikipedia page lists him as tied for the youngest sole survivor of a plane crash.

During his return to Rochester in April 1947 following his recovery, he was by chance on a flight with Frank Sinatra. The crooner, having read about the boy, was so moved by the story that he bought Vick a toy stuffed elephant during a layover. Vick named the doll “Frankie.”

A retired family and estate lawyer at the firm of Phillips Lytle and an ordained American Baptist minister who is the treasurer for the board of International Ministries, a Baptist missionary society, Vick said his memoir was ultimately about hope.

He spoke about his book a couple weeks before the 76th anniversary of the crash. The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.


Miraculously, Vick’s injuries were relatively superficial: two broken legs, partial facial paralysis, singed hair, and cuts and bruises. His legs were put in traction for about two months. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE Baby Paul Vick with his toy elephant “Frankie,” given to him by Frank Sinatra. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

Q: Your book is “Where the Cotton Grows.” What’s the significance of the title?

A: The field that the plane crashed into was a cotton field; also had rice paddies. And, when we went back, there was primarily cotton. The symbolism of this to me was significant because here is land that experienced great tragedy, which had become a part of the fabric of that village, by the way, that constantly renews itself every year. There is new life, new growth, and a place of great tragedy also has seen rebirth.

Q: Why write this book? Why now?

A: Over the years, as people who knew about this story talked to me about it, they kept saying, ‘Look, this is a significant story. You need to tell it for posterity’s sake as well as the book could be helpful to others.’ You can’t name an individual or family that hasn’t experienced tragedy in their lives. And

how do people handle that tragedy? What do they do with that tragedy? My family had a way of responding to tragedy that didn’t focus on the tragedy itself but focused on what you do with that tragedy. Also, it’s a way of acknowledging the impact that International Ministries, the organization I’m involved with, has had over the last 200-plus years, much of the work in Asia.

Q: As part of your preparation for the book, but also as part of your life journey, you visited the crash site and where you believed your family to be buried. What was that experience like for you?

A: That was profound. You know, as well as being on the crash site itself, and probably the crash site more so, recognizing that this happened there, and this is where they died, not just them, but everyone that was on that plane. . . . But to think of that violent act of the plane crashing and taking the lives of all these people, Chinese and

News of the plane crash and Vick’s survival made headlines around the world. Newspapers documented every step of his recovery and return home to Rochester. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE It took Vick more than 60 years to delve into scrapbooks about the crash that were kept for him by relatives and to return to China to learn more about the disaster and his parents’ work there. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

American and Canadian, that sense was overwhelming. But then, to take a look at a field growing cotton that was growing out of this. You know, blood had been spilled on the land, but new growth was happening.

Q: How did your family memorialize the anniversary of the accident when you were growing up, if at all?

A: The only reference to that was we would make sure that flowers were on the altar of the church to commemorate that date. So, there was ongoing acknowledgement down through the years of that date, but it really wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t a sad occasion. The loss was deeply felt. You know, shortly before my grandfather died, he and I had an opportunity to be alone to talk about just whatever he wanted to talk about, and for the first time in my life, I saw tears coming out of his eyes, and he said, “I can still feel your mother crashing to the ground.” Now, you would never have known that. He had an amazing disposition. He was always upbeat, always the optimist, always trying to make each moment a better moment for people. Acknowledging that situation was a part of our lives, but the focus was what you do with that.

Q: Is there any way you memorialize the day today?

A: Not other than an acknowledgement to myself. You know, the next generations they’re too far removed. So, it’s not really something I focus on. This

year on the 28th I will be in India, and I’m in India doing work that I think is consistent with the kind of work my father would do.

(Vick will be helping establish educational resources in marginalized communities.)

Q: You were given this extraordinary gift of life through an act of heroism by your father. Did you ever feel pressure to live up to be the boy and the man that you maybe imagined he hoped you would be?

A: It’s interesting, because if you follow my path, my life trajectory, in many ways it parallels his. . . . Is that because I was fulfilling his life’s path? I suppose that could be part of it. But in a real sense, I feel it’s my own path. Because what I do and how I do it is so different from how he did what he did. . . . Writing this book was very cathartic for me. I became at times very tearful bringing forward a lot of this very personal story of my family. . . . But, you know, I think it also gave me an opportunity to tell my story and not his story or my mother’s story. This is my story and how maybe some of the ways that my life had been influenced by them in a very real sense. And maybe this is part of it: I’ve never really felt that my mother and father are gone. They’re still a part of my life.

Q: What do you hope people get out of the book?

A: I think if there was one word it’s hope. All of us face tragedies in life. What do you do with those? My granddaughter, Emma, died at 2-and-a-half years of age.

Q: You dedicated the book to her.

A: She was an amazing girl, and again, unable to live a life, so somebody else has to tell her story. So, I tell her story every chance I get. . . . Everyone is special. Everyone is unique. Everyone has gifts. Everyone has something that they can give that would help all of us. For those who feel hopeless. For those who feel that they do not have worth or value. My hope is that this book might be able to touch them in some way to begin to think about the fact that they are a sacred person, and that they are loved. I think that’s the other thing: It’s a really a story of love, you know? It’s a family of love. I was born into a family of love. That has been a part of how I engaged others.

Five China National Aviation Corp. planes had crashed in the four months prior to the one carrying the Vick, pictured here, went down in January 1947. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE In the aftermath of the crash, responders and rescuers recorded what information they had at the time on the back of photographs they took of the disaster. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE “Where the Cotton Grows” is available on Amazon and at


28 Reasons we love Rochester

There is always room for a few more Rochesterians.

Rochester is a leader in New York when it comes to resettling refugees, particularly those arriving from Africa and Asia. According to Catholic Family Charities, which resettles refugees, Rochester has taken in more than 15,000 refugees since 1972, when the city became a destination for Vietnamese asylum seekers. These days, the city is a destination for people fleeing the likes of Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Somalia. As recently as 2016, Rochester took in more refugees annually than any resettlement destination in the state. Now, the city has the third-highest rate of resettlement in New York, after Utica and Buffalo.

We’re No. 1 when it comes to being “neighborly.”

Is chest-thumping neighborly? We don’t know, but we’re going to do it anyway for Rochester being declared the “Most Neighborly City in the United States.”, a nationwide storage company, bestowed the distinction on the Flower City last year after crunching data on a variety of criteria, from volunteering and charitable giving to citizen happiness. “Rochester is known by locals as a place where residents love to live and never hesitate to lend a hand to their neighbors,” concluded. Now, go shovel your neighbor’s driveway.

After standing in line to vote on Election Day, people stand in line to post “I Voted” stickers on Susan B. Anthony’s grave.

When Susan B. Anthony cast her ballot in the 1872 presidential election, she didn’t get a sticker declaring “I Voted.” She got a pair of handcuffs. About 150 years after Anthony’s groundbreaking display of civil disobedience, Rochesterians began paying homage to the pioneering suffragist by affixing their “I Voted” stickers to her gravestone at Mt. Hope Cemetery. The annual and emotional tribute began in earnest in 2014 but became a full-on tradition following the 2016 election. So ubiquitous are the voters who leave their mark that the cemetery began encasing Anthony’s marble headstone in a plastic sheath prior to elections to protect it from sticker glue and the chemicals used to remove it.

(one for every day of the month of love)

The House of Guitars.

The inventory is chaotic, the staff is impossible to tell apart from the customers, the place is an allergy sufferer’s worst nightmare — and it is all ours. That is, unless you want to count the steady stream of big-name musicians who call the House of Guitars home whenever they’re in town. Metallica, Geddy Lee of Rush, Tyler the Creator, Run DMC, and Garth Brooks are among the musical icons who have shopped the aisles. The self-proclaimed “Store That Ate Your Brain” and “World’s Largest Music Store” has case after case filled with everything from basic beginner sixstrings and iconic Rickenbacker basses and guitars to vintage instruments and high-end axes with woods and finishes like fine furniture. You also might find something like a vintage soprano sax dating to the early 1900s. The entire bottom floor is devoted to records and CDs, with a selection so vast and seemingly unsorted that it is easy to make a day of digging through the racks and boxes. Looking for something specific? Somehow, the staff knows exactly where it is.

Taking an unseasonal swim in frigid bodies of water as a way to awaken the senses or, you know, flirt with hypothermia, is a New Year’s Day rite of passage in many communities in the Northeast and Canada. Ice bathing in Rochester is more altruistic. The Rochester Polar Plunge in Lake Ontario is part of a series of winter swims statewide to benefit the Special Olympics New York. We get “Freezin’ for a Reason,” as the event’s motto suggests. That reason is to help support some 3,500 athletes and host 40 Special Olympics competitions annually, according to the organization. The wintry dunk is scheduled for Feb. 5.

We can see silent films the way they were meant to be seen.

Many independent movie houses and museums around the country screen silent films from time to time. But few show them complemented by live music performed by an accompanist, like in olden times. The George Eastman Museum’s Dryden Theatre is one of them. The art of setting a scene in motion at the Dryden is the domain of pianist Philip Carli, who is one of only about two dozen silent film accompanists in the United States. His improvised scores on the ivories help the audience interpret subtle shifts in mood and plot, and fill the soundless void left by the filmmakers in real time. He works his magic during the theater’s ongoing “Silent Tuesdays” film series.

Our buses have real names.

Was that the 150 Dewey Avenue bus or the Di’Anna? The Rochester Transit Service in 2009 tore a page out of the playbook of Federal Express, which stamps the names of employees’ children on its planes, when it started naming its 250-plus buses after RTS children and grandchildren. The program has been wildly popular and added a personal touch to the public service.

The Haudenosaunee are fighting for representation in global sports

The Haudenosaunee Nationals men’s lacrosse team, which represents the six nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy that are native to upstate New York, are vying for recognition from the International Olympic Committee to potentially compete in the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles as a sovereign nation. They wouldn’t be the first Olympic team representing a state not recognized by the I.O.C. or the United Nations, but they would be the first Native American nation to join the list. Recently, the team changed its longtime name — the Iroquois Nationals — to further assert its nationhood.

Our Polar Plunge is in February and not on New Year’s Day like the rest of the world.

A ghost haunts an old dining hall we call a castle.

You know your local ghost story has legs when its location is a destination in GPS apps. The so-called “White Lady’s Castle” is nothing more than a crumbling stone wall in a tree grove at Durand Eastman Park that historians say was part of a dining hall that catered to vacationers at the turn of the last century. But lore has it that it’s a castle haunted by the Lady in White, the ghost of a woman named Eelissa who is perpetually searching for a daughter who is said to have run away or been kidnapped. The Lady in White is a common figure in ghost stories the world over, but countless sightings of our White Lady have been reported over the decades, keeping alive a beloved thrilling, chilling local legend. Young men beware: Eelissa doesn’t take kindly to suitors. Mwahahahaha!

Country Sweet. ‘Nuff said.

The Garbage Plate (insert eye roll here) has been firmly cemented as Rochester’s signature contribution to world cuisine. That has cast a shadow over other local culinary delights, namely Country Sweet, the weird and wonderful signature sweet and sour sauce of the eponymous local fried chicken chain. Not to be confused with the Chinese takeout staple, Country Sweet’s holy nectar mix of ketchup, mustard, vinegar, spices, and a copious amount of sugar makes almost any dish better. While local fixtures Boss Sauce and Sal’s Sassy Sauce are worthy of a space in your fridge, Country Sweet is in a universe of its own. Slightly thicker, slightly sweeter, and all-around divine.

Our music scene punches way above its weight class.

Rochester’s music scene consistently produces national acts across a slew of genres. From Danielle Ponder to Joywave, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad to Undeath, Polar Bear Club to Psyopus, Lou Gramm to Teddy Geiger, the talent pool here runs deep. Scarce is a week where you can’t catch a hardcore punk show, a reggae act, a jazz trio, or a classical orchestra. On many nights, in fact, you have your choice. This year, 13 Eastman School of Music students or alumni are in the running for Grammy Awards.

We’re the right size.

There’s a special “Goldilocks zone” designation for cities that offer all the amenities of urban living while retaining a small-town feel. They are neither too big, nor too small. Rochester is just right. There are no shortages of restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries, museums, parks, and shops — and if you visit any of them, chances are you’ll bump into someone you know.

Birds love us.

Rochester is something special when it comes to accommodating feathery, winged friends. That is in no small part to its location on the Atlantic Flyway, a north-south migratory route used by around 500 different species of birds. Many flocks traveling the air highway rest here before making the long journey over Lake Ontario. Migrating waterfowl gather sustenance among the marshes at Braddock Bay, Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge to the east, and Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge to the west, while songbirds find refuge in forested areas like Washington Grove at Cobbs Hill Park. All of this makes for thrilling bird watching during the spring and fall, when outof-towners such as the magnolia warbler, blackpoll warbler, ruby-crowned kinglet, and snow geese take a breather here.

Artisan Works is a rabbit hole of cool.

The challenge of explaining Artisan Works to people who aren’t familiar with it is figuring out how to best describe 60,000 square feet of obsolete industrial space bursting with paintings, sculptures, photographs, commercial signs, film posters, antique cars, and more. Imagine that an art gallery and a museum of workingclass culture had a baby. But this baby had an overactive pituitary gland and inherited the estate of his Uncles William Randolph Hearst and Charles Foster Kane. That is Artisan Works in a nutshell. It is a bona fide arts and cultural institution integrating the old with the new — a repository for works from some of the world’s most acclaimed artists, like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, as well as an incubator for emerging artists. The collection there, curated over 25 years by co-founders Louis Perticone and Kimberley Trenholm, is an everexpanding history of artistic, commercial, and social expression.

Homegrown Rochester metal band Undeath. PHOTO PROVIDED PHOTO PROVIDED

The arts are finally getting the public funding they deserve.

Our local governments have historically scoffed at funding the arts in any meaningful way compared to peer cities and counties across New York. For more than 30 years, the dozens of small arts organizations in Monroe County fought for a slice of a $45,000 pie that the county had set aside for helping finance them. For half as long, the city of Rochester blew off an ordinance that required it to set aside 1 percent of city-funded construction projects over $1 million for public artwork. That changed in the last year when Monroe County upped its budget for small arts groups to $1 million, and Mayor Malik Evans actually made good on the law that his predecessors ignored and banked $236,000 for the purchase of public art.

We can “get anywhere in 15 minutes.”

Yeah, it’s a tired adage and a little optimistic, but there’s solid data to back it up. While the average one-way commute for an American worker is just shy of 28 minutes, it’s just 21 minutes in the Greater Rochester area, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s at rush hour. Consider how many minutes the average motorist might shave off their trip in the middle of the day or the evening, when traffic is relatively light. A seven-minute difference in the time it takes to get to work doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up. By the end of a workweek, the average Rochester motorist has an extra 70 minutes to themselves. Factor in two weeks off for vacation and that works out to 58 hours over the course of a year.

“Largest Snowball Fight” on record.

The Pirate Toy Fund, a nonprofit that distributes toys to needy children, is calling 10,000 men, women, and children to Archer Field in Chili on Feb. 18 to pelt each other with snowballs in an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s largest snowball fight. The current record was set in the Canadian city of Saskatoon in 2016, when 7,681 people showed up to battle. They bested a benchmark set in 2013 by Seattle, where the city had to truck in artificial snow. How lame!

We’re a great sports town.

Who needs a major league team when you have a rabid fanbase, exciting games, and quirky local traditions at a fraction of the cost of a bigmarket ticket? Rochester has been hailed over the years by publications and people of note as “the best minor-league sports town” in America — and for good reason. The Rochester Red Wings, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, is the oldest continuously operating minor-league sports franchise in North America. Tickets can be had for $15. The average Major League Baseball ticket last year was $53. The Rochester Americans, the feeder team to the Buffalo Sabres, is as storied of a hockey franchise as they come. The most expensive seats are $37. The average National Hockey League ticket this season is $94. We have professional lacrosse in the Rochester Knighthawks of the National Lacrosse League, professional soccer in the recently revived Rochester New York FC, and colleges offering a high level of athleticism in dozens of sports. The casual sports fan can’t tell the difference between the talent on these teams and those in the big leagues, but they can tell the difference in price.

We still have our Liberty Pole.

These researchers are close to curing muscular dystrophy.

Children in Rochester with muscular dystrophy were among the first in the country last year to receive an experimental treatment that researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center say has the potential to change the progression of the disease. The treatment involves an infusion of an experimental gene therapy that is hoped to restore motor function in patients. The URMC makes no bones about the significance of the research, noting in its literature that “(our scientists) are on the cusp of finding a cure for muscular dystrophy.” The disease, which is estimated to affect 12,000 Americans, mainly occurs in boys and causes a steady loss of muscle and premature death.

During the American Revolution, liberty poles sprung up across the colonies in protest of taxes, and later, as focal points of Fourth of July celebrations. Most of them eventually came down for one reason or another. Rochester’s original wooden pole, for instance, went up in 1846 and fell in a storm. Its replacement stood for decades before also succumbing to the elements. The 190-foot stainless steel monolith we know today was erected in 1965. Sure, it resembles a giant cheese slicer, but through the decades the Liberty Pole has been a familiar anchor for celebrations and protests alike.


Parks. We got ’em.

The Finger Lakes region has a striking and varied landscape that includes coastal waters, impressive cascades, and gorges. Many of these features are preserved in parklands. Rochester is just one of a handful of American cities with park systems designed by the country’s pioneering park maker, Frederick Law Olmsted, who saw freedom, public health, and human connection in the land. Our region is home to 24 state parks, including Letchworth State Park, the so-called “Grand Canyon of the East.” There is Hamlin Beach to the west, Chimney Bluffs to the east in Sodus, and Taughannock Falls about an hour or so to the south in Trumansburg.

The region is a history enthusiast’s dream.

Rochester’s history goes much deeper than its wellworn distinction as America’s first boomtown or the fact that Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony made their homes here. Rochester was part of the socalled “Burned-over District,” a name that reflected the fiery religious zeal that swept the frontier in the early 19th century. Beyond the preaching of Charles Finney and the birth of Spirtualism, Joseph Smith started Mormonism here. The building where the first Book of Mormon was published still stands in downtown Palmyra, and the “Sacred Grove” of forest where Smith is said to have been visited by God and Jesus is open to the public year-round. There’s plenty more to explore, too, such as the landing of French explorer LaSalle at Irondequoit Bay during a 1669 expedition or the city’s grim connection to Jack the Ripper.

We didn’t give up on bike sharing — and made it better.

It took about a year for our Pace bike sharing program to hit the skids after nearly 250 bikes went missing and were presumed stolen in 2018. Theft is nothing new to bike sharing programs, but the scale of it here was so egregious that the pandemic gave the company a convenient excuse to pack up what was left of its inventory and hightail it out of town and other mid-sized cities like ours. But a savior emerged from a multipronged private-public partnership between Miami-based bike sharing company HOPR, the city, and Rochester Transit Service that brought 500 pedal bikes, electric assist bikes, and electric scooters to locations around the city and the suburbs. The scooters top out at 15 mph and you’ll feel like a blood-doped Lance Armstrong riding those e-boosted bikes.

We know video games are serious business.

Video games were once considered child’s play. But that was in the Dark Ages of gaming, after Pong’s debut and before the Mario Bros. theme song became an earworm and smartphone users got hooked on Candy Crush. Two Rochester institutions were on the forefront of recognizing that video games were a cultural phenomenon. The Strong National Museum of Play began incorporating video games into its collection some time ago and now is home to the World Video Game Hall of Fame. Rochester Institute of Technology has been consistently ranked as one of the best places in the world to study game design and develop a career. The school offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field and its MAGIC Center serves as a multidisciplinary studio where students and researchers can develop their projects.


The old East Avenue mansions are still awesome.

As Rochester boomed in the second half of the 1800s, East Avenue was the thoroughfare of choice for the city’s elites to build their homes. The street is lined with magnificent stone homes commissioned by old-money names like the Sibleys, Strongs, and Culvers. George Eastman’s mansion is the most recognizable. The buildings, designed by big-name architects including J. Foster Warner and Claude Bragdon, fell into disrepair before preservationists and city leaders effected a turnaround to save the buildings through preservation or through conversion into offices or apartments. Just off East Avenue on East Boulevard is another gem: the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Boynton House.

We still play “base ball.”

Dozens of leagues reviving the early days of baseball — when it was called “base ball” — have sprung up around the country in the last 25 years. But the Genesee Country Village & Museum’s National Silver Ball Tournament each August is one of the largest vintage baseball gatherings around, in part because of the museum’s Silver Base Ball Park, the nation’s only authentic replica of a 19th-century stadium. Games there are played under the rules of 1867, when pitchers were “hurlers,” no one wore gloves, and a ball caught after once bounce was an out.  Throw in woolen longsleeve jerseys, bow ties, and nicknames like “Peach Fuzz,” “Kid Speed,” and “Rubberband,” and you’ve got game. Oldschool game.

We invent stuff. Lots of stuff.

Throughout its history, Rochester has been a city shaped by invention and innovation.

George Eastman’s camera and Chester Carlson’s pioneering work on photocopying put Rochester on the map, but we can also take credit for pipe cleaners, Jello, early versions of the automobile, Jolt Cola (slogan: “All the sugar and twice the caffeine”), and the conedom, an ice cream cone protector that does not reduce sensitivity. As recently as 10 years ago, Rochester was in the top five cities in the country that produced the most patents per capita. That has since waned with the layoffs and corporate restructuring at Kodak and Xerox. But Rochester is still a hub for innovation, with many of its breakthroughs now happening quietly in small labs across the region. An increasing number of patents are now being generated by researchers at the University of Rochester, the region’s largest employer.

Water is cheap and plentiful.

Western states and communities in that part of the country are fighting over access to freshwater. The demands are so high that scientists project Great Salt Lake in Utah will dry up within five years, and the city of Scottsdale in Arizona recently cut off water to a neighboring suburb. By those standards, we’re waterlogged. Lake Ontario is the 13th largest lake in the world, and while it has been abused, it has sustained people living here for generations at a cost of next to nothing. The average American family of four pays $73 a month for water. Whether you get your water from the Monroe County Water Authority, which draws from Lake Ontario, or the city’s Water Bureau, which draws from Hemlock and Canadice lakes, you’re likely paying less than that amount quarterly. And the water is tasty, too!



After the horrors of the Second World War, the European art world kind of lost its marbles — or at least its desire to keep making straightforward, optimistic art. This disillusionment gave rise to new styles that became new movements, including Abstract Expressionism. I’m not saying that no one made weird stuff before World War II, but after the war, artists really went for it and created art however the hell they wanted to.

Excited about these new styles, a set of Rochester artists in 1951 began hanging out and experimenting with making Modern art. They called themselves The Arena Group, taking their name from the Arena Theater on Hoeltzer Street, where they met and held their first exhibitions.

That theater has since closed, but the group is very much alive. Now calling itself The Arena Art Group, the collective kicked off 2023 — its 72nd year — with a celebratory showcase of artwork by 35 of its members at the Geisel Gallery at Bausch and Lomb Place.

A variety of styles are represented in painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, digital art, and mixed media. Jappie King Black’s twisted, tangled vines coalesce into figures displayed alongside Lynne Feldman’s fabric and paint collages of natural scenes and Mandi Antonucci’s goldleafed, surreal portraits. You can learn more about all the members and their work at

It’s remarkable that Rochester has a Modern art club that has lasted so long. Today, it has more than 60 members from diverse backgrounds and every generation. Imagine that — Boomers and Millennials having cultural discussions and showing their wild work together. It can happen.

“Arena Art Group Winter 2023 Show” continues through Feb. 28 at the Geisel Gallery (1 Bausch and Lomb Place, The gallery is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.

Public Water Supply is flush with songwriters

Catchy, compelling songwriting is a precious resource, but one strong writer is all a band needs to stay alive. By this standard, the alt-country band Public Water Supply is hoarding songwriters like the well’s about to go dry.

The band has three — Iggy Marino, Adrianna Noone, and Karis Gregory — each of whom takes turns as the lead singer on Public Water Supply’s self-titled debut album, released on Jan. 13.

“Public Water Supply” is a feisty 12-song set inspired by outlaw country ballads from the ’70s and western swing, with a fresh shot of up-tempo rock.

Despite having three songwriters in the band, each one is able to set ego aside and take feedback, Marino said.

“Whatever suits the song best, and majority always rules,” Marino said.

“So every song that is on the record has been put through the machine.”

Public Water Supply didn’t start out as an original band. Marino

Public Water Supply released its self-titled debut album on Jan. 13. Performer Pedro Araujo with Public Water Supply’s Karis Gregory, Adrianna Noone, Iggy Marino, Spencer Kornrich, and Alex Brophy at Lux Lounge for the “Georgia” music video shoot. PHOTOS PROVIDED
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and bassist Alex Brophy conceived the group in 2021 as a cover band dedicated to performing songs by the likes of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and other outlaw country artists who bucked the creative constraints of mainstream country music. Marino and Brophy recruited drummer Spencer Kornrich and vocalist-harmonica player Tanner Kartes, their former bandmates in the indie rock band Walrus Junction, along with Gregory on electric guitar.

But, Marino said, the musicians soon found that their collective creativity lent itself to writing new songs, and that being a capable cover band gave them the opportunity to introduce audiences to their original tunes.

“I’ve been active in the Rochester music community since 2015, doing things, but I have never been in a band that has been reacted to like Public Water Supply,” Marino said. “And I think that just because of the special connection that we all have — it’s almost like an esoteric connection — we’re also on the same page sonically, personally. We’re all like the best of friends.”

Noone, the newest addition to Public Water Supply, replaced Kartes after sharing the bill with the band on a show at Water Street Music Hall in January 2022. She said she was drawn to PWS’s energy, which differed from the more laid-back approach of her own band’s music, and welcomed the opportunity to contribute vocal harmonies.

“I think that that’s what’s so fun about being a part of this project is, yeah, we all have our own ideas,” Noone said.

Noone’s song, “Words for War,” the album’s finale, and “Georgia,” Marino’s infectious, fun-loving ’90s pop-rock throwback, are stylistic anomalies on the record.

But lyrically, the theme of the album is cohesive. Most of the songs are about indiscretions of the heart.

“We’ve all been heartbroken,” Marino said. “And, you know, we’ve all dealt with it.”

Noone replied: “That’s my theme, right there.”


Richard Colón didn’t set out to open an art gallery in the heart of downtown when he scheduled a meeting last September with Sean Brooks, the commercial operations manager at Sibley Square.

All he wanted was to rent space tucked against the east wall of The Mercantile, opposite the line of restaurants, for a onemonth showcase of photography by local artists he felt had been overlooked.

“I wanted to have kind of an all-star event of a bunch of different artists that were in my inner circle,” Colón said.

But at the end of that conversation, Colón had secured the space as the newest art venue in the city’s center, and a role for himself as volunteer curator of monthly exhibitions.

After renovations that converted the glass-walled space into Behind the Glass Gallery, the inaugural show opened on Jan. 6, featuring work by Rob Bell of the Democrat and Chronicle, school librarian Beth Larter, and photographer and videographer Roberto Felipe.

Each of the artists shoots with film, focusing on the city’s people and places. The show is filled with images shot at The Public Market, Frontier Field (now Innovative Field), Highland Park, Lamberton Conservatory, and many other recognizable sites downtown and elsewhere. Some of the images were photographed from such distinctive perspectives, you’ll see them as if for the first time.

The Rochester theme came as no surprise, given Colón’s steadfast and unabashed cheerleading of this city, which he conveys through his own photo work and regularly proclaims on social media.

Colón, 39, is a college counselor at the University of Rochester, husband, and father of four whose moody images capture gritty and gorgeous nuances of Rochester in sometimes humorous, often moving ways and have earned him a following as a street photographer.

The launch party was filled with art scene enthusiasts eager to embrace the new venue and its mission of giving artists a spot to show and sell their work.

Colón’s dedication to that mission goes beyond providing the walls — he also offers each artist he features at the gallery assistance in creating a SquareSpace site for their work if they don’t have a website. He also asks them to take part in a podcast episode, named for the gallery, that features a lively conversation that provides listeners with additional insight about the artists’ work.

Colón is sticking with showing the work of photographers for the time being, but says he’d like to highlight artists who work in other media in the near future.

February’s featured artists are Narada Riley, Rudy Fabre, and Joshua Taylor. An opening reception is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 2. The gallery is open for public viewing when The Mercantile is open, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. - BY


Rochester Contemporary Art Center continues its presentation of monumental, meditative public artwork on its outer wall with visual artist Shawnee Rebekah Morning Dove Hill’s “Deconstruction of the Mind,” which is on view through May 15.

Previously, RoCo’s park-facing wall was adorned with Thai artist Ong Siraphisut’s installation of mirrored tiles that left negative space, which spelled out the word “Breathe.” The artist said his work was meant to get viewers to pause to reflect and feel gratitude, a poignant prompt amid the pandemic and political upheaval that divided communities.

Hill created an installation with a similar aim. The three giant reproductions of her oracle card drawings could certainly stop passersby in their tracks.

Pale washes of color are layered with stark and intricate linework to form illustrations of two figures with divine feminine energy that flank a central image of a hand, and each card bears a written message to match its visual symbolism. The words “Finding Self” and “Inner Wisdom” accompany the powerful figures, while “Release” is spelled out below the hand, its open palm punctured with a star shape and its fingertips floating off into the wideopen sky. This hand can no longer grasp unnecessary things. They slip right through.

“These are meditation pieces, for dealing with whatever you’re dealing with,” Hill said. “That’s what creating art has always done for me, and I’m realizing that is what I want to share.”

Curatorial text posted to a light pole explains that the work is a guide for doing the work of looking within yourself toward your truth, letting go of what isn’t right for you, and honoring your ancestors who set your path.

Hill is having a banner year so far. There’s this installation, for one. She’ll discuss the mural at a First Friday artist’s talk planned for Feb. 3 at RoCo. And she also took part in a live painting competition in Toronto in late December.

The affirmative, soul-centering messages in Hill’s work are meant to be encouraging to everyone, but they also serve as a reminder to Hill, who is doing the tough work of transitioning into working as a full-time artist and pursuing a deeper relationship with her Indigenous heritage.

“It’s really exciting to take that journey and really be honest with who I am, and what that heritage is, and honor that,” Hill said. “Because the more I’m finding out about it, the more it feels like home.” -

PHOTO PROVIDED Artists Roberto Felipe, Beth Larter, and Rob Bell. PHOTO PROVIDED




For every play that makes it to the stage, countless more never get off the page.

The Hourglass Play Reading Series at Blackfriars Theatre attempts to close the gap with staged readings of plays that focus on showcasing underrepresented voices and perspectives.

Blackfriars started the series in 2010 and regularly spotlighted as many as six plays throughout the course of a theater season (in addition to its main slate of full productions) before the pandemic wiped out the last three seasons of readings.

But Hourglass is back, led by CoArtistic Directors Jodi Beckwith and Eric Evans, with a lineup of three plays meant to stir up provocative questions for audiences while shining light on points of view that may have been ignored or overlooked entirely.

“We’re not going to change anyone’s mind over the course of two hours,” Evans said. “But if we can plant that seed and get them thinking about it and talking about it afterwards, then I think Jodi and I would consider that as a success.”

It is not that Hourglass plays aren’t worth producing. Some have technical requirements that make them difficult to fully stage. Others require programming space the theater can’t accommodate.

Presented on Saturday afternoons at 2 p.m., each play reading is free to attend and includes a talkback after each performance. The readings are directed, and for the performances, the actors have rehearsed and have scripts in-hand as they move through the scenes. An additional person reads the stage directions aloud.

This season begins on Feb. 11 with playwright Marco Antonio Rodriguez’s

autobiographical dramedy, “Ashes of Light.” Directed by Mary Mendez Rizzo, it’s the story of a young Dominican American man struggling to reconcile his relationship with his traditional mother amid newly revealed secrets.

Rodriguez first developed the play with readings as early as 2010. “Ashes of Light” has gone on to numerous productions in cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, as well as Buenos Aires and Santo Domingo in Latin America. Even with the play’s success, Rodriguez said readings like the one at Blackfriars Theatre remain important.

“These kinds of readings continue to say, ‘Hey, we’re still here,’” Rodriguez said. “We still need to have these conversations, not just in the Dominican or Caribbean communities, but within our own Latino communities — touching on subjects such as sexuality and identity in the diaspora experience. And that sort of encompasses many different experiences, not just the Caribbean experience.”

But Rodriguez thinks American theater companies’ commitment to unsung voices must transcend readings.

“We have to get theaters all around the world and in the United States to commit to mainstage productions, not just second stage, mainstage productions,” he said. “And with that, comes outreach.”

The 2022-23 Hourglass season continues with “The Lifespan of a Fact,” by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell, and Gordon Garrell, on Apr. 1, and Lolita Chakrabarti’s “Red Velvet” on May 20.




AI art flourishes, five portrait artists weigh in.

When people first fantasized about robots taking on human work, some dreamt of machines handling the dangerous and tedious jobs and freeing humans up to do human things, like philosophize and create art.

But as artificial intelligence (AI) encroaches on those thinking and feeling realms once thought reserved for people, chatter about the potential impact is reaching a fever pitch, particularly among artists.

These days, art is being made by AI programs and applications, such as Lensa, an app that turns selfies into an impressive array of portraits in classical, Art Nouveau, fantasy, sci-fi, and other genres.

Another AI program, Midjourney, is being used by artists and non-artists alike to generate imagery from text prompts. But its propensity to operate with complete disregard for content ownership or copyright law has troubled artists, many who fear their work will be ripped off by the technology.

Programs like these have divided artists mostly into two camps, with some gray area in between: Those who insist that AI art tools are just simple fun, and those who see AI as a competitor for work.

CITY asked five local artists who create commissioned portraits to weigh in on whether they feel AI art is a threat, a passing trend, a useful tool, or some combination of each.

The real CITY writer Rebecca Rafferty (top left) and a handful of portraits of her generated by the AI art app Lensa. PHOTOS PROVIDED


Sari Gaby, an artist and instructor, has been using traditional tools — pencils, brushes, and paints — to make portraits for more than 50 years. In those years, she has seen new technologies become part of the creative arsenal but never displace the classic methods of making art.

It is why, she said, that she doesn’t fear AI encroaching on her work. There is an element to art created by humans that AIgenerated portraits can’t touch.

“You have to have a connection with your subject or person,” said Gaby, 68. “You have to have a feeling and a connection, whether it’s in person or from a photograph. And I feel that AI art is all about disconnection.”

Gaby is classically trained in drawing and painting. She takes private commissions that fetch between $600 and $4,000 (ranging from simpler drawings to full-figure oil paintings). She said that her subjects often remark that her portraits of them make them feel seen.

Good portrait artists recreate a person’s likeness, yes, but the best ones capture something more, something of the inner self.

By contrast, AI art tends to add a kind of mask, not unlike the many filters we can apply to selfies before posting them. The popular Lensa app, for example, while adding aesthetic flourishes of different art movements and themes, smooths out lines and blemishes, thins the face, sharpens the jaw, and so on. As flattering as it may be, the result can feel alien, like a distant and cold echo of yourself.

“You can have a technically perfect portrait, but there’s no soul in it,” Gaby said of AIgenerated art.


Brittany Williams was impressed by AI portrait art before she knew what it was. “I saw someone post on Instagram what I thought was a digital painting,” she said. “And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s very, very well done,’ but it didn’t have a caption or anything.”

She didn’t know it then, but she was looking at a portrait generated by the Lensa app. Assuming it was digital art made by a human artist, Williams didn’t give it a second thought. But she began to see more and more of this slicklooking work appear on social media.

“I’m like, ‘Who is this? Like, what is this? There’s no name to it. What did they use?’” she said. “It was just very, very polished. I was just like, ‘Damn, this is like, really clean.’”

Williams, 33, is known for her work on portrait-centric street art around Rochester, including various projects for WALL\ THERAPY. She’s also the creator of Peculiar Asphalt, which installs murals on basketball courts around the city.

Both Nike and former Mayor Lovely Warren have commissioned Williams — the former for a portrait of tennis star Serena Williams that the sportswear company had converted into a mural in its corporate headquarters, and the latter for her official portrait displayed at City Hall.

The part of the AI art phenomenon that concerns Williams is the theft of artistic style — when AI apps and programs are given prompts to create art “in the style of” a specific artist. In some cases, they are fed examples of an artist’s work by the user to get the job done.

She said the fledgling industry needs to be regulated, and that there need to be compensation for artists whose work is replicated by AI programs.

Hers is an ask that Williams admits is complicated. All creatives are influenced, and all creatives borrow. But there are legal repercussions for egregious thieves.


‘AI art is a fad.’
‘AI art needs to be regulated.’
Sari Gaby’s self-portrait, and a drawing she made after an Edward Curtis photograph (below). PHOTO PROVIDED A self-portrait by Brittany Williams, and her 2022 Wall\Therapy mural (below). PHOTO PROVIDED


When Lensa usage exploded last fall, artist and designer Alison Coté wrote thoughtful posts on social media appealing to the masses to think about the implications of creative property theft.

“I acknowledge that AI is an inevitability,” Coté said. “I don’t think it’s realistic to think that it can be stopped. And I understand the appeal.”

But, Coté said, the newness of the technology puts it in a sort of “Wild West” territory, and she believes that this new frontier needs artist-protecting restrictions and laws.

There’s no consent from the artists, she said, and there’s no compensation. “It’s a machineoperated service for a field that has an overflow of artists who are underpaid, and undervalued, and waiting for more work,” she said.

Coté, 33, is a multi-faceted artist who has cast a wide creative net, designing posters and album art for musicians and writing and performing songs for Sesame Street.

She makes a living partially from commissions for stylized pet portraits, house portraits, and of course, people portraits. She is skilled with both traditional and digital art tools and favors a particular vintage aesthetic. She can make portraits in the style of album art, with nods to real albums from decades past.

Though inspired by artists and aesthetics of the past, Coté has spent years honing her skills, and fears that companies and individuals alike will turn from commissioning artists to machines that will churn out what they want on demand.

“There’s nothing in place to protect us when these machines learn to do what we do, but better and faster and for cheaper,” she said. “Art is an innately human thing, and I think it’s important that we continue to support and protect human art and artists as AI grows.”


For every artist who feels threatened by AI art generators, there are those who use it in some part of their process. Magnus Champlin, 44, is in the latter group.

“I think AI art is a next step in the creative process that humans are going to be going through,” Champlin said. “And it can be used by almost anyone at any level, which is kind of nice.”

Champlin has his fingers in a lot of creative projects, from sculptures to installations, murals, and paintings. But when it comes to portraits, he works primarily in illustration. His style ranges from cute and cartoony — influenced by artists such as Bill Waterson of “Calvin & Hobbes” fame — to polished digital art in the fantasy and sci-fi genres. He gets commissioned to do five to 10 portraits a year, he said, and charges between $250 to $1,000, depending on the size and complexity of the project.

While Champlin acknowledges the fears that other artists have, he said he doesn’t think there will be a lot of crossover between people who would commission an artist and those who will use the generators.

“I’ve already seen AI art being used for advertisements on Instagram, quick ads, where someone who’s probably going to spend 30 bucks on a stock art now spends $30 on an AI product,” he said. “It’s definitely a gamechanger — we have to adjust accordingly for it — but the sky is not falling.”

He approaches AI with an attitude of “if you can’t beat ’em- join ’em” and makes the tools work for him.

“I use Midjourney as a starting point for my sketch concepts,” he said. “Not every time, but for certain big projects and illustrations, I will throw ideas at it and then kind of refine what it taught me.”

‘AI art is art theft and job theft.’
‘The sky is not falling.’
Alison Coté’s self-portrait, and examples of her illustrations (below). PHOTOS PROVIDED A portrait of Magnus Champlin generated by Lensa, and an artwork of his own (below). PHOTOS PROVIDED


In the array of reactions to AI art, there’s a quiet, profoundly-and-happily-unbothered camp. That’s where Michael Tarantelli dwells. “I think it’s an interesting thing and an interesting tool,” he said, “and something I don’t really feel affected by.”

Creating with graphite, charcoal, and oil paint, Tarantelli works primarily in portraiture, but with a twist. He likes to inject what he calls “chaotic, surreal, and pleasing” elements into his work, which some may find disturbing — a comically exaggerated facial piercing here, refracted facial features there. The disparateseeming elements in his work come from hanging out with collage artists, he said.

The 31-year-old artist said he has the sense that AI art generators are scary to people because they’re new and novel and getting a lot of visibility, but that he doesn’t see them replacing art made by humans.

“I was thinking about it like, if a 3D printer printed a Bernini sculpture and it was pretty one-to-one — it still wouldn’t be the Bernini sculpture, because he made that with his hands,” Tarantelli said. “And that’s the compelling part of it for me, that another human made it.”

Tarantelli said he earns $400 to $500 for commissioned work (and sometimes less for smaller drawings), which are typically straightforward portraits that are unlike his more experimental work.

As far as Tarantelli is concerned, the maybe-art-maybe-not-art AI creations have a place here, if only because it’s something that’s happening.

“It can be seen as threatening, but I don’t know, I’m not really worried about it,” he said. “I’m kind of interested to see where it goes, because I think there’s something there.”

‘AI art doesn’t scratch the itch.’
Michael Tarantelli’s selfportrait in oil, and two of his drawings (below). PHOTOS PROVIDED



If you aren’t sure what you’re getting into with the debut solo album from Driftwood frontman Dan Forsyth, the cover for “Friday Night Nowhere” offers some clues.

It depicts a deserted country crossroads at night in winter, illuminated by headlights. In the distance is a dusky blue horizon. To the left is the light. To the right, only dark.

Initially released in November 2022, “Friday Night Nowhere” leads somewhere, but the earnest country lilt in Forsyth’s voice and acoustic guitar-centric instrumentation suggests the destination may be a solitary one. The music of Driftwood often breaks into jubilant, string-happy sing-alongs and danceable Americana, but Forsyth’s sobering country-folk sensibility pervades solo songs that take their time. None of them get much past a persistent mid-tempo feel.

Fans of David Rawlings and Gillian Welch will be right at home with Forsyth. The Ithaca musician’s voice is so close in tone to that of Rawlings that, at times, it’s as if you’re listening to a Dave Rawlings Machine record.

Forsyth manages to sound both fatigued and hopeful, lending the songs a bleary-eyed, blue-collar perseverance. The true gem of the nine-song collection is “Shadow Dancing,” a love song about overcoming adversity:

We let the bottom fall out again/

But it’s so beautiful from here I would never want it built

All this hustling and it’s perfect/

So hard but such a dream…

It’s so simple and unrehearsed

Swaying in the streetlight, forgetting all of the world

And it’s so easy and understood

All of those hard times turning good

When the lights they go down, spinning in the dark

Shadow dancing

“Friday Night Nowhere” is far from a groundbreaking album, but it isn’t trying to be. These are solid country songs for deep thinkers with deeper emotions. Forsyth wrote this music during the doldrums of the pandemic, and it shows. Existential crises aside, we’ll always have music. And as we head into midwinter, “Friday Night Nowhere” is a great reminder.


Agathya Visveswaran, a former Hochstein School of Music student, currently studies cognitive science at the University of Michigan. When he’s not in class, he makes swirling electronic pop music under the name Agaaze. His first release, 2021’s “A Portal Inside,” took a shapeshifting approach to dance music. “For You,” his latest album, chronicles a self-love journey in its lyrics while showcasing his knack for complex electronic tracks.

The son of a jazz drummer and an Indian veena player (the instrument is a relative of the lute), Visveswaran grew up on lyric-forward hip-hop and picked up classical guitar at age 6. That kind of mélange helped him realize his wide-ranging creative impulses on “For You.”

In the span of seven songs, he ventures from cool cocktail fusion with “I Don’t Got Time For This Today,” to Drake-inspired minimalism on “Are You Real?” and multipart funky explorations on “The Door” and “Cinnamon Paradise.” Visveswaran played every instrument — guitar and keyboard most prominently — and recorded and mixed the album by himself.

Throughout, he alternates between sung melodies and flatly delivered rhymes that tell a loose and vaguely psychedelic story about grappling with love. “For You” centers around Visveswaran constantly unspooling his own emotions, projections, and playful come-ons in a voice shrouded in smoky reverb. “Lately I’ve been dreaming that I’d kiss the sky a thousand colors if I could live forever,” he sings over a synth-heavy beat.

He recently said in an interview on the A&R Factory blog that he penned the lyrics first, spilling out the narrative before he wrote most of the music. As a result, “For You” is verbose. But when Visveswaran focuses on his ornately constructed instrumentals instead, magic happens. The dynamic “Still Water” surges to life propelled by break-neck drumming, and its subterranean vibe feels at home alongside Toro y Moi and Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

Though its artist is a student, “For You” is no lo-fi study beats playlist. You’ll want to pay attention to Agaaze’s every note.


“It’s OK to Fall,” the new single from multiinstrumentalist Eric Heveron-Smith’s project Einstein’s Dreams, released on Jan. 20, is a peculiar hybrid of concision and grandiosity.

While this makes sense coming from a musician who’s played upright bass, trombone, and tuba in the big-band crossover phenomenon, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, Heveron-Smith’s resume doesn’t prepare the listener for the folksy charm of Einstein’s Dreams.

“It’s OK to Fall” is an ambitious, selfcontained indie pop song that uses several popular chamber-folk tells — Andrew Bird’s plucked-string sound and the breezy folkpop aesthetic of the Scandinavian duo Kings of Convenience during the pre-chorus and chorus, and the easy, conversational vocal tone of José González throughout.

But Heveron-Smith has a mind of his own. “It’s OK to Fall” is a brisk listen. It seems to end just as the listener begins to settle into its tightly woven, if busy instrumentation that includes the whimsical use of a glockenspiel and hammered dulcimer. That kind of a tease is the sign of a cleverly crafted song: Keep ’em wanting more.

And while “It’s OK to Fall” has all the necessary brevity of a pop song, the dulcimer — played with both precision and sensitivity by Max ZT — is what gives the song the gravitas of traditional folk music without sacrificing Heveron-Smith’s quirky approach to songwriting.

The term multi-instrumentalist gets thrown around a lot these days, but Heveron-Smith earns it here. He plays both the trombone and tuba in addition to singing, strumming the guitar and ukulele, thumping the upright bass, and chiming in on the aforementioned glockenspiel.

Despite the full-band sound, drummer Dave Tedeschi, of Postmodern Jukebox, is the only other musician besides Heveron-Smith and Max ZT, who fronts the trio House of Waters. Heveron-Smith also recorded, mixed, and mastered the song.


Jeremy Button’s folk rock band Growl Bear makes its debut with the album “The Dream” — a highly listenable, 11-song memoir that yields a couple gems.

The name Growl Bear might conjure up images of a moody pop-electronica duo rather than an Americana band, and it may be tempting to think of “The Dream” as a loosely crafted concept album.

But “The Dream,” released late last year, is really a series of acoustic-based, folksy vignettes. Its story-songs drift between Button’s ancestors’ connection to the Civil War, his past and present, and eventually to an ominous future. The connective tissue is a fixation on nostalgia and death before embracing the power of living and loving in the moment.

Button sings with an easy-going cadence and an ear for the next timely vocal harmony. On the title track, Button tells the story of his recurring morbid dreams accompanied by music that cleverly shifts the mood from uncomfortable and macabre to a life-affirming, barroom sing-along, complete with lilting piano chords.

Another track, “Simple Life,” rejects the distractions of modern life in favor of embracing the joy that comes from being fully present. The uptempo, alt-country accompaniment emphasizes a locomotive combination of drumbeat and harmonica. As with the majority of the songs on “The Dream,” vocal harmonies seem ever-present.

At times, the harmonies come off as excessive and unimaginative. A more economical use of harmony could have made for engaging storytelling. As a whole, the vocals could have held their pitches more effectively. The resulting shakiness detracted from the simple poignancy of the melodies.

Growl Bear’s “The Dream” is not the kind of album you can listen to on shuffle, nor can it be fully experienced by hearing individual songs on their own. “The Dream” is a complete abstract story in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Button’s big-picture approach to songwriting takes a complex thematic vision and distills it into straightforward folk ballads and peppy country diddies.



Friday, February 3 at 8:30 p.m. on WXXI-TV

Learn the story of how Coretta Scott and Martin Luther King, Jr. met, fell in love, and dreamed of a new world together.

Credit: Provided by PBS


Monday, February 6 at 6:30 p.m. at The Little Theatre

Join WXXI for a FREE preview screening of selections from Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom and Becoming Frederick Douglass, followed by a panel discussion.

In celebration of Black History Month, WXXI is pleased to present Making Black America: Through The Grapevine, a four-part series that highlights the vibrant cultural and social spaces at the heart of the African-American experience. It airs on Friday, February 3 and 10 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

“For centuries, ‘the Grapevine’ has connected Black Americans in formal and informal networks not just as a way of communicating but of building and sustaining communities large and small,” said Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the program’s host, writer, and executive producer. “From churches to fraternal and sororal organizations to Black Twitter, this is the story of the making of Black America and how, in the making, a people did more than survive the onslaught of enslavement and segregation. They redefined America and its cultural gifts to the world.”

Making Black America chronicles the vast social networks and organizations created by and for Black people beyond the reach of the “White gaze.” The documentary series recounts the establishment of the Prince Hall Masons in 1775 through the formation of all-Black towns and business districts, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, destinations for leisure and the social media phenomenon of Black Twitter.



Friday, February 24 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV

Take a glimpse behind the curtain at opera stars Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman’s famed 1990 concert.


Tuesday, February 28 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV

Photo: Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle Credit: Courtesy of Steve J. Sherman from Everett Collection
Photo: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. l Credit: Courtesy of PBS
Visit for a complete schedule.
Celebrate legendary performances and roles made famous by Black artists as well as the new generation of Black Broadway stars. Photo: Actor and singer Corbin Bleu l Credit: Courtesy of Nouveau Productions

The New York State Public Media Overdose Epidemic is a New York State Education Department funded initiative calling on NYS public media organizations to help address the issues of mental health and addiction throughout the state. As part of this initiative, WXXI will host a week of special programming, running February 13 through February 19, that looks at the overdose epidemic here in Rochester and beyond.

FRONTLINE: Opioids, Inc.

Monday, February 13 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV

With the Financial Times, FRONTLINE investigates how Insys Therapeutics profited from a fentanyl-based painkiller 50 times stronger than heroin.

Covid-19 and The Overdose Epidemic

Thursday, February 16 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV WXXI News’ Evan Dawson hosts a state-wide discussion with medical experts, government officials, non-profit organizations, and New York residents on how the pandemic and the response have exacerbated the ongoing overdose epidemic.

Independent Lens: Love in the Time of Fentanyl

Monday, February 13 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV

As the number of overdose deaths in Vancouver, Canada reaches an alltime high, employees and volunteers at the Overdose Prevention Society take matters into their own hands.

Credit: Colin Askey

Independent Lens: Apart

Thursday, February 16 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV Filmed over three and a half years from their lives inside prison to the year following their release, this documentary follows three young mothers caught between harsh drug sentencing and rising incarceration for women.

Photo: Tomika with her daughter I Credit: Tim Metzger, © Red Antelope Films


PBS KIDS Programming on WXXI-TV & WXXI’s PBS KIDS 24/7

Beginning February 6, the weekday block of children’s programming on WXXITV will change to air from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. After researching where children watch, WXXI saw that after 2 p.m. children were watching the children’s programming on WXXI’s 24/7 PBS KIDS channel. This free over the air channel is at WXXI TV 21.4 & Cable 1277. The channel also is live streamed at and on the PBS KIDS free Video App, accessible on many devices.

With viewing pattern changes, we adapted our WXXI-TV schedule to offer general audience programming in the afternoons. We believe this change will better serve our audiences, both the young and young at heart.

For a complete schedule, visit

6:00am Arthur 6:30am Odd Squad 7:00am Molly of Denali 7:30am Alma’s Way 8:00am Wild Kratts 8:30am Curious George 9:00am Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood 9:30pm Rosie Rules 10:00am Sesame Street >>NEW! 10:30am Work It Out Wombats! 11:00am Donkey Hodie 11:30am Pinkalicious & Peterrific 12:00pm Elinor Wonders Why 12:30pm Nature Cat 1:00pm Hero Elementary 1:30pm Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum NEW SCHEDULE! NEW TIMES!
WXXI-TV Kids Weekday Schedule: Rosie Rules Courtesy of © 2021-2023 Ruby Productions Inc. | Wombats Credit: Courtesy of Work It Out Wombats! TM/© 2022 WGBH Educational Foundation | Wild Kratts Credit: The Kratt Brothers Company 9 Story Entertainment | Daniel Tiger Credit: Courtesy of DANIEL TIGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD (C) 2014 The Fred Rogers Company | Elinor Credit: Courtesy of Pipeline Studios, © SHOE Ink


Super Drama Sunday

Sunday, February 12, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on WXXI-TV

If football isn’t your cup of tea, spend Super Bowl Sunday watching some Super Masterpiece Dramas. We’ll kick off the day with Little Women (11 a.m.- 1 p.m.), then on to Emma (2 p.m. – 6 p.m.), Miss Scarlet and The Duke (8 p.m.), All Creatures Great and Small (9 p.m.), and Vienna Blood (10 p.m.).

American Experience “Ruthless: Monopoly’s Secret History”

Monday, February 20 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV

For generations, Monopoly has been America’s favorite board game, a love letter to unbridled capitalism and — for better or worse — the impulses that make our free-market society tick. But behind the myth of the game’s creation is an untold tale of theft, obsession and corporate double-dealing.


A Fine Line: A Woman’s Place is in the Kitchen

Saturday, February 18 at 1 p.m. on WXXI-TV

World-renowned chefs provide insight into how to get more women into leadership roles as head chefs and restaurant owners while addressing issues such as paid parental leave, affordable childcare, and fair wage.

Credit: Provide by WETA

Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church

Saturday, February 25 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV

Trace the legendary guitarist’s journey to the Atlanta International Pop Festival, an unforgettable concert on July 4, 1970. Drawing nearly 500,000 people to his “Electric Church,” Hendrix performed “Purple Haze,” “Freedom,” “Voodoo Child” and more.


Photo: Jimi Hendrix performing at the Atlanta International Pop Festival, 1970 Courtesy of Crazy Jim Wiggins/Authentic Hendrix, LLC Photo: Muhammad Ali and children playing Monopoly Courtesy of Steve Schapiro/Corbis via Getty Images


The New World Symphony: I Dream a World: The Harlem Renaissance and Beyond

Saturday, February 4 at 4 p.m. on WXXI Classical

Curated by Dr. Tammy Kernodle of Miami University of Ohio and New World Symphony Artistic Director Laureat Michael Tilson Thomas, this special features a kaleidoscopic view of AfricanAmerican sound, including works by Duke Ellington, Florence Price and William Grant Still.


• Do it the way you’d perform a Tiny Desk concert: at a desk. (Any desk!)

• Upload your video to YouTube.

Witness: Black History Month

Sunday, February 5 at 9 p.m. on WXXI News/NPR

Witness shares some incredible interviews looking at the AfricanAmerican experience told by people who were there. Hear about the mother who created a ‘little black book’ to give her son tools to protect his survival when dealing with the police; and after the US officially made lynching a federal crime, we meet the great granddaughter of Ida B. Wells, who campaigned for the change.

The Choral Hour Black History Month Special

Thursday, February 16 at 12 p.m. on WXXI Classical

Join host Kathlene Ritch as she shares music of AfricanAmerican composers William Dawson and Moses Hogan, and chats with composer and conductor Dr. Andre Thomas. They discuss how concert spirituals and their performance practice have evolved over the 20th century through the present day.

NPR Music a video of you playing one song behind a desk of your choosing. If you win, you’ll get to play your very own Tiny Desk concert and go on tour with NPR Music.
For complete details, visit
Create a new video that shows you playing one song you’ve written.
• Fill out our entry form after it opens at 10 a.m. ET on Feb. 7 and before 11:59
ET on March

Valentine’s Day at The Little

Tickets available at

The Little’s Concessions Stand will be serving beer, wine, a special Valentine Punch, and heart-themed treats (in addition to our beloved Little Popcorn!) for the February 14th screening.

Feb. 13: Notting HillFeb. 14: Amelie

We’re just a movie theater, standing in front of an audience, asking them to love us. Part of our Staff Picks series.

Feb. 15: But I’m a Cheerleader

A conversationheart-colored queer feminist cult classic, Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll) leads a fantastic ensemble cast that includes Clea DuVall, Cathy Moriarty, Melanie Lynskey, and RuPaul.

A part of the High Falls Women In Film Series

Tickets available at

Feb. 11: Get Out

Feb. 25: Blade

A half-vampire, half-mortal man becomes a protector of the mortal race, while slaying evil vampires.

A classic of art-house cinema, and regularly listed as one of the most romantic films of all time, Amélie chronicles a young woman as she discretely orchestrates the lives of the people around her, creating a world exclusively of her own making.

FEB. 8

FEB. 22

The Thing (1982) Balto

The ultimate in alien terror takes over The Little this winter. Kurt Russell stars in John Carpenter’s horror/ sci-fi classic set in one of the coldest spots on the planet.

An outcast half-wolf risks his life to prevent a deadly epidemic from ravaging Nome, Alaska, in this 1995 animated classic.

Tickets available at

Monday,FebRUARY 13

The U.S. and the Holocaust 3-part series by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick & Sarah Botstein

240 East Ave
Jordan Peele’s instant classic horror hit returns to The Little.
Join WXXI for a free screening talkback event at The Little Theatre. This screening will be an hour-long excerpt from the THE U.S. AND THE HOLOCAUST, by by Ken Burns,
& Sarah

todo DAILY

Full calendar of events online at



“Ain’t Misbehavin’”

Geva Theatre Center,

Broadway director Jeffrey L. Page takes a radical new approach to this vibrant celebration of the extraordinary career of jazz pioneer Fats Waller that won the Tony for “Best Musical” when it premiered in 1978. Back then, the show depicted a time — the 1920s and ’30s — that many people in the audience could recall. This revival has been thoughtfully reconsidered to push the meaning of the original production into the sphere of Black identity for the modern age. Look for the images of African masks hidden in the Art Deco set. The show runs through Feb. 12. Tickets range from $47 to $72. The curtain rises today at 7:30 p.m.

killed a man. Papa Roach needs no introduction thanks to its nu-metal megahit “Last Resort,” and rap-rockers Hollywood Undead have a loyal fan base. Tickets for this moshtastic throwdown will run you $50 to $279.



“Dead of Winter Residency” with Mikaela Davis and Southern Star

Abilene Bar & Lounge,

Harpist Mikaela Davis has long been a beloved singer-songwriter in her native Rochester, but she came into her own with her full-length debut album, “Delivery,” in 2018. Davis possesses a hypnotic voice that gets into your blood. In recent years, she and her backing band Southern Star have embraced a harp-heavy approach to classic rock interwoven with psychedelia, country-Americana, improvisation, and refreshing covers of Grateful Dead tunes. Today’s 8 p.m. show marks the last of three collectively called the “Dead of Winter Residency.” The weather may be cold, but the music will warm you right up. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

residents to question how they live, who they love, and what they leave behind. Sound depressing? It’s not. Critics have said this one-man show “shimmers with needling suspense,” “shines with humanity,” and “leaves you beaming with joy.” The star, Marc D’Amico, is perhaps best known on the local stage as a member of the sketch comedy troupe Thank You Kiss. His proficiency at changing characters quickly makes him an ideal choice for a lead that requires the virtuosity to play a hardened detective, a withdrawn teenager girl, the British proprietor of a drama school, and a half dozen other roles. Directed by a legend of the local stage, Patricia Lewis Browne, this show promises to be a moving theatrical experience. The production runs Feb. 2 to 12, and tickets are $30 to $37. The curtain rises tonight at 8 p.m.

OPERA “Alcina”

Eastman Opera Theatre,


Rockzilla Tour

Main Street Armory,

Between Papa Roach, Falling in Reverse, Hollywood Undead, and Escape the Fate, this concert packs quite the lineup. There’s also some weird history with a couple of the bands revolving around a dude named Ronnie Radke, the vocalist for glam rockers Falling in Reverse. He was the original singer for Escape the Fate, but lost that job when he went to jail over his involvement in a fight that



Blackfriars Theatre,

The fate of a gay 14-year-old boy who was harassed by his peers in a small Jersey Shore town inspires

Eastman Opera Theatre’s fall production was the contemporary “Lear on the Second Floor,” but it is firing up the Wayback Machine with George Frideric Handel’s 1735 Baroque opera “Alcina.” The plot is fantastical with seductive sorceresses, ill-fated knights who fall prey to them, and a woman who goes incognito as a man to free her partner from a magic spell. But as with most Eastman Opera works, the story is recontextualized with a contemporary lens (in this case, exploring the toxic social media landscape and the age of the “influencer”). Expect excellent vocal performances and a fresh take on the operatic art form. General admission tickets are $20. Today’s performance begins at 7:30 p.m. Through Feb. 5. DK



Morning Chamber Music featuring Jeffrey Ziegler

Eastman School of Music,

Part of the conventional bad rap on classical music is that it can be

grandiose, distant, inaccessible, and academic. Chamber music can break through those barriers with the emotional immediacy of the performance and the intimacy of the music hall. The Eastman School’s Morning Chamber Music Series is no exception. This free Saturdaymorning series welcomes Eastman alumnus Jeffrey Ziegler, a cellist and former member of the acclaimed Kronos Quartet who has a reputation for adventurous and insightful performances of new compositions by living composers. The concert starts at 11 a.m. in Eastman’s Hatch Recital Hall. DK


“Headbanger’s Ball”

Photo City Music Hall,

Back in the day, MTV’s “Headbanger’s Ball” was mandatory viewing for metalheads and heavy music fans. The likes of Metallica and Guns N’ Roses, who were selling out stadiums left and right, were in heavy rotation on the program. “Headbanger’s Ball” is about reliving those late, loud 1990’s nights. The GNR tribute band Appetite for Destruction and the Metallica tribute band Metal Militia will take the stage and attempt to give whiplash to the heshers in the crowd. Seth Voorhees, a multimedia journalist with Spectrum News, certified metalhead, and allaround nice guy, is the DJ. The ball begins at 7:30 p.m. and is 18 and over. Admission is $15 in advance. JM

“The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey”
For up-to-date information on changes or cancellations, consult the websites of individual venues.


“Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie”

Geva Theatre Center,

You’re invited to a hootenanny! This show about the journey of Woody Guthrie, the voice of American folk and protest music of the 1930s and ’40s, is more revue than musical. The songs come in high spirits and quick succession as four performers trace Guthrie’s trajectory from his early years in Oklahoma and Texas, through his itinerant existence in California during the Depression, to his surviving two torpedo attacks during World War II. Today, and following two other Sunday matinees, the cast invites the audience to gather in the theater lobby to play instruments and sing songs. Bring your instruments to those shows. All ages and all skills are welcome. This hootenanny was made for you and me. The production runs Feb. 1 to 19 on the Fielding Stage. Tickets are $42. The curtain rises today at 3 p.m. DA


2023 Rochester Polar Plunge

Ontario Beach Park,  Dipping oneself into water hovering around freezing in search of vigorous sensory experiences and a sense of community is a New Year’s Day rite of passage in much of the Northeast and Canada. But the Rochester Polar Plunge is part of a series of plunges statewide during the winter months to benefit the Special Olympics New York. The Greater Rochester region supports 3,500 athletes and hosts 40 Special Olympics competitions annually, according to the organization. The “Freezin’ for a Reason” starts at noon. Register in advance online or the day of beginning at 9 a.m. DA


MUSIC Mint Field

Bug Jar,

The Bug Jar is known for bringing in bands that are under the radar but on the rise and essential to hear in concert for those in-the-know. The Mexico City-based “shoegaze” rock trio Mint Field is one such band. On the group’s latest album, the dreamy “Levitation Sessions,” the ethereal, Spanish-language vocals of Estrella del Sol Sánchez waft through the relaxed but steady pulse of bassist Sebastian Neyra and drummer Callum Brown’s rhythm section. Add Sánchez’s shimmering, effects-laden guitar, and you’ve got music you can get lost in, with hints of post-rock, psychedelia, and lo-fi hip-hop. The 18-over-show features the supporting acts Drippers and Type II. The music kicks off at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 to $13 in advance, $13 to $16 at the door. DK


Western NY Winter Hiking Challenge

This year’s challenge launched in late December, but there is plenty of time to complete the eight hikes required to qualify for a patch, a sticker, a number, and bragging rights. You can register for the challenge at Outside Chronicles’ website (your $22 benefits Western New York Land Conservancy). With registration, you’ll be directed to information about 20 diverse regional hikes, where you’ll snap a selfie at different landmarks such as waterfalls, ruins, bridges, and unique water features. The challenge, which ends March 20, is a great way to take in some fresh air during the cooped-up months. You can even bring your furry trail companions — pet registration fees will be donated to Sadie’s Safe Harbor Canine Rescue.


FILM “The Thing”

The Little Theatre,

Last month, The Little launched a series called “Winter Wednesdays” to help us get through the dark season. Tonight’s installment is the John Carpenter classic “The Thing,” which tells the tale of a bloodthirsty shape-shifting alien that hunts down a research crew in Antarctica, where the weather is so frigid it makes Rochester look like Cancun. Critics oddly praised the film’s visual effects but otherwise panned it. A New York Times critic wrote, “It qualifies as instant junk.” Clearly, that’s wrong. Forty years later, “The Thing” is remembered as a groundbreaking creature feature and is treasured by horror film obsessives. Where else are you going to see Wilford Brimley acting totally unhinged? The film starts at 7:30 p.m. and admission is $11, or $7 for seniors, students, and members of the military. JM



Shane Torres

Comedy @ The Carlson,

The career of this standup comedian caught fire a few years ago when he famously and ferociously defended celebrity chef Guy Fieri (and the flames on his shirt and the racing stripe on his fridge and the sunglasses on the back of his head) against his critics in a lengthy and hilarious bit on “Conan.” Now, he’s touring comedy clubs, concert halls, and prestigious festivals around the world. His stop in Rochester falls between shows in California and Massachusetts and follows a month of performing on stages around Europe. The New York Times has called his style “warm” and compared his punchlines to

“corkscrew turns that have moments of vulnerability and even melancholy.” Torres has five shows here through Feb. 11. He takes the stage tonight at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $15. DA

MUSIC “Rooted in Rochester: A Celebration of Black Composers”

Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre,

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra tips its collective cap to Black History Month today and again on Feb. 11 with this program featuring works and composers directly related to Rochester and its distinct musical history. Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik steps to the podium to conduct Rochesterian and rising opera star Kearstin Piper Brown in “Songs of Harriet Tubman” by Nkeiru Okoye, as well as William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 1, “Afro-American” — which the RPO premiered in 1931 — and a fanfare by Rochester native Adolphus Hailstork. A Duke Ellington suite and a James Lee III piece co-commissioned by the RPO bookend the program. Tonight’s performance starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 to $89. DK


FILM “Batman” in Concert

Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre,

Movie screenings with accompaniment from live orchestras are all the rage these days. Eastman School of Music premieres a live-topicture performance of Tim Burton’s



1989 superhero classic, “Batman,” scored by composer Danny Elfman. The live orchestra features student musicians from Eastman’s Empire Film and Media Ensemble, led by Emmy-winning conductor Mark Watters, director of the school’s Beale Institute for Film Music and Contemporary Media. Plus, who doesn’t want to watch Michael Keaton versus Jack Nicholson, the quirkiest — and perhaps best — Caped Crusader-Clown Prince of Crime matchup on the big screen? The PG13 film has a two-hour run time, and begins at 7:30 p.m. DK

Orsino, with whom she falls in love. Naturally, though, Orsino is smitten with Countess Olivia, who, thinking Viola is a boy, falls for her. The triangle of sexual tension tightens when Sebastian shows up. The production runs Feb. 3 through Feb. 11. Today’s performance starts at 7:30 p.m. and includes ASL interpretation. Tickets are $15 to $20. DA


FEB. 11

MUSIC “New Voices” Showcase

Greece Baptist Church,


Del Lago Casino & Resort,

IN BLOOM  “Dutch Connections ”

George Eastman Museum,  The museum bills this wildly popular annual event as “an early peek at spring.” Thousands of blooming tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, amaryllis, and spring annuals are spread across George Eastman’s mansion in what amounts to a fragrant floral explosion. The event derives its name from Eastman’s 1895 bike tour through Holland, where the flowers there inspired him to order thousands of them from Dutch suppliers for his estate for the next 30 years. If you need a break from the perpetual gray of winter, “Dutch Connections” provides a colorful escape. The event starts today and runs through Feb. 26. JM

THEATER “Twelfth Night”

MuCCC, 142 Atlantic Ave.,

If now is the winter of your discontent, hie thee, then, to the Multi-use Cultural Community Center to escape with the Rochester Community Players into a Shakespearean rom-com with a mistaken identity twist. Viola, separated from her twin brother Sebastian in a shipwreck, disguises herself as a boy to work for Duke

The Golden Link Folk Singing Society knows how to shine a light on vibrant, local singer-songwriters. And you couldn’t ask for a more genre-diverse lineup than this bill featuring Kara Fink, Marye Lobb, and Hanna PK. All three are earnest and dynamic singers, and none of them sticks to one style. Fink can float seamlessly between folk and jazz, with hints of soul. Lobb, a Rochester native, endears listeners with an original blend of folk, Latin, and jazz influences. Hanna PK has the technical panache to groove on straight-ahead blues, jazz, and boogie-woogie. You may just have a new favorite artist after this show. It all starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 to $22. DK


The Probables

Smokin’ Hot Chicks BBQ,

If you aren’t yet familiar with The Probables, an Americana quintet from Jamestown, N.Y., this is a good time to get acquainted. Led by singerguitarist Steve Johnson, formerly the frontman of roots rock band Big Leg Emma, The Probables combine infectious fiddle and mandolin licks with steady folk-rock songwriting and heartwarming harmonies for a sound that’s easy to enjoy. The music goes from 9 p.m. to midnight over two sets, so you may want to grab dinner while you’re at it. Tickets are $10. DK

Bush’s big breakthrough hit, “Everything Zen,” is to rock what Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is to, well, everyone. Both songs open abruptly with loud chords that signal something emotional and exciting is to come. At least that’s how “Everything Zen” felt in the 1990s when Bush ruled the airways with its modern rock for the masses. Bush is back on the road, and while the band may not have the stature it used to, plenty of people have fond memories of their music, which tends to conjure more than a little nostalgia. Tickets are $45 to $75 and the show is 21 and up, though the age of most people in attendance will probably hover around 40. JM



Dryden Theatre,  Why settle for dinner and a movie when you can brunch with Holly Golightly? This screening of the iconic film starring Audrey Hepburn as the free spirit from Tulip, Texas, is part of the George Eastman Museum’s “Valentine’s Day Brunch & Film” event. Patrons can eat their hearts out for $50, but the film is open to anyone who would rather skip the meal for the regular Dryden Theatre admission of $11 ($7 for members, $5 for children). Brunch is to be served at 10 a.m., with the film to follow at 11:30. But don’t hold us to those times. As Ms. Golightly tells the lovestruck Joe Bell: “It’s Sunday, Mr. Bell. Clocks are slow on Sundays.” JM


MUSIC Cardiel

Bug Jar,

A second musical revelation from south of the border arrives at the Bug Jar this month when the Mexico City duo Cardiel brings its raw, sludgy brand of rock on what might have otherwise just been another Monday night. When drummer Samantha Ambrosio lets loose with pummeling rhythms and guitarist Miguel Fraíno unleashes his feral screaming over

fuzzed-out guitar riffs in a hardcore punk freak-out, Cardiel might just be the blistering soundtrack to your personal catharsis. That said, the music is more nuanced than you might think. Be on the lookout for reggae when you least expect it. If you love live music, you’ve got to check this out. The doors open at 8 p.m., and the sounds start at 9. Tickets for the 18 and over show are $12 to $14. DK



Greece Public Library,

There are several statues of Frederick Douglass around Rochester, but the original — an 8-foot-tall bronze likeness of the famed abolitionist that now resides at South Avenue and Robinson Drive as the centerpiece of Frederick Douglass Memorial Plaza — was the first monument in the United States to memorialize a specific Black American. The story behind that statue is the crux of this lecture by the Rev. Julius David Jackson Jr., the pastor of United Church of Pittsford. The presentation includes a short film and a question-and-answer session. The timing is apropos, as Douglass, who never knew his actual birthdate, celebrated his birthday on Valentine’s Day. The evening is free and runs from 7 to 8 p.m. DA

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”
“The Frederick Douglass Statue”



Auditorium Theatre,

It’s showtime! The ghost-with-themost earned his stripes on Broadway and is now coming to town through the Rochester Broadway Theatre League. The musical is based on Tim Burton’s beloved dark comedy film that tells the story of a withdrawn teenage girl whose life takes a turn when she meets a newly deceased couple and a demon with a thing for stripes. Variety called the show “screamingly good fun!” The show opens Valentine’s Day and runs through Feb. 19. The curtain rises tonight at 7:30 p.m. and tickets range from $38 to $90. DA




Flogging Molly

Main Street Armory,

The ’90s were a weird time. There were cola wars, Pauly Shore became a star, and a surge of bands began mixing high-energy punk with Irish folk music, defined by the likes of The Tossers, The Dropkick Murphys, and Flogging Molly. Dubbed Celtic Punk, it’s music that is best described as a cold Guinness with a sonic presence. Flogging Molly is an ensemble mashing up punk instrumentals with tenor banjos, violin, and mandolin. It’s ideal music for jumping off a stage. Flogging Molly is playing with legendary Pittsburgh punk band AntiFlag. Doors open 7 p.m. Tickets are $39.50. GF



“World’s Largest Snowball Fight”

Archer Road Field, Chili,


The Mountain Goats

Water Street Music Hall,

With no exaggeration, The Mountain Goats are my favorite band. Singersongwriter John Darnielle has built a mindbogglingly prolific discography over 30 years — spanning 21 studio albums and 18 EPs. The music plays off Darnielle’s unique, highly literary songwriting rife with quips, narrative storytelling, and esoteric references to religion, history, and mythology. The Mountain Goats were defined early on by Darnielle’s solo acoustic recordings on his Panasonic boombox, most notably lo-fi triumphs in 1994’s “Zopilote Machine” and 2002’s “All Hail West Texas.” The Goats found more mainstream success with studio releases, like 2002’s “Tallahasee” and 2005’s “The Sunset Tree.” This show will be a two-person set of Darnielle and multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas. Tickets are $48. Doors open 7 p.m.

The Siege of Jerusalem. The Sack of Rome. The Battle of the Bulge. This is your chance to be part of an epic battle for the history books — or at least the record books. The Pirate Toy Fund, a nonprofit that distributes toys to needy children throughout the Rochester region, is aiming to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s largest snowball fight. The event includes food trucks, games, music, and pelting people with pressed balls of ice crystals. The current record is held by the Canadian city of Saskatoon, which set the benchmark in 2016 when 7,681 hardy residents came out to fight. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The battle begins at 11 a.m. DA




“Hitmakers: You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”

JCC of Greater Rochester,

If you’ve seen earlier renditions of this popular music series, b-b-b-baby, you just ain’t seen n-n-n-nothin’ yet. Back for an eighth season, the latest installment mines the music of the 1970s, the decade that gave us the Pet Rock, leisure suits, and a healthy sense of skepticism in every American institution that ever was. This upbeat show, written by Danny Kincaid-Kunz and directed by Esther Winter, has a reputation for treating audiences to a little taste of everything. Featuring music from the Doobie Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac, and other stars, “Hitmakers” promises a fun time. The show opens on Feb. 4 and closes with a matinee today at 2 p.m. Tickets are $35 ($30 for JCC members and $20 for students). DA


“A Little Slip of Heaven”

McGinnity’s Restaurant and Party House, 585-663-5810

Pre-game St. Patrick’s Day with a pint and a pinch of local history, complete with tunes, of course. At 2 p.m., Christopher Shannon, a Christendom College history professor, author, and former Rochesterian, will present “A Little Slip of Heaven: Songs and Stories of the Rochester Irish, From Baby Boom to Baby Bust.” The presentation, which will feature original songs based on traditional Irish melodies, tells the story of the Rochester Irish in the decades following the Second World War. While the concert is free, there’s a suggested donation of $10. RR



“Build It Week!”

Rochester Museum and Science Center,  Children not only love to build


things, but they love to learn how things are built. The Rochester Museum and Science Center taps that combination of curiosity, creativity, and industriousness with “Build It Week!” From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily between Feb. 20 and 26, visitors to RMSC will have chances to build bird nests, buildings, or even cities, and learn about being engineers. The week’s events, which coincide with National Engineers Week, are included with regular admission to the museum and no advance sign-ups are necessary. JM


wackadoodle parents performed by current and former teachers. The onenight stop in Rochester coincides with February Break, so there’s no excuse to not put down the red pen and stay out late. The attendance bell rings at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $40 to $50. DA


“The African Company Presents Richard III”

U of R Sloan Performing Arts Center,


“PAW Patrol Live: Heroes Unite”

Blue Cross Arena, Young America’s favorite canine first responders are facing their greatest challenge yet, or so says the description for this adventure on ice. Mayor Humdinger kidnaps and clones Robo Dog, causing global chaos, and it is up to Ryder and the rest of the PAW Patrol to catch the clones. Of course, the team rescues Robo Dog. Catch this tale of action and teamwork at 6 p.m. Feb. 21 and 22. Tickets are $20 to $115. JM



This not a performance of “Richard III,” but rather a University of Rochester International Theatre production of “The African Company Presents Richard III,” by Carlyle Brown. The play is based on a true story about a group of Black American actors, The African Company, that in 1821 put on a performance of Shakespeare’s “Richard III.” A white theater owner who was staging the same show felt threatened and did everything he could to try to shut them down, raising the question of whom Shakespeare’s works belong to. The opening performance begins at 8 p.m. and general admission tickets are $15. Performances continue through March 4. JM


“The Palace of the Moorish Kings”

MuCCC, 142 Atlantic Ave.,


“Bored Teachers

Comedy Tour”

Kodak Center,

This touring show, which began last year as a creation of Bored Teachers, a website of memes, videos, hacks, and more about being a teacher, has gotten rave reviews from educators around the country who nod and laugh knowingly at bits about raging hormones, clogged toilets, and

When old friends of the Greatest Generation converge for turkey and football on Thanksgiving in 1970, they have settled (comfortably?) into middle age, conventional marriages, and predictable careers. Vaguely aware that the world their heroics helped shape was moving beyond them, the friends are forced to confront the choices they made and those they never knew they had when one of their globe-trotting peers phones to tell them he’s returning home after a lifetime of freedom and travel.

Produced by Out of Pocket theater company and directed by Kasi Krenzer Marshall, this play asks its audience to consider what we must accept to

PUZZLE ON PAGE 50. NO PEEKING! P 1 A 2 I 3 D 4 P 5 I 6 L 7 L 8 A 9 G 10 I 11 N 12 G 13 B 14 O 15 A 16 S 17 T 18 A 19 LOE A 20 SIA N 21 OLIE A 22 RRAY C 23 OWBO 24 YHAT D 25 OLPHI 26 NKICK S 27 TATUE R 28 ES 29 OD R 30 CA S 31 HE N 32 EE 33 P 34 RUS 35 S 36 IA T 37 ESS N 38 O 39 N 40 P 41 C N 42 C 43 A 44 A S 45 TIGMA 46 S E 47 AGLES 48 COUT E 49 IN E 50 XHO 51 R 52 T 53 S 54 TOA C 55 RUXES 56 L 57 UC 58 L 59 INEA N 60 B 61 AER A 62 C 63 ESIT 64 R 65 ENU S 66 T 67 A 68 BAT S 69 A 70 D 71 LOT R 72 RA 73 TING T 74 ES C 75 HI 76 EFJUSTI 77 CES N 78 EH P 79 ITC 80 HED R 81 ETTON A 82 HE 83 ART A 84 GHA D 85 EC 86 IDE L 87 O 88 SES T 89 EMPE 90 D 91 OC S 92 U 93 N 94 OCO Q 95 U 96 I 97 D 98 S 99 NARFS 100 C 101 AD 102 R 103 AVENO 104 USLY I 105 FOR 106 ONE A 107 SEA L 108 EASE J 109 A 110 W 111 S C 112 OASTA 113 L N 114 O 115 D A 116 RA V 117 AS R 118 USE 119 S 120 R 121 EA 122 L 123 M 124 S 125 B 126 ILL 127 CLIN 128 T 129 ON S 130 UP 131 ERBOWL B 132 ADPR N 133 OHIT A 134 RLO R 135 IAA A 136 LOSS S 137 TETS U 138 FOS A 139 SHY

belong and what we must abandon to stay free. The show runs from Feb. 17 to 25. Tickets range from $15 to $20. The curtain rises tonight at 7:30 p.m. DA


Hillside Drive behind School 15 or the softball fields between Norris Road and Interstate 490. NOELLE



Septura Brass Septet

Kilbourn Hall at Eastman School of Music,


“25 Years Through Movement and Space”

Ingle Auditorium at RIT,

The multifaceted Thomas Warfield, who is a dancer, musician, choreographer, and senior lecturer at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, is celebrating a quarter century at NTID. The milestone is being commemorated with this production that incorporates dance from his repertoire. A meditation on movement through space and time, the performance will present big themes of humanity, the universe, and creativity, expressed by students from the RIT Performing Arts Scholar program and NTID, as well as RIT DanceCore Ensemble. Catch the show Friday or Saturday, Feb. 24-25 at 7:30 p.m., or Sunday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 to $12. RR



Ultimate Frisbee

Cobbs Hill Park,

The Greater Rochester Area Disc Association hosts weekly ultimate frisbee pick-up games at 11 a.m. on Sundays at Cobbs Hill. Never mind that it’s February, this sport is surprisingly fun in the snow. The organization prefers to play the games at the Culver Road Field at the corner of Culver and Norris roads. Its backup fields are at the Tay House Field on

This seven-piece brass ensemble from England is classical music’s answer to the supergroup: each musician occupies or has occupied principal chairs in their respective orchestras, which include the London Symphony, the Royal Philharmonic, and the Basel Symphony. When the members of Septura arrive in Rochester, they’ll bring works by British composers Edward Elgar and Gerald Finzi along with American favorites George Gershwin and Aaron Copland, not to mention a world premiere. The group’s full arrangements and rich palette of sonic colors will make orchestral music lovers feel right at home. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $32 to $45. DK



Elvis Costello & The Imposters

State Theatre of Ithaca,  Sure, it’s a weekday trek to Ithaca, smack-dab in the middle of winter. But it’s Elvis Costello we’re talking about here. The rock ‘n’ roll songwriter is a living treasure, having released more than 25 studio albums since his career took off in the ’70s. His latest effort, last year’s “The Boy Named If,” has all the new-wave flair and quirky pop charisma we’ve come to expect from Costello, plus catchy, well-crafted tunes fleshed out by his backing band The Imposters. The allages show at the State Theatre starts at 8 p.m. Doors open an hour earlier. Tickets are $69 to $111. DK



“Every day, you just try to get a little bit better, . . . I’m starting early so by the time I retire this is all I’m doing.”



“When I was in high school I played varsity tennis, but then I hurt my back and I couldn’t cover the court anymore. The skills translated.”


“I love the diversity of it. A lot of different people are playing this game. Look around. Men, women, older, younger. Anyone can fit in.”


“If I don’t stretch, I’m going to fall apart. My knees. This sport kills your knees. There’s something about that.”


“My hairstylist told me about it and I said, ‘Isn’t that an old person’s sport?’ What’s funny is they have me running around and they just stand there doing their thing.”


“I love trying to receive a slam. I like slamming it, but I’d rather try to beat your slam.”


Everyone and their mother, er, grandmother, seems to be playing pickleball.What’s the draw, and is it really a workout?


“When I first got into it I thought I could hang with anybody. These 60-year-olds were humbling me like that. They were killing me.”


“For literally 30 years, I played basketball. When COVID hit, they shut down basketball. I stopped playing basketball and I haven’t looked back.”


“My sister got me a membership for Christmas. And I was like, ‘Annette, what is pickleball?’ I took a lesson and the very first shot I was like, ‘I’m in love.’”


“I play a finesse game. It’s being able to put the ball where everyone else can’t get to it, or I put spin on the ball and it makes it harder for people to hit.”


“I’m a tennis player. My wife introduced me to this game and I got addicted within minutes. The technique. The speed of the ball. The camaraderie. But mostly the ability to compete.”


“I love the competitiveness. It’s just a great game. I like to try to be at the net and dink the ball or surprise your opponent with a nice lob over the head.”


Four spicy dishes that’ll get you hot.


eads of sweat run down your forehead. Your face is flushed. Your stomach twists and turns. Could you be in love? Or are you reacting to a bite of spicy food? Maybe both.

Like being in love, the chemical reaction our bodies have to various spices, herbs, and chiles in different cuisines keep us coming back for more. Some people are culinary daredevils, heat-seekers always on the lookout for a


Thali of India

At Thali of India, almost every dish starts with tarka, a base of heated oil to which earthy spices such as cardamom, coriander, and cumin are added, which will be used to infuse flavor into the protein, veggies, and starches of the dish.

“This technique brings the spices to life,” said Ajay Singh, the son of Thali owner Sandeep Singh and a coowner of Naan-Tastic and Rebel Pi.

A vast array of fresh spices complements every dish at Thali of India, which specializes in recipes from the Northwestern Punjabi region.

mouth-numbing dish. Others shy away from the menu items with the pepper icon next to them.

If you can stand the heat, these four meals that you can order today will get you hot! Thali of India, Neno’s Gourmet Mexican, Khong Thai, and Thistle 122 guide us on a flavorful journey around the world, each providing insight and historical context behind their recipes and what they call “spicy.”

Tarka is used to make Thali’s menu item Kadai Chicken, which begins with a base of coriander, cloves, cardamom, cilantro, garlic, and fresh ginger cooked in oil, before bell peppers and tomatoes sautéed in a caramelized onion sauce, and chicken are added. The spicy heat comes from the addition of ground red pepper from India, which Singh said is far more potent than the flakes you shake onto a slice of pizza.

Singh recalls waking up to the smell of tarka throughout his childhood. He said that though he grew up in India and moved to the United States in 1999, he’s not personally a fan of “spice overload” and is conscious of this with his patrons. But upon special request, the chefs at Thali of India can, and will, turn up the heat.

A giant flame is cause for celebration in the Thali of India kitchen. PHOTOS BY JACOB WALSH The never-empty spice rack in the kitchen at Thali of India. The Kadai Chicken at Thali of India is topped with peppers and ginger.


Neno’s Gourmet Mexican

Jalapeño, ancho, chipotle, and poblano peppers are known across the culinary world due to their prevalence in Mexican food, and they are no strangers to Neno’s Gourmet Mexican owner Fidelio Rita Jr. and sous chef Martín Castillo.

Having grown up in the Mexican state of Guerrero, Castillo remembers having a side of hot salsa as a companion to almost every meal.

“I grew up loving spicy food and I found some customers do too,” Castillo said.

When he came to work at Neno’s, Castillo shared his family’s special spicy salsa recipe.

The flavorful culprit is the chile de arbol — so called for its resemblance to trees — which is actually just a dried serrano pepper. Serrano peppers are already regarded as hot when fresh, but when they’re dried, the flavor complexity and level of heat increase dramatically. As a reference point, the chile de arbol is six times hotter than a jalapeño pepper.

The hot salsa is made fresh daily and is popular with customers, who must specifically ask for it as an add-on for the tamer fare on the menu. But diner beware — just a small amount can raise the temperature and have you asking the server for water.

Get the salsa if you dare to complement the Chile Relleno, a dish that stars another pepper — the poblano. This milder pepper has a wide interior, making it perfect for packing with all kinds of good stuff. At Neno’s, the poblano is filled with chorizo, Monterey cheese, salsa roja, crema Mexicana, black beans, white rice, queso fresco, and cilantro.

The Chile Relleno at Neno’s features the mild poblano pepper, which can be kicked up with chef Castillo’s chile de arbol spicy salsa upon request. PHOTOS BY JACOB WALSH Above: Tacos get a healthy spoonful of hot sauce. Below: Chef Martín Castillo and owner Fidelio Rita Jr. You can’t go wrong with a trio of tacos from Neno’s.


Khong Thai

Every dish at Khong Thai is artfully made. The fresh herbs, spices, and vegetables make the meals into a vibrant rainbow.

But while bright colors in nature are pleasing, they also encourage caution, and these pretty dishes may surprise you with their heat.

The Thai red chili pepper, used in both fresh and powdered form, is what makes much of Thai cuisine spicy, explained Leang Nam, owner of Khong Thai. The pepper is probably best known in America in the form of Huy Fong Foods’ Sriracha Sauce, which is on every table at Khong Thai.

But Nam recommends a sauce made in Thailand that is not as overpowering in flavor and brings just the right amount of heat.

Throwing off the notion that a salad has to be boring, Khong Thai starter dish Kung Salat is a flavor adventure that infuses spicy, salty, and sour all into one platter. Shrimp tossed with roasted chili paste, lime leaves, shallots, mint, and cilantro, are served with a side of sticky rice that you’re encouraged to eat with your hands.

Another star of the menu is Choo Chee Pla, featuring crispy fried swai — a type of catfish with flaky white meat — that’s topped with red curry sauce and kaffir lime leaf, and served with mixed vegetables. This dish pops and the red curry draws its color and spicy flavor from fresh red Thai chilis. (To raise the heat for this dish, Nam suggests the chopped chilis with fish sauce, which she describes as “a bit more pungent for some people but it definitely elevates it and doesn’t kill the taste.”)

Top: The spicy, salty, sour Kung Salat.

Middle: Cripsy Choo Chee Pla.

Bottom: Spicy Minced Chicken with rice and an egg.


DUMPLINGS with a side of HOT SAUCE

Thistle 122

Thistle 122 is the culmination of Chefs Ricardo and Rachel Pina’s combined 30 years in the kitchen. They bring a passionate and thoughtful approach to a hyper-seasonal menu that’s constantly changing and evolving.

Like the restaurant itself, Chef Ricardo’s hot sauce recipe has been a work-in-progress since he was 12 years old and began working in his first kitchen in Augusta, Georgia. At that age, Ricardo took a stab at making hot sauce by copying ingredients off the label of a bottle of Texas Pete hot sauce.

“It was not good at all, I didn’t know what I was doing,” he recalled. Years later, through experimentation, he discovered the perfect technique to produce his hot sauce.

“I used the same base I was using to make pickles and tried to make hot sauce with it, and it came out amazing,” he said.

The recipe uses a combination of white and apple-cider vinegar, sugar, and a variety of dried and powdered chilis that include the Carolina reaper, habanero, and cayenne peppers.

An order of dumplings from the starter menu comes with a side of this hot sauce. The dumplings, like the steamed buns, are menu mainstays with filling that changes with the seasons. The current iteration comes with pork and shrimp, charred leek, and lemongrass oil, quick-fried and delicious. A dab of hot sauce and the dish really makes your taste buds dance.

Ricardo maintains that what makes his hot sauce equal parts palatable, spicy, and complimentary to the restaurant’s dumplings and steamed buns is that he doesn’t water it down. Chilis contain the oil capsaicin, the active component that creates the spicy sensation. Without water, the hot sauce at Thistle hits the buds in a localized and pleasant way, without spreading and having a prolonged sense of heat.

Top: Chef Ricardo and his hot peppers.

Bottom left: Dumplings, quick-fried and delicious.

Bottom right: Chef Ricardo's hot sauce.



Five supremely chill restaurants for a meal solo.

We’re past the holiday season’s crush of gatherings, and if you’re like me, you may feel a little peopled-out. Gray weather blahs and start-of-the-year chaos can make grumps of the best of us. When you need a little break from the cacophony of humanity, pockets of peace are sacred.

Here, we spotlight five supremely chill restaurants where you can enjoy a good meal solo, and post up and read or just zone out while you dine. No televisions anchored to walls. No parties of 20. Serenity ensured.

Petit Poutinerie

44 Elton St., Brunch, lunch, and dinner

Though this small, French cafeinspired restaurant has its lunch rushes and other busy times (read: brunch!), much of its business is carry-out, meaning it’s a good bet for lingering in peace. When you catch the Poutinerie during a slow moment, grab a seat at the bar, bask in the generous sunlight streaming through the windows, and rest your eyes on the rosy decor and floral accents. There is prosecco on tap and the staff can make a custom-flavored soda on request.

Arguably, there’s no food more purely comforting than poutine, which is on the menu in ever-expanding creative variations.

BITE Rochester

90 S. Clinton Ave.,

Breakfast and lunch

Despite being in the center of downtown, it’s easy to forget there’s a bustling city around you when you’re seated at a round high-top in the airy


glass cube of BITE Rochester. Even on rainy days — maybe especially on rainy days — it’s a calm and cheerful oasis where you can nosh while gazing through the massive windows at the high rises, or people-watch. The fare — burgers, tacos, wraps, and breakfast items, as well as coffee, tea, and smoothies — is satisfying and includes health-minded options.

$5 a la carte items, from stewed and spiced vegetables to gnocchi (Ethiopia was an Italian colony, so there’s some influence). The dining room best serves pairs rather than large parties, so solo diners have relative peace. Oh, and it’s BYOB, with no corkage fee.


16 Gibbs St.,


When you think of Java’s you think of coffee and tea, right? Try the sandwiches. You can place your order at the counter to go, but if you’ve got a minute to spare, dining solo at one of the two-tops in the tearoom is a sweet experience. Sure, there’s a lot of foot traffic on Gibbs, but the tearoom — which, true to its name, has an entire wall of drawers with loose tea to choose from — is somehow much calmer than the caffeinated energy of the adjoining cafe. A favored lunch spot for Eastman School of Music students and staff, artists, and hipsters, the place’s entire vibe is both cultured and chill. Soups, sides, and salads supplement the sandwiches, and menus items change regularly with some mainstays.

Natural Oasis

288 Monroe Ave.,

Lunch and dinner

One of the most reasonably priced and filling lunch buffets in town is at the Ethiopian eatery Natural Oasis, which is available for dine-in or take out. But the menu that really shines is offered at dinnertime. It includes


1054 S. Clinton Ave.,


Tucked a small distance from the main bustle of the South Wedge and Swillburg — but within walking distance to bars and shopping — is Shiki, a Japanese restaurant serving sushi, sashimi, teriyaki, and tempura, as well as a variety of Japanese beers and sake. There are nights where the entryway has a cluster of diners waiting for a free table. But no matter how busy the place gets, conversation decibels never reach obnoxious levels. Many diners choose to fly solo at Shiki, reading newspapers or scrolling while enjoying soup, salad, and sushi platters. And there’s something so cozy about the ritual of receiving a hot, steaming towel to clean up before you dine.



The quickest way to the heart is through the stomach.” “Cooking is love made visible.” “The people who give you their food give you their heart.”

There are scores of sayings about food and love, and for good reason. Cooking for someone not only shows that you care for their well-being and comfort, it can also be intimate and vulnerable. Beyond breaking bread, when we prepare and share a meal, we let others have a taste of our heritage, the flavors we favor, and the skills we’ve taken time to hone.

This holds tr ue for chef couple

Lizzie Clapp and Dan Martello. Though their work revolves around food — she co-owns Petit Poutinerie and he co-owns Restaurant Good Luck, the Jackrabbit Club, and Lucky’s — preparing a meal for one another, for their young daughter, and for friends and family is a major part of how they express love.

The pair enjoy entertaining in their Fairport home, which became easier after they remodeled their kitchen last year.

“ We captured Thanksgiving,” Clapp said. “Both our sides come together, which is really fun. Everybody always brings something

— Dan’s mom is an amazing cook. My mom is an amazing baker.”

There were cocktails, multiple courses, then chestnuts, fruits, desserts, and espresso.

To give an idea of the party size, Martello cooked three turkeys. “I roast one, I smoke one, and then I do one on the rotisserie,” he said.

Making a heartfelt meal for one another can be a necessarily simple matter for two busy adults with thriving businesses and a child at home.

Clapp said that she fell asleep early on New Year’s Eve with their daughter, Ada, and by the time she came back downstairs she had missed midnight.

“But he made these beautiful little ravioli,” she said of Martello.

“And we had a nice bottle of wine. You gotta keep that hidden bottle for just each other, right? Just for that last minute, ‘Oh, Grandma’s-gonnakeep-her-overnight’ occasion that you don’t expect. We don’t really plan a lot of date nights. But when they pop up, they’re special.”

But even a chef couple — maybe especially a chef couple — has nights when they don’t want to fuss in the kitchen at home. Clapp said that on those nights, “a rotisserie chicken and salad situation” is ideal.

“Getting a chicken, breaking it up

How do a couple of chefs express love? With food, of course.

and throwing it in a salad, or getting a ramen kit and putting it in there, or making quesadillas,” Clapp said. “Dan’s mother hosts at least once a week, and that’s always like a fivecourse, full-on Italian situation, and then we have leftovers at least one day of the week.”

The family also has playful and easy finger-food charcuterie nights and indoor picnics, but cooking at home took on an even sweeter significance when they began including Ada, who is 3, in the process of preparing meals.

“It’s the whole sensory thing, right?” Clapp said. “They just want to be involved, they just want to be next to you doing the thing you’re doing.”

Ada is an enthusiastic and focused helper, and her parents let her assist with all stages of cooking, including letting her choose foods while shopping.

She’s hands-on while they prepare ingredients and make the meals, from stripping herbs from stems to cutting cherry tomatoes while mom holds them and guides the knife, breaking eggs, mixing ingredients, sautéing garlic, and supervising while dad flips an omelet (their current go-to meal to make together).

Special touches include crisping parmesan cheese in oil before putting the eggs in the pan and adding Ada’s favorite snack: frozen peas.

“I love fries, obviously,” Clapp said with a laugh, a nod to her restaurant, which specializes in the Canadian cuisine of French fries, cheese curds, and gravy. “So we make a lot of wedges at home, and they go perfectly with the omelet.”

These kitchen lessons impart taste and cooking skills, but are also teaching Ada confidence, caution, exploration, and other important skills.

Martello’s advice for cooking with toddlers and little kids is that patience is key to success.

“Let them contribute and have fun even if they make a mess,” he said. “It can’t be too rigid or it’s no fun.”

That’s love.

Ada cracks eggs, strips herbs, and mixes ingredients for an omelet under the supervision of her mom and dad. PHOTOS BY JACOB WALSH



1. Took care of the check

5. Medication that might be tough to swallow

9. Getting on in years

14. Brag

19. Plant additive in many hand sanitizers

20. Where Vietnam is

21. “It’s the truth!”

22. Grouping, as of stars or hard drives

23. ** Accessory for a Woody doll

25. ** Olympic swimmer’s underwater technique

27. Many a removed Confederate monument

28. Put grass back in

30. Color TV pioneer

31. Female pronoun

32. Word before a former name

34. Historical Baltic region

37. “_____ of the d’Urbervilles”

38. Not up to current standards of decency

42. March Madness org.

45. Marks of shame

47. ** Achievement that requires at least 21 merit badges

49. German article

50. Encourage vociferously

54. Greek portico

55. Hearts of the matter

57. Jean-_____ Picard

59. Top blank of an IRS form

60. Laker or Celtic, e.g.

62. Gets an A on

65. Brand name on a contact lens cleaner bottle

66. Take a _____ (make an attempt)

69. Pathetic group

72. MPAA classification for “Nope”

74. Your, to Yvette

75. ** John Jay and John Roberts, for two

78. Bib. book after Ezra

79. Proposed in a marketing meeting

81. Gymnast who was the first woman to appear on a Wheaties box

82. Have _____ (show kindness)

84. Turkish title

85. Make a call

87. Comes up short

89. Home of Arizona State University

91. Inits. printed on an inmate’s shirt

92. Mobil competitor

95. British pound, informally

99. Wolfs (down)

101. Software for an eng.

103. ** Voraciously

Answers to this puzzle can be found on page 38

105. “Personally…”

107. Sailing

108. Rental agreement

109. Vise parts

112. Like some areas prone to flooding

114. Doze (off)

116. Notre Dame coach Parseghian

117. Military hospitals, briefly

118. Deceptions

121. Kingdoms

126. ** Former president who published a NYT crossword in 2017

130. Contest likely to feature athletes hidden at the start of the answers to the italicized clues

132. Negative media coverage, in brief

133. Like seven Nolan Ryan games

134. Folk singer Guthrie

135. Org. that fought Napster

136. At ___ for words

137. Reverses, as a deletion

138. Alien transports

139. Like spent charcoal

1234 5678 9 10111213 1415161718 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 2829 30 31 3233 34 3536 37 38394041 424344 45 46 47 48 49 50 515253 54 55 56 5758 59 6061 6263 64 65 666768 697071 7273 74 7576 77 78 79 80 81 8283 84 8586 8788 89 90 91 929394 95969798 99 100 101102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109110111 112 113 114115 116 117 118 119120 121122123124125 126 127 128129 130131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139


1. Candidate fundraising grps.

2. Quite a bit

3. State bordering both the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers

4. Amount owed

5. Check casher

6. Approximately, informally

7. Perjurer

8. Running behind

9. Rogue One prequel

10. Put to _____

11. Unwell

12. Puppy bite

13. Yankees great born Heinrich Ludwig, anglicized to Henry Louis

14. Australian actor Eric who starred in “Black Hawk Down” and “Hulk”

15. Fictional sitcom planet that rhymes with its fictional resident

16. Get out of bed

17. Goldman’s banking partner

18. Little ones

24. 1/16 of a pint

26. Start of Caesar’s 14-Across

29. Flood of successive events

33. Ink: Fr.

35. The point of some formal wear?

36. Nasal cavity

37. Concert merch item

38. Mario Bros. console

39. Vegan “milk” source

40. Greenpeace, e.g., for short

41. Backup option

43. Offering from a college or a fancy restaurant

44. Cord requested by someone with a playlist to share

46. Slash’s bandmate

48. Raked over the coals

51. “_____ million” (So you’re telling me there’s a chance!)

52. Jeremy of “The Hurt Locker”

53. Engaged in some pedagogy

56. Military greetings

58. Magazine fig.

61. German composer who was orphaned at age 10

63. Price

64. Traitor’s crime

66. Irish holiday, colloquially

67. Model/cookbook author Chrissy

68. Respiratory condition experienced by both Bono and David Beckham

70. Algerians and Egyptians

71. Spun some wax

73. Tennis great Arthur

76. Picked out of a lineup

77. Head over heels

80. Calf-length pants

83. In the style of: suffix

86. Drink after sledding

88. View from a beach resort

90. Gee preceder

93. Eurasian range

94. “Illmatic” rapper

96. “The Star-Spangled Banner” land

97. They: Fr.

98. Easter egg coloring

100. LA’s region

102. Motown

104. Like Venus Williams, to Serena

106. Treats a violin bow

109. Tubby Star Wars villain

110. Helvetica knock off

111. Hidden character in children’s books

113. Mothers’ sisters

115. Little sandwiches for dessert

117. Some old tape players, briefly

119. Isaac’s firstborn

120. Catch a wave

122. Magic trick starter

123. Lane in Metropolis

124. Sound of an air kiss

125. Kill, as a dragon

127. 33 1/3 r.p.m. records

128. “Just kidding!”

129. Not just any

131. Arafat’s grp.