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NEWS. ARTS. LIFE. | MAY 2021 | FREE | SINCE 1971 PUBLIC LIVES

THEATER

AROUND TOWN

BIJAYA KHADKA IS THE VOICE FOR ROCHESTER’S REFUGEES

THE JCC’S CENTERSTAGE TAKES THE SHOW OUTSIDE

POP-UP BOOKSTORES ARE BRINGING THE WORD

CIL N U O C Y C I L O P FOOD W E N ’S R E T S E H CAN ROC A MP ? W S D O O F ’S Y T I D R A IN T H E C


INBOX WANNA SAY SOMETHING? CITY wants to hear you rant and rave. Your feedback must . . . . . . be no more than 250 words . . . respond to CITY content . . . be engaging CITY reserves the right to edit for accuracy, length, and readability.

Send your rants and raves to: feedback@rochester-citynews.com

CITY, 280 State St., Rochester, NY 14614 (ATTN: Feedback)

CONGRATULATIONS, BUT . . . I’ve been intending to congratulate you on your new CITY. It sparkles, it radiates energy, and is full of color and creativity. Congratulations, too, on your “Weed the People” cover and articles in the April edition. The pieces certainly raised some interesting issues and, for me, many questions. One article stated that Black people have been disproportionately arrested for marijuana use more in Monroe County than in any other county in New York. Why? What has happened in states that have legalized weed? Are the stoners running into each other? Have hospitals seen an increase in mental health admissions? How has legalization affected criminal activity and alcohol sales? David Worl, Perinton

Join the fight to keep our essential local coverage alive & thriving. Learn more about becoming a CITY Champion at roccitynews.org

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MAY 2021

MAY, 2021 Vol 49 No 9 On the cover: Illustration by Ryan Williamson 280 State Street Rochester, New York 14614 feedback@rochester-citynews.com phone (585) 244-3329 roccitynews.org PUBLISHER Rochester Area Media Partners LLC, Norm Silverstein, chairman FOUNDERS Bill and Mary Anna Towler EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT themail@rochester-citynews.com Editor: David Andreatta News editor: Jeremy Moule Staff writer: Gino Fanelli Arts editor: Daniel J. Kushner Life editor: Rebecca Rafferty Calendar editor: Katherine Stathis Contributing writers:

J. Nevadomski, Veronica Volk CREATIVE DEPARTMENT artdept@rochester-citynews.com Creative director: Ryan Williamson Designer/Photographer: Jacob Walsh

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Stay in our corner this year.

NEWS. ARTS. LIFE.

ADVERTISING DEPARTMENT ads@rochester-citynews.com Sales manager: Alison Zero Jones Advertising consultant/ Project manager: David White

DON’T FORGET THE KIDS Good pot coverage (“Weed the People,” April 2021), but THC in the developing brain of our Rochester youth is not a positive thing. Omitting the medical/ scientific point of view and the detrimental aspects of this topic from your coverage is misleading. Had it been a sudden free market on legalizing broccoli, there would be no need to talk about potential harm more in depth. Studies cited by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that about 9 percent of marijuana users become dependent on the drug and that that number rises to about 17 percent in people who start using it in their teens. That is no small thing. Potency levels are very high and that is not good for the teen brain, which is not fully developed until around age 25. Paul Swiatek, Rochester

OPERATIONS/CIRCULATION Operations manager: Ryan Williamson Circulation manager: Katherine Stathis kstathis@rochester-citynews.com 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.

WHERE’S THE CREATIVITY? CITY’s coverage of the legalization of cannabis in New York was great. But could you really not think of a better pun for the cover than “Weed the People”? Not only has that been done before, but it’s not specific to Rochester or even New York. What about “Potchester” or “585=420”? Come on, we’re the Flower City! Eve Brewer, Rochester

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.

CITY: Why didn't we think of that? Maybe we weren't high enough? @ROCCITYNEWS


WELCOME

Why not a Rochester Department of Food?

I

f you’re like most people, you spend more time thinking about your next meal than anything else. We come by it naturally. It’s not a stretch to say that sustenance has occupied the minds of humans more than any other subject since we began walking upright. But while most people casually contemplate where they’ll stop for lunch or what they’ll fix for dinner, tens of thousands of people in our community are wondering when they’ll eat again and whether that meal will be enough to sustain them. In normal times, about 11 percent of households in Monroe County are what is known as “food insecure,” meaning their access to food that is sufficient to maintain a healthy lifestyle is either limited or uncertain. That figure has shot up to top 14 percent during the pandemic. The problem is particularly acute in Rochester, where prior to the pandemic the city’s rate of food insecurity topped every metro area in the state at 26 percent, according to Feeding America, a nonprofit network of more than 200 food banks across the country. Meanwhile, a diet of junk food fueled in part by the flight of supermarkets from the city and a proliferation of corner stores that advertise cigarettes, beer, and lottery tickets as prominently as they do their meager stock of “groceries” is contributing to high rates of obesity, diabetes, and cardiac disease, predisposing many to complications from COVID-19. Food policy analysts have for years complained that food is not a national policy priority. In the absence of leadership, localities have stepped up to create food policy councils that function independently of government but serve to advise policy makers on how to improve the food system. Advocates liken them to a “Department of Food.” Rochester is about to get its own “Department of Food” with the formation of a Rochester Food Policy Council that is expected to get the greenlight from City Council this month. In this edition, CITY explores not only what food policy councils do and how officials at City Hall are turning their attention to food systems and healthy living, but also how the home of Wegmans and a robust public market became the food swamp it is today. Heavy stuff, yes. But important, too. Like any good diet, though, your media diet should be balanced. If you dig in, you’ll find all kinds of desserts — from Rebecca Rafferty’s double scoop on the local explosion in home bakeries and the JCC CenterStage taking its summer and fall theater seasons outdoors, to Gino Fanelli’s interviews with the voice of Rochester’s “New Americans” and the local stargazers who are behind the spike in reported U.F.O. sightings in New York. Then, relax with a feature on Schittin Good Coffee, a new local brand inspired by a bout of pregnancy-induced constipation. We aim to enlighten as much as entertain. As always, we thank you for reading and your support.

David Andreatta, Editor

Thoughts? Tell us at feedback@rochester-citynews.com

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IN THIS ISSUE OPENING SHOT

The city announced in April that Rochester's favorite gravel pit, Parcel 5 will become a public green space while it awaits development. PHOTO BY RYAN WILLIAMSON

NEWS

6

ON THE COVER

HUNGRY FOR CHANGE

12

ARTS

LIFE

22

40

Rochester launches a food policy council to combat food inequality in the city.

Jon Lewis exudes a playful, everyman vibe as the frontman for FRAN.

BY DAVID ANDREATTA

BY DANIEL J. KUSHNER

HOW DOES YOUR URBAN GARDEN GROW?

26

City Hall re-examines the policies that have kept urban gardens in the Flower City from flowering. BY JEREMY MOULE

16

FRAN’S ‘DAD ROCK’ IS GOOD, CLEAN FUN

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE UNIDENTIFIED KIND

U.F.O. sightings in New York nearly doubled in 2020. Meet the Rochester stargazers who called them in.

BY GINO FANELLI

44

How a bout of constipation led Kate and Kyle Korman to start Schittin Good Coffee.

BY GINO FANELLI

MORE NEWS, ARTS, AND LIFE INSIDE

AN ACCUSED WOULD-BE ART THIEF GOES TO COURT

George Haag faces seven years in prison for allegedly trying to steal from the MAG. Everyone just wants him to get the help they think he needs. BY DAVID ANDREATTA

RANDOM ROCHESTER:

GOOD TO THE LAST PLOP

BY REBECCA RAFFERTY

36

BIJAYA KHADKA BUILDS THE AMERICA HE DREAMED OF

Born in a refugee camp and once disillusioned with Rochester, he now chairs the city’s New Americans Advisory Council.

TAKE IT OUTSIDE

The JCC CenterStage found a workaround to state audience limits for indoor theater under a giant outdoor tent.

PUBLIC LIVES:

BY DAVID ANDREATTA

46

SWEET TOOTH EXPLOSION

The number of home-based bakeries in Monroe County shot up 40 percent in the last year. BY REBECCA RAFFERTY roccitynews.org

CITY 5


NEWS

DRAINING THE FOOD SWAMP

Black Lives Matter activists protested in front of Wegmans on East Avenue in Rochester on March 23 to mark the one-year anniversary of Daniel Prude’s fatal encounter with city police. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

Hungry for change Rochester’s new Food Policy Council aims to drain the city’s “food swamp” and end “food apartheid” BY DAVID ANDREATTA

O

@DAVID_ANDREATTA

n the anniversary of Daniel Prude’s fatal encounter with Rochester police, scores of demonstrators marched east from downtown to take over the parking lot at the East Avenue Wegmans, eventually prompting the store to close for the day. “Wegmans exemplifies what’s wrong in our community,” Justin Morris, president of the Rochester Chapter of the Arc of Justice, a grassroots group for social change, said at the protest. Around him, demonstrators wrote

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DANDREATTA@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

Black Lives Matter slogans in chalk on the asphalt as Wegmans workers locked themselves and shoppers behind the store’s glass doors.   “Wegmans started in the innercity, in some of our most vulnerable communities, then they got their check and left,” Morris said. “There is no reason why Danny Wegman is having so much success, but in the city we have food deserts.” Nearly every neighborhood in Rochester is what is commonly called a food desert, a now outdated term

adopted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to describe a low-income area with few places where residents can easily buy healthy food.   But Rochester is really more of what food policy analysts are nowadays calling a “food swamp,” an urban area with an abundance of food that is unhealthy and where healthy food is hard to find or afford. The result is what they call “food apartheid” — systemic unequal access to nutritious food that is grounded in man-made structural inequities of income,

education, and race. In reflecting on his remarks a month later, Morris acknowledged that stamping Rochester with the food desert label oversimplifies what has happened here since Wegmans crushed its competition in the city and all but pulled out more than a generation ago. “What we have now are corner stores,” he said. “They put up these fly-by-night menus and they’re all the same — fried chicken, steak subs, and French fries. That’s universally on every corner in Rochester.”


“They have almost no healthy options,” Morris went on. “If there is one, it’s usually a rotten banana.” Untangling the complicated web of structural inequities that has degraded access to healthy foods is what Rochester hopes to accomplish with the introduction of a Food Policy Council, which is expected to be approved by City Council in May. City officials, food policy analysts, and activists hungry for change have been devising the structure of the new Food Policy Council for the better part of a year through a series of virtual meetings that concluded in April. The sessions, jointly hosted by representatives of the city, Common Ground Health, and Foodlink, were attended by hundreds of city residents.  “There has been a tremendous interest in this,” said Mike Bulger, of Common Ground Health. “This is something that people in Rochester have been talking about for decades. We’re not proposing anything that we need to convince everyone is needed. I think there’s a — pun intended — big appetite for this.”

‘DEPARTMENT OF FOOD’ Food policy councils have been around for about 40 years, with the first having been introduced in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1982. Today, they’re everywhere, with more than 300 nationwide, according to the Food Policy Networks of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. There are eight in New York, including in Buffalo, Syracuse, and Long Island. These councils are typically initiated by local governments through acts of legislation or executive order, but they are not another level of government in most cases. They are usually run by volunteers and function separate from local government, but act as advisors to policy makers. Advocates like to think of them as an outside “Department of Food.” The council envisioned for Rochester, for instance, will include 13 members, including 10 city residents and three administrators representing the city, Common Ground Health, and Foodlink, which are to provide staff support for the council’s operations. The council is to be funded by a $100,000 Healthy Cities and Counties Challenge grant. Members are tasked with bringing together stakeholders from every sector of the food system — production, consumption, distribution, and

Carolyn Miller, left, helps Melody Hickman, 59, pick out a mango during Foodlink’s Curbside Market visit to Kennedy Towers. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

waste — and coming up with ways to increase access to and the consumption of healthy foods. That could mean building bridges between government, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector. Or it could mean nudging government to enact policies aimed at enhancing healthy food options for city residents. For instance, in Fort Worth, Texas, the county food policy council had a hand in pushing the city to pass an ordinance last year banning the development of new dollar stores within two miles of existing ones and requiring new ones to devote 10 percent of their floor space to fresh produce, meat, and dairy products. Another example could be found in Baltimore. The food policy council there recently helped devise a partnership between the city and the ride-sharing service Lyft to subsidize transportation to grocery stores for residents of some lowincome neighborhoods. New York City is one of the few localities whose food policy council is part of city government. A few months ago the Office of Food Policy unveiled a 10-year plan dubbed Food Forward NYC that outlined a framework for a more equitable and sustainable food system.  Mark Winne, a senior advisor to the Food Policy Networks, is considered by

Foodlink’s Curbside Market offers fresh fruits and vegetables at prices well below most grocery stores. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

some in the industry to be the godfather of food policy councils and advised the players behind Rochester’s council. He was behind one of the earliest councils in Hartford, Connecticut, where, like Rochester, supermarkets had largely abandoned the city for the suburbs. The Hartford Advisory Commission on Food Policy prodded the local transit authority to restructure its routes to accommodate city residents who wanted to get to those grocery stores in the suburbs but had limited access to transportation.

“There’s a tendency to come up with one solution but you need multiple interventions working around things like food choices, food prices, transportation,” Winne said. “It’s more like ‘surround sound.’” “When talking about food deserts, the first place we think to go is to put in a grocery store,” he went on. “That really isn’t enough.”

CONTINUED ON PAGE 8

roccitynews.org

CITY 7


LESSONS FROM CONSTANTINO’S Rochester learned the hard way that quenching a so-called food desert isn’t as simple as dropping a grocery store in the neighborhood. Recall the cautionary tale of Constantino’s Market, a Cleveland-based grocery store that came to Mt. Hope Avenue in College Town in 2015 and closed 10 months later for lack of business. The neighborhood had been designated a food desert after Wegmans closed its store on Mt. Hope in 2003, reversing course on a previously announced expansion there. The food desert label meant federal subsidies were available to grocers willing to move into the neighborhood. In the case of Constantino’s, some $748,000 was given to the nonprofit Action for a Better Community to loan to Constantino’s at a discount rate in exchange for the grocer hiring 15 to 20 workers from low-income backgrounds. The market was upscale — and so were its prices. Staple items like bread, milk, and juice were 20-, 30-, and 50-percent higher at Constantino’s than the next closest grocery store, a Tops, located about 2 miles away just over the city limits in Brighton. Ultimately, taxpayers were left holding the bag.  The lesson to be learned from Constantino’s, said City Councilmember Mitch Gruber, was not that neighborhood residents didn’t want a grocery store. The lesson, he said, was that supermarkets whose business models don’t have room for low profit margins won’t stick around. “The problem was misdiagnosed,” said Gruber, a member of the Rochester Food Policy Council planning team. “The problem is we have certain parts of our community that for various reasons have not been able to sustain a for-profit grocery store.” To that end, an experiment taking place in the rural town of Baldwin, Florida, is intriguing to Gruber. There, when the only grocery store closed three years ago, the town government opened its own. All of the store’s employees, from butchers to cashiers, are on the municipal payroll. Unlike private supermarkets, the goal of the Baldwin Market isn’t to make a profit. It is to break even and keep the store running to accommodate the town’s 1,600 residents who would otherwise have to drive 10 miles to the nearest supermarket. But breaking even is not easy in a business with notoriously low profit margins. Residents have reportedly complained of higher-thanaverage prices at Baldwin Market, and the town council has hinted that it will pull the plug if the store proves to be a financial drain. “I don’t think something like that could work in Rochester,” Gruber said. “That’s a unique thing for a rural community. But I do think the same practices and principles can work here.” 8 CITY

MAY 2021

1933

HART’S

Hart’s once dominated Rochester’s grocery scene, with 121 locations across the city during the Great Depression. MAP DATA EXTRACTED FROM "THE DEGRADATION OF THE FOOD RETAIL LANDSCAPE," GRUBER, 2017

HOW THE HOME OF WEGMANS BECAME A FOOD SWAMP There is no one in Rochester closer to the intersection of food policy and potential municipal intervention in the food system than Gruber, who in addition to sitting on the City Council is the chief strategy and partnerships officer at Foodlink. He said Foodlink has been noodling the concept of a mission-driven grocery store, where, like the municipal-run supermarket in Florida, profits are secondary to servicing a community in need. The idea, along with the creation of a food policy council, was something he advocated for in a dissertation he wrote four years ago for his doctoral degree in history from the University of Rochester. The 250-page paper explores what he called the “degradation of the food retail landscape” in Rochester by tracing the flight of Rochester’s foremost grocers from the city limits. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to know how Rochester became the food swamp it is today. Early in the last century, according to Gruber, the Public Market was the funnel for nearly all food that flowed in and out of the city. Private grocers, of which there were many, procured their daily stock there. Municipal officials managed the operation, oversaw

the weights and measures, and inspected the food. That began to change, according to Gruber, in the mid-1920s, when the prominent grocers of the day, including Hart’s, A&P, and Flickinger’s, effectively privatized the food funnel by building their own warehouses as a way to assert more control over their inventory. Hart’s won the grocery chain war, growing to 121 locations in Rochester by 1933 — twice as many stores as any of its competitors and almost four locations per square mile. When managing that many stores cut into profits by the 1940s, however, the stratification of the food landscape by class and neighborhood began. Hart’s began experimenting with the then new concept of “supermarkets,” opening larger stores it branded as Star Supermarkets, mostly in suburbs that were quickly becoming populated by white middleclass families leaving the city, and closing smaller Hart’s locations in the city, where low-income Black families were migrating from the South. By 1955, there were 36 Star Supermarkets and 28 Hart’s stores in and around Rochester. Hart’s eventually converted all of its stores to Star Supermarkets, and when Wegmans began to expand in earnest, it followed the same model, according to Gruber.


1979

STAR WEGMANS

At the dawn of the 1980s, Star and Wegmans accounted for nearly three-quarters of all grocery sales in Rochester and collectively ran 28 stores in the suburbs and just 17 in the city. When Star went out of business in 1982 after falling to Wegmans in a “coupon war,” Wegmans owned 60 percent of the grocery market share and accelerated the closing of city stores to open new ones in the suburbs and beyond. By 2007, the East Avenue Wegmans was the last of the chain in the city. The company now has 104 locations across seven states, including 17 in Monroe County. The void of supermarkets in Rochester has been filled to some extent by the likes of Tops, and the limited-assortment grocery stores of Price Rite and Aldi’s. But the vacuum was mostly filled by the proliferation of corner stores whose signage advertise cigarettes, beer, and lottery tickets as prominently as they do groceries.

Top: By 1979, Star Supermarkets and Wegmans accounted for nearly three-quarters of all grocery sales in Rochester and collectively ran 28 stores in the suburbs and 17 in the city. Bottom: While Wegmans remains the dominant grocery store chain in the Rochester area today, it has just one store in the city. Competitors have moved to fill the void.

2021

ALDI PRICERITE TOPS WALMART WEGMANS

SOLUTIONS Some initiatives have been taken to enhance food access and level the playing field in poor Rochester neighborhoods. After the protest shut down its East Avenue store, Wegmans issued a statement saying it stands for diversity and inclusion for all, and noting that the company has “spent over $150 million dollars educating, training and developing folks in need in the Rochester community.” Wegmans runs weekly shuttles from low-income apartment buildings to its suburban stores. But, as people who use them pointed out, the service requires that they plan their shopping around the shuttle schedule. It is not always convenient for Troy Mitsuda, 60, who lives in the Kennedy Tower on South Plymouth Avenue. He has no car and relies on a bus to get to his preferred Wegmans in Henrietta. The journey is a two-hour round trip. CONTINUED ON PAGE 10

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CITY 9


Luvene Ford, the president of the Keeler Park Apartments tenant association, and a member of the Rochester Food Policy Council planning team, said nutrition education and access to healthy foods are keys to draining the city's food swamp. PHOTO BY DAVID ANDREATTA

He described his travels while picking up a handful of items at a Foodlink Curbside Market, a mobile market stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables that stops for an hour at his building once a week. The mobile market, which was developed by Gruber as a solution to food inequity, has been running since 2013 and services sites in six counties, including housing complexes, senior centers, health clinics, and community centers in Rochester. Melody Hickman, 59, a Kennedy Tower resident, said she shops at the mobile market every week. But that hasn’t changed her desire for a neighborhood grocery store.   “All we need around here is a grocery store,” said Hickman, who bought some avocados from the Foodlink truck. “That’s all anyone talks about — a grocery store and a laundry mat. But we need a grocery store the most.” There is a growing body of 10 CITY MAY 2021

evidence, however, that merely plonking down a supermarket in a so-called food desert does little to improve the overall health of residents. Research published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in 2019 studied grocery store purchases of 10,000 households in neighborhoods nationwide that had been labeled food deserts and had gotten a grocery store. What researchers found was that not only did the households buy

fewer healthy foods than people in wealthier neighborhoods, but also that they bought the same groceries at the new store that they had been buying all along. In other words, giving poor people easier access to healthy foods doesn’t mean they’ll buy them. The cost of food, combined with people’s eating habits, were much more influential than convenience. For example, those avocados Hickman bought at the Foodlink mobile market sold for 75 cents apiece. A suburban Wegmans on the same day was asking $1.49 for each. The same pattern was discovered by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2015. Researchers there found that no more than a tenth of the variation in the food people bought could be explained by the availability of a nearby grocery store.  Education, the researchers found, was more predictive of food

purchases. The purchases of shoppers with lower levels of income and education living in neighborhoods with more accessible healthy food, mimicked that of low-income, less educated people in poorer neighborhoods. And the reverse was true, too. Those findings did not surprise Luvene Ford, the tenant association president at Keeler Park Apartments on Hudson Avenue in northeast Rochester and a member of the Food Policy Council planning team. She sees developing nutrition education as central to the goals of the council, of which she hopes to be a part as a full-fledged member in the coming months.  “It’s education and access,” Ford said. “Some people don’t have the transportation. They can take the shuttle or the bus, but I mean, how many groceries can you really carry on a bus?”


roccitynews.org CITY 11


NEWS

GROWTH MARKET

Marketview Heights resident Ashley Smith wants to convert a vacant lot on Mona Street into a community garden. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

CITY, CITY, QUITE CONTRARY, HOW DOES YOUR URBAN GARDEN GROW? BY JEREMY MOULE

W

@JFMOULE

here many in the Marketview Heights neighborhood saw problems with the vacant, cityowned lot at the corner of Forester and Mona streets, Ashley Smith saw promise. The 6,700-square feet of nothing had sat idle for years, a monument to a broad lack of investment in the neighborhood. But Smith envisioned a community garden that she believed would beautify the block, instill pride, and put healthy food on the tables of her neighbors.

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JMOULE@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

“It’s just vacant and all it does is get mowed,” said Smith, a mother of three. “But there’s so much potential to have areas for children to read books and even go and do your homework. Just a safe space with flowers and gardens.” But building a viable community garden takes more than a shovel and seeds. It takes seed money. While the city would allow Smith to begin gardening on the lot for a single-season, it would not grant her the long-term

permit she needed to apply for a federal grant that would help her get her garden off the ground. Current city policy limits the issuance of long-term permits — up to five years — to garden on city-owned land to nonprofit organizations that have been gardening for at least three years and can secure a $1 million insurance policy. The city has only given out two such permits. As urban agriculture has expanded in Rochester, activists and growers have

frequently run into obstacles imposed by city policies around community gardens and small-scale farms. Smith’s experience is just one example of how the complex demands of City Hall can derail a project. But as residents and neighborhoods have come to see the value of urban agriculture in Rochester, so have city officials. In January, Mayor Lovely Warren announced an initiative intended to address city policies and practices around urban agriculture. Among the


policies to be revisited are those around permits for gardening city lots. The initiative, RocCity HomeGrown, aims to make fresh, healthy foods more available in neighborhoods where they’re hard to come by, and to give families opportunities to either lower their food costs by growing their own or to earn income by selling what they grow. Lomax Campbell, director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Wealth Building, described the effort as “an economic empowerment agenda” that combines community education, cooperative economics, and urban agriculture. “This gave us an opportunity to say, ‘How can we begin teaching people to either make more money or lower their costs using urban agriculture as one of the tools?’” Campbell said. “We know that when people aren’t hungry they can be more creative. We know that when people can save money, they invest.” Under the initiative, officials plan to create a database that residents can use to find city-owned parcels available for gardening or small-scale farms. Residents could qualify for low- or no-cost leases or buy the property outright. Officials are also eyeing changing the city’s zoning laws to benefit urban agriculture. Another option under consideration is modifying current regulations to allow residents to form cooperatives and sell the produce they’ve grown in public spaces, like International Plaza on North Clinton Avenue. Officials are even talking about clearing the way for city-owned buildings to be used as indoor vertical farms. But until the city turns talk into action, its would-be gardeners and growers have to wait. In Smith’s case, she’s now seeking volunteers as well as donations of garden materials to start her Mona Street project. She can be contacted at ourherbalstory@gmail.com. “You would think the city would want to have use of the vacant lot to help beautify our neighborhood, to maybe impact some of the crime rates because people have things to do” Smith said. “It’s just so many benefits, but when I spoke with the city of Rochester, I was told the primary goal was for it (the Mona Street lot) to be sold. So they would take that over having a garden, which I could understand. But it hasn’t been sold in years.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 14

Myree, 5, and Alder Powers, 15 months, hang out in the garden at Taproot Collective's First Market Farm near the Public Market. PHOTO BY RYAN WILLIAMSON

Taproot Collective co-founder and board member Amber Powers gives her son, Alder, some fresh herbs grown at the organization's First Market Farm. PHOTO BY RYAN WILLIAMSON roccitynews.org CITY 13


LOOKING WEST FOR INSPIRATION

The Massachusetts Avenue Project urban farm in Buffalo includes a pen for its brood of hens. PHOTO BY JEREMY MOULE

The Massachusetts Avenue Project urban farm is nestled in a Buffalo neighborhood not far from the Elmwood strip. PHOTO BY JEREMY MOULE

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Approximately 75 miles to the west in Buffalo, urban agriculture is thriving. The Queen City has roughly 100 community and market gardens and more than a dozen urban farms and large gardens producing vegetables of all sorts, mushrooms, medicinal herbs, and flowers. One indoor vertical farm grows varied greens. Another raises plants and fish. “I think maybe there are so many urban farmers just because I think there are a lot of people within Buffalo who love food and have a connection to food who also love to be in a city environment, too,” said Joe Kurtz, a core member of Greater Buffalo Urban Growers whose grandmother gardened in her city backyard. “I know I’m that type of way.” One sunny, warm April morning at the Massachusetts Avenue Project, an urban farm located roughly half a mile west of Buffalo’s Elmwood strip, bees were buzzing about their hive boxes amidst a clutch of fruit trees. The Massachusetts Avenue Project, one of Buffalo’s older urban farms, began as a block club. But a lack of youth employment and neighborhood concerns over food insecurity led to the club launching its Growing Green youth employment and education program. “It was very tiny,” said Diane Picard, executive director of the Massachusetts Avenue Project. “We had one lot and six kids. We’ve kind of grown it from there.” Over the years, the Massachusetts Avenue Project bought up land from the city and now sits on a T-shaped lot spanning an acre. Packed into the lot are two greenhouses, one of which is used to grow tomatoes; a pen for the farm’s brood of boisterous egg-laying hens; a soil bed for planting crops; and a brick red building fronting Massachusetts Avenue. The building houses the organization’s offices and more. There is a grow room for starting seeds, a commercial kitchen for youth programs and food business entrepreneurs, and a store that sells things like elderberry syrup, carrots, beets, pickles, eggs, and daikon radishes, all grown or produced at the farm. “We have a huge food apartheid problem here in the city still,” Picard


said. “And even though I think Buffalo has come a long way for a city of its size, I think we still have quite a ways to go in terms of building equity and making sure people have, everyone has, access to healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate food.” Kurtz said that much of what’s been accomplished in urban ag in Buffalo has been possible due to growers collaborating to achieve common goals, whether it’s tackling a pest problem or advocating for city policies that benefit their cause. For example, a decade ago, urban ag enthusiasts successfully pressured the city to pass an ordinance allowing people to keep chickens. That ordinance was later codified in the city’s Green Code, which was adopted in 2017 and was an important win for Buffalo’s urban growers. It was the city’s first zoning and land-use update in six decades and designated urban gardens and farms as an allowable primary use of land in the city. The codes also stated that residents can keep bees, raise fish through aquaponics, and grow plants using hydroponics. Unlike most urban gardeners and farmers in Rochester, those in Buffalo are allowed to sell what they grow. As a result, some of Buffalo’s farms and gardens are businesses, selling their products at restaurants, grocery stores, and community markets. Some farms even have employees. For example, one urban farm, the Groundwork Market Garden, was recently advertising an opening for a full-time farmhand. In Rochester, the Warren administration is evaluating modifying zoning laws to bring the city more in step with its neighbor to the west when it comes to urban agriculture. Kelly Miterko, the city’s director of policy, said the revisions are likely to allow gardens and urban farms to serve as a primary use of residential land and to permit people to sell what they grow on city property. “We’re trying to work across all aspects of the city where we can move this forward and remove barriers to progress,” Miterko said

BACK ON THE FARM Over roughly three years, the Rochester urban agriculture nonprofit Taproot Collective has turned a mostly barren lot at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and First Street, kitty-corner from the Public Market, into a 4,000-square foot farm it calls First Market Farm. Taproot formed in 2017 with the goal of helping neighborhoods cultivate gardens of their own and of teaching young people how to grow their own food. The group established First Market Farm the following year on property owned by board member and co-founder Amber Powers and her husband, Greg Shears. “It’s another community gathering space where everyone is welcome” said Leslie Knox, chair of Taproot’s board, as she watched her daughter and some other kids in the greenhouse, planting tomato, pepper, and collard greens seeds in pots of black soil. Taproot members have built raised beds using old street curbing; sowed the beds with vegetables, fruit, and flowers; brought in a colony of bees; and built a greenhouse to raise seedlings for First Market Farm and for other gardens in the city. There is even an irrigation system that collects rainwater and distributes it among the beds. But Taproot is able to do those things because its property is privately owned and agriculture is not its primary use: Powers and Shear have been fixing up a house that sits on the land. This summer, the group will launch a youth employment program. The six-week program will start in July putting 15 teenagers to work at First Market Farm, in the greenhouse and garden at School 17, and in the neighborhood at large. Powers sees benefits in some of the urban ag-related policy changes the city is considering. But the end goal for the city, she said, should be making urban agriculture as accessible as possible to the most people. “That’s where they can have their biggest impact for the least amount of money,” Powers added. “All the programming in the world isn’t going to do much if they haven’t done that first.”

Myree helps her mother, Taproot Collective board chair Leslie Knox, plant some seeds in the greenhouse at First Market Farm. PHOTO BY RYAN WILLIAMSON

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NEWS

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

Virginia "Cookie" Stringfellow, a member of the New York chapter of the Mutual UFO Network, says her experiences with extraterrestrials span more than 40 years. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

A safe space for talking about visits from outer space U.F.O. sightings have surged in New York. Irondequoit’s Virginia Stringfellow knows all about them. BY GINO FANELLI

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ne by one, a few dozen members of the New York Chapter of the Mutual U.F.O. Network logged into the organization’s monthly virtual meeting on the third Wednesday in April. It was a proud moment for the group, a nonprofit composed of civilian volunteers who study reported sightings of unidentified flying objects. 

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Two of its members, Virginia Stringfellow, of Irondequoit, who goes by “Cookie,” and Chris DePerno, a retired police detective from Syracuse and the chapter’s assistant director, had been recently featured in The New York Times for a story on a spike in reported U.F.O. sightings during the pandemic. Rarely do people who claim to have encountered extraterrestrial life

make mainstream news. Although Stringfellow was disappointed in the portrait of her stargazing from the shore of Lake Ontario that illustrated the piece. “She told me to look up, and, ugh, I hate that,” Stringfellow said.   In the past year, sightings of unidentified flying objects have nearly doubled in New York, to about

300, while nationwide, sightings increased by more than 1,200 cases. It’s a phenomenon that, much like the subject of interest, doesn’t have a clear cut explanation. Some academics have attributed the surge in sightings to a combination of less light pollution and many more people having free time to scan the night sky. 


U.F.O. researchers, as members of the group refer to themselves, have another theory: the recent declassification of a few federal files on “unidentified aerial phenomena,” as the Pentagon refers to U.F.O.s, has empowered witnesses to step forward with less fear of public shaming. Stringfellow said groups like hers offer a safe space to discuss experiences. “It’s like a family, we’re very closeknit,” Stringfellow said. Stringfellow lives in a tidy ranch house adorned with a variety of alien figurines she has collected over the years. A cutout of an alien face dangles from the door leading to her living room from the patio.  Unlike some of the newcomers to her group whose supposed close encounters with the otherworldly are fairly recent, Stringfellow’s belief dates back more than 40 years, since the first time she recalls being taken aboard an alien spacecraft, a happening she says has reoccurred many times since.  “It happens when I’m sleeping, and I get like a tingle like from the first experience, and then I know they’re here,” Stringfellow said. “They kind of put you to sleep, but you’re not really asleep, you’re awake, but you can’t move.”   Over the course of an hour, Stringfellow explained the different extraterrestrials that visit Earth — from human-like “Nordics” to iguana-esque “Reptilians” — and her experiences with them. She believes the beings have had a relationship with Earthlings spanning eons.    “They’ve been here for millennia, long before us,” Stringfellow said. “They’ve always been here.” 

Stringfellow's home is adorned with dozens of alien figurines, masks, posters, and paraphernalia. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

Her story differed greatly in tone from the remarks of the guest speaker at her group’s meeting, Marc D’Antonio, who has a degree in astronomy and is the chief video analyst for the national MUFON group. D’Antonio focused largely on star formations, exoplanets, and astronomy in general, with hints of something mysterious being out there. He also spoke of how many U.F.O. sightings can easily be explained as airplanes, satellites, or meteors.  At the same time, he acknowledged having seen something he couldn’t explain just a week earlier over Mesa, Arizona.  “I’m not afraid to tell you that I don’t know what it was,” D’Antonio said. “For the first time, I can say I saw a true object that is an unidentified object.”  MUFON insists its research is grounded in science, noting that upward of 95 percent of the reports of U.F.O.s it examines can be attributed to humankind. The remainder, the group says, are truly unidentifiable and worthy of further discussion.  But can the study of U.F.O.s,

known as “ufology” (pronounced yoof-ology), be a legitimate science if it seeks only to research unanswerable questions? “The number of ones that are interesting, and I’m making this up, but out of 10,000, one or two might be, ‘Oh, well we don’t know what it is,’” said Adam Frank, an astrophysicist at the University of Rochester. “Going from not knowing what it is to it’s an alien from an advanced civilization that’s come here is a giant leap.”  Frank’s position should not suggest that he isn’t seeking an answer to what is perhaps humanity’s most profound question: Are we alone in the universe? In 2016, Frank co-authored a paper published in the journal Astrobiology that was an update to the Drake equation, a mathematical formula proposed in the 1960s by Cornell Professor Frank Drake used to estimate the number of communicating civilizations in the cosmos. The equation factors in the number of potentially habitable planets, and the likelihood of that planet cultivating a technologically advanced civilization. 

Even the most pessimistic of estimates puts the number of alien civilizations through the existence of the cosmos in the billions. “We understand how large the universe is, we understand that in our galaxy alone, there are 100 billion stars, each one of those stars has at least one planet,” Frank said. “It’s easy to imagine that we’re not alone. That what’s happened here has happened elsewhere.”  That scientists have come to view planets outside our solar system as commonplace is relatively recent. They only first confirmed a planet orbiting a star other than our sun in the 1990s. Today, though, scientists have identified more than 4,700 of these exoplanets. Many are in what they believe is the “habitable zone” of their orbits, in which conditions are thought to be ripe for the surface of the planet to hold liquid water and, thus, life.  The field of study netted Frank a grant from the National Aeronautics CONTINUED ON PAGE 18

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and Space Administration last year to search for “technosignatures,” or signs of technology used on planets outside of our solar system. “The thing is, what I want people to understand is the science right in front of us is way cool,” Frank said. “These alien worlds that we’ve already found are just crazy.”   The question of whether we’re truly alone is a tantalizing one. Christopher French, an anomalistic psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, points to a quote from the late science-fiction icon Arthur C. Clarke: “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”  “There’s a lot of different takes that people can have on the U.F.O./ alien phenomenon, it varies from person to person,” French said. “The one thing they all agree on is that there is something happening, whether it’s aliens, it’s beings from different dimensions, it’s time travelers, whatever ideas they’ve got, there is something happening here.” French argued that each of those beliefs is influenced by confirmation bias, a trait all people share that explains why people are more likely to accept as true information that reaffirms their beliefs. That could manifest as a believer deciding that a video of a proclaimed flying saucer is evidence that U.F.O.s exist. If the video is debunked, a believer may see that dismissal as a cover-up or as adding validity to other inexplicable phenomena. There is something of a quasireligious aspect for some U.F.O. believers, French said, and some may be “looking for answers from above.” French counts himself a skeptic, but he also believes he has a responsibility to remain open to the possible existence of supernatural events. But he hasn’t seen convincing proof, and has taken the position that U.F.O.s and many other supposed paranormal events are more psychosocial than out of this world. People seek comfort, community, and belief systems to tie them together, and local groups dedicated to researching these events can offer those things, especially in uncertain times, like the ongoing pandemic. “There’s quite a lot of evidence to support that in times of great 18 CITY MAY 2021

“There’s quite a lot of evidence to support that in times of great stress and uncertainty, all forms of magical thinking...increase”

stress and uncertainty, all forms of magical thinking, which includes all sorts of paranormal beliefs, assorted conspiracies, U.F.O.s — I’m an atheist, so I’d include for me, religious beliefs — they all increase,” French said. “It is almost as if people are trying to make sense out of what’s happening around them.” It is worth noting that the Pentagon takes U.F.O. sightings seriously. The Department of Defense recently announced that it would convene a task force to report on “unidentified aerial phenomenon” said to have been witnessed by military personnel. The report is set to be submitted to Congress in June and was part of the federal $2.3 trillion relief package in December. 

Perhaps naturally, the task force appears more concerned with the potential threat posed by these phenomena than what an encounter with a sophisticated alien life form would mean for human existence.   “The committee remains concerned that there is no unified, comprehensive process within the federal government for collecting and analyzing intelligence on unidentified aerial phenomena, despite the potential threat,” the bill establishing the taskforce read.   Some nights, Stringfellow heads to the shore of Lake Ontario with a close group of like-minded believers to watch for signs of something anomalous. Across the water, a similar group of skywatchers in

Toronto sometimes do the same. They keep in contact through the night as they log their observations. Stringfellow said she isn’t bothered by skeptics. What some people would dismiss as her “beliefs” are, to her, realities she said most people don’t take the time to research. Much of her research, she said, leads her to YouTube, where an endless stream of U.F.O. sighting videos can be found with a simple query.  She doesn’t expect naysayers to see what she sees. But she hopes people will at least be willing to ask questions. It is a philosophy boiled down in the motto of her email signature: “Always look up.”


 

    


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PAGE TURNERS

Rachel Crawford of Akimbo Books, right, helps a customer at a recent pop-up event at John's Tex Mex. PHOTOS BY JACOB WALSH

BOOKS AND BURRITOS: POP-UP BOOKSTORES BECOME INDIE LIT’S GUIDE TO SURVIVAL BY VERONICA VOLK

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ustomers of John’s Tex-Mex in the South Wedge typically get their tacos and burritos with a side of refried beans or mashed potatoes. On a recent Saturday, they got a side of indie lit, too. Nestled in a back corner of the restaurant, past clusters of patrons gorging on guacamole, was a pop-up bookstore fashioned out of a small table displaying a couple dozen books — novels, essays, and poetry, mostly from small presses and international authors. 20 CITY MAY 2021

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The exhibit was the work of Akimbo Books, a local online bookseller that specializes in contemporary literature and has developed a workaround to paying for a brick-and-mortar store by staging pop-up shops. In the process, it seeks to reintroduce what is a rarity in Rochester’s literary landscape nowadays: new titles. “I think people are enjoying things again and literature is a huge part of that,” said Akimbo Books founder Rachel Crawford, who tended the popup at John’s Tex-Mex.

The rise of big-box bookstore chains like Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Waldenbooks battered independent bookstores in the 1990s. Indies have since been rendered an endangered species by Amazon. Most that remain, at least in the city, specialize in used books, first editions, and hard-to-find titles. But independent booksellers carrying new titles are not extinct, and are finding innovative ways to get their wares in front of consumers without paying a dime for retail space

at a time when renting a storefront is a precarious proposition. While 2020 was a good year for publishers, it devastated bookstores. Publishers Weekly recently reported that bookstore sales fell 28 percent from 2019, citing preliminary estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Independent bookstores had it worse, with some stores reporting to the American Booksellers Association last year that their sales had dropped 40 percent. “Independent bookstores were hit hard by the pandemic,” said Dan Cullen


of the American Booksellers Association. But, he said, there were signs of life. Cullen pointed to data that suggested there were 42 new bookstore openings nationwide, and association members reported that online sales jumped 630 percent last year. “Hundreds of stores pivoted and found new ways to support their communities and spread their love of books,” Cullen said. Independent booksellers like Crawford believe readers are less likely to discover a great new book while shopping online than in a bookstore, pop-up or otherwise. Amazon can create new algorithms, but it can’t replicate the joys of browsing or the human interaction between book buyers and knowledgeable sellers.  “What’s the last movie that you watched that you really loved?” Crawford asked. “Was it a Marvel film? Or was it something super niche and international? I have both of those to bounce around with you. What kind of art do you like?  What eras do you like? Those help point people in a direction that they might find a book they fall in love with.” Her defiance of a brutal marketplace that has all but consumed small booksellers is reflected in the name of her business. Arms “akimbo” means to stand with hands on hips, elbows pointed outward — that pose of female empowerment struck by icons like Wonder Woman and “Fearless Girl” of Wall Street. Akimbo isn’t alone in its Davidand-Goliath pursuit. Independent bookseller Taylor Thomas, of Rochester, has taken a similar approach, selling books online and at small pop-up events around town. Her business, The Secondhand Librarian, began as a way of downsizing her own book collection and morphed into a full-time job of online sales and events.  “I offer books that I’ve loved,” Thomas said at a recent popup at the Luna Collective at the Hungerford Building. “Definitely more popular titles like, ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ or ‘Little Fires Everywhere,’ but also more obscure books that I just want everyone to read so I can talk about them.” Good bookstores are by nature subversive, offering works outside the mainstream about love and death and struggle and liberation and humanity.

Taylor Thomas is the founder of The Secondhand Librarian. PHOTO BY RYAN WILLIAMSON

Crawford’s display at John’s Tex-Mex included “Home,” a short anthology of poetry translated from Arabic; “Endless Summer,” a love tragedy written by Danish transgender author Madame Nielsen and published by Rochester’s Open Letter Books; and books from Black authors about problematic white feminism, like “White Tears/Brown Scars” by Ruby Hamad. “I want it to have a radical nature to it,” Crawford said of her shop. “But I want it to have everything.” There were benefits to opening a bookstore in a taco shop on a Saturday. Besides the foot traffic, the restaurant was serving pitchers of mimosa in which Crawford and her supporters happily imbibed. A few patrons, mostly friends and established customers of Akimbo, walked into the eatery and past the pickup counter for the pop-up bookstore. 

“There’s nothing like a book,” said one of Crawford’s regulars, Bob Scheffel. He was flipping through pages of his recent purchase, “Big Girl” by Meg Ellison, a science fiction comedy writer. “There’s nothing like the smell of a book, the feel of a book.” Many of Crawford’s customers are intentional about how and from whom they buy their books. Although their titles may be available from online retailers, they want to support a local vendor. Crawford created Akimbo Books in 2016, but opened it in earnest last year after she lost her job at a bookstore during the pandemic. Her website originally focused on publishing book reviews, but eventually moved into selling books. In addition to popping-up and posting book reviews, Akimbo hopes to host book clubs and publish interviews Crawford does with authors. Crawford,

who holds a master’s degree in English from the University of Rochester, has written on a freelance basis for CITY. “Sound like a lot all rolled into one?” Crawford asks of her ambitions on the Akimbo website. “Well, that’s what happens when mania festers in a nine-month quarantine. Because, well, it’s been a day this year.”   Rochester’s book market never fully recovered from the beating it took from the chain stores a generation ago and, later, online retail. But some have held on.  Long-standing used bookstores like Small World Books serve those with a love of the classics. Yesterday’s Muse offers rare books, including signed first editions. Independent bookstores in Clifton Springs and Brockport remain a destination for city-dwellers looking for a local shop with newer titles. But a handful of indie bookstores have opened locally in recent years. Hippocampo, located on South Avenue, is a local woman- and Latinx-owned children’s bookstore that has been in business for three years. Cerebral Kingdom opened on State Street in August of 2020 with a collection of books about the Black experience, from culture and history to spirituality and children’s books. Local literary hub Writers & Books opened its own bookstore, Ampersand, in the fall of 2019. It operated out of the center’s home on University Avenue until the pandemic forced it online.  Alison Meyers, the executive director of Writers & Books, owned her own bookstore in Connecticut prior to coming to Rochester a few years ago. She also managed the bookstore at Oberlin College in Ohio more than 20 years ago. “Things have changed a lot since I did that work,” she said. Competition in the book market became fierce, downtowns in many urban centers were hollowed out, communal spaces languished. But, Meyers said, a renewed focus on downtowns and personal connectivity — the lifeblood of traditional independent books stores — has given her hope.    “I see a wonderful renaissance of the small press and indie bookstores,” she said.

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ARTS

GOOD CLEAN FUN

Formerly an instrumental band, FRAN has turned a corner with singer Jon Lewis, center, as frontman. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

CALL THEM “DAD ROCK,” CALL THEM “MOM ROCK,” FRAN IS GOOD FUN Jon Lewis exudes playful, everyman vibes as the frontman for FRAN. BY DANIEL J. KUSHNER

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The last time I saw Rochester singer-songwriter Jon Lewis perform, pre-pandemic, he was behind a mic stand with guitar in hand, fronting the band that bore his name with a smile that was both confident and sheepish. Fast forward to a chilly lateApril evening at Flour City Station on East Avenue, and the affable musician is still smiling. This time, however, there’s a microphone cord slung over his shoulders where the guitar strap once was, as he sings in 22 CITY MAY 2021

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front of an entirely different group of musicians with a similarly nofrills moniker, FRAN. “That was the first thing that I did to sort of put myself in character with FRAN — just get rid of the mic stand, drape the cord around my neck like I was a lounge performer, and sort of get real funky and crazy with it, and use a lot more of my body language,” he says. In discussing his new role, Lewis sounds like a liberated performer, thrilled to get out from behind the

rhythm guitar and mic stand he had been relegated to as the primary singersongwriter of the Jon Lewis Band. As FRAN’s six other members — guitarists Mark Bamann and Eric Kearney, keyboardist Clark Hadley, bassist Ryan Longwell, drummer Austin Radford, and newest member Joe Stehle on synthesizer — roll through songs from its debut EP “FRAN. Rises” (released on March 21), Lewis bobs his head, swaying from side-to-side with an unassuming boyish charm.

There’s a slight goofiness in his body language. But as he begins to sing, Lewis’s warm tenor takes on a sharp and serious poignancy, and he zeroes in on each note with laserlike accuracy. Instrumentally, the music of FRAN is similarly multifaceted and mercurial. It can take on the guise of a subtle smooth rock jam, with gauzy ambiance provided by Hadley and Stehle’s keyboard work. CONTINUED ON PAGE 24


NEW MUSIC REVIEWS the entanglements of unrequited love, and perhaps the most sparkling example of the impeccably smooth synergy between Sitterley and Martin’s voices. — BY DANIEL J. KUSHNER

momentum slowly builds over the course of three and a half minutes. That said, all three songs are in the same key, and can easily be heard as one cohesive auditory meditation. Mixed by Happ and mastered by Joseph Chudyk, “Gentle But Firm” is best listened to all the way through and without interruption. Close your eyes and drift away. — BY DANIEL J. KUSHNER

“DIALTONE EP” BY THE LOCAL HANG-UPS In listening to the debut EP “Dialtone,” self-released on May 7 by Rochester acoustic pop duo The Local Hang-Ups, it’s nearly impossible to separate the heartfelt original songs of Abbey Sitterley and Katy Martin from the era of isolation and missed connections brought on by the pandemic. The duo formed just before COVID-19, and as a result, developed its intimate, harmony-driven sound without the aid of in-person performances. Instead, Sitterley and Martin performed a series of charming cover songs in their “Tuesday Sessions” on Instagram and quietly crafted their own tunes together in quarantine. Each creation on the EP is imbued with a wistfulness intensified by physical and emotional distance, and the desire to establish meaningful bonds in a time of separation is palpable and urgent. The opening track “Face to Face” expresses a willingness to mend a friendship despite polarizing perspectives that have kept two people apart. The band’s first single “Love Somebody” is a straightforward pop tune with soulful touches, celebrating love’s ability to transcend the limitations of words. “Happenstance” is a poignant alternative folk-pop concoction about

“GENTLE BUT FIRM” BY FOOTHANDS “Gentle But Firm” is an apt descriptor of the EP released in early April by local multi-instrumentalist Erik Happ, particularly when compared to his other musical projects.Happ has set aside the aggressive prog rock he embraces as guitarist and vocalist of the trio False Pockets, as well as his grungy, post-punk tendencies as bassist for the band Pomelo. Under the name Foothands, Happ opts for a sleepier, more contemplative sound on the three songs of “Gentle But Firm.” And although this solo project has a more deliberate pace and is rooted in subdued, acoustic guitarbased ruminations, the arrangements are far from simplistic. Happ excels at creating intricate layers of guitar-picking that sporadically burst into country-western twangs, and establishing ghostly vocal harmonies that gradually evolve into sun-kissed textures and recall the complexity of Brian Wilson’s arrangements. The middle track, “I Should Have Listened in Physics,” is particularly effective at fleshing out these details as the

“MY HANDS ARE ON FIRE” BY SALLY LOUISE Opera singer-turned-indie singer songwriter Sally Drutman seemed to appear as a sudden apparition last July, when she released her dream-like first single “Milky Blue” as Sally Louise. Less than a year later, Louise has wasted no time in expanding her stylistic palette across a sprawling collection of 10 self-possessed songs with “My Hands Are On Fire,” available on May 14 via Desert Flower Records. On this debut full-length album (itself an increasing rare occurrence as more and more artists stick to releasing singles and EPs), it’s impressive how quickly Louise has settled into her compositional identity: a fluid elixir of pop, soul, folk — and in the case of “I Won’t Call Your Bluff,” she even employs elements of ‘50s doo wop. But none of it would work if Louise weren't also a confident vocalist whose

classical training gives her keen pitch security and effortless intonation. There are straightforward, catchy songs such as “Bodily Exile” — a four-chord anthem of self-realization and liberation — and the slightly contemptuous pop-rock tune “Sighs,” but she also stretches out and soars on more vocally dynamic tracks like “Honey Hold On” and “Never Be the Same Again.” Regardless of the song, Louise sings with conviction, as if each phrase contains a cathartic new revelation. “Honey Hold On” is especially riveting as the singer accompanies herself on electric guitar and issues a passive aggressive farewell to a former lover that echoes the sentiment of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”: “Can you tell by the shadow of my hair against the floor I have been sleeping very well without your shoes by the door?/ And at the same time all these pills haven’t reached my very core/ Honey, I hope you’re holding on tonight.” Throughout the album, there are also brief flirtations with gospel music, including “Yoli’s Shoes,” an understated ode to self-empowerment that utilizes quasi-choral textures with uplifting results. Sally Louise is backed on various tracks by Jordan Rabinowitz on bass and drummer Chris Palace. But in terms of emotional resonance, the singer-songwriter does more in moments with less instrumentation, when her vocal sincerity and technical skill seize the spotlight. Sally Louise plays her album release show, along with Siena and Lily Bogas, on Friday, May 14, at 8 p.m., at Jurassic Farms, 110 Weidner St., Rochester. $5 (outdoor event, masks required). — BY DANIEL J. KUSHNER

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But it can also quickly morph into carefree funk riffs from Bamann and Kearney before stratospheric synths and squealing guitars careen into each other in frenetic unison. The ever-present musical intensity suggests a certain amount of rock ‘n’ roll pretension, but it’s immediately tempered by Lewis’s everyman presence and the twinkle in his eye that says he’s not taking himself too seriously. Lewis has a talent for compartmentalizing his various musical projects and his creative approach to each. He sometimes performs as Mr. Loops, a solo children’s musician who sings sunny, acoustic songs. Then there is his Jon Lewis Band, with its straight-ahead, feel-good rock music. In FRAN, he makes a conscious attempt to be playful. But a “dad rock” sensibility is deeply embedded in all of the creative endeavors of Lewis, who works as a preschool teacher at Baden Street Settlement’s Child Development Center.  “I like to think of it as ‘mom rock,’” he jokes. “A little bit more nurturing.” On its surface, this sensibility may seem antithetical to the traditional M.O. of a rock band, but the easy-going camaraderie between the bandmates helps sell it. It also makes more sense upon learning that FRAN was named after a beloved lunch lady at Fairport High School, where a majority of the band’s members attended. “She was the sweetest lady ever,” bassist Ryan Longwell recalls. But Lewis wasn’t always certain about working with FRAN. About three years ago, when the band was looking to add a vocalist, Lewis initially turned them down for several months. “When they would ask me to join the band, they would say, ‘We need 24 CITY MAY 2021

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FRAN is slated to perform with pop-soul band The Sideways on Thursday, May 13 at Photo City Music Hall on Atlantic Avenue. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

somebody with a lot of power and energy in their voice.’ And I would always be like, ‘You got the wrong guy! Have you ever heard my music? What are you thinking?” he says. Lewis says that Longwell was insistent that there was something in his live performance that needed to be let loose. Longwell thinks Lewis’s initial hesitation may have been due to FRAN’S comparatively heavier sound than that of the Jon Lewis Band. “I think he might have felt like he had a timid voice, maybe,” Longwell says. “But I’ve always heard him sing, and he has a great voice, and if he really put himself out there with his voice, I knew it would be good.”

Bamann says Lewis’s vocals provide “the missing link” that makes the band accessible to audiences. “He has an amazing presence, and just this magic to him,” Bamann says. “He’s just a happy guy, you know? But not only that, he writes some great lyrics and his voice is incredible.” Eventually, Lewis was convinced. “Maybe this’ll be a chance to find this middle ground between more of a bigger vocal, theatrical performance and what I usually do, which is sort of soft and sweet and melodic,” he remembers thinking. Lewis admits to being an anxious performer and says that FRAN enables him to work through his nerves with a more

demonstrative energy. He can express himself in a more honest and immediate way without worrying about doing so in “the right way,” he says. “I think because we have such a chemistry between us as a group, and we’re kind of having fun, that it is a more ‘mom rock’ angle,” Lewis says of FRAN’s vibes. “It’s got a sort of wholesome nature to it.”


MUSIC //

With evolving NYS guidelines for live music, events are highly subject to change or cancellation. It’s wise to check with individual venues to confirm performances and protocols.

ACOUSTIC/FOLK

CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL

VARIOUS

Point Dr. lovincup.com. Fri., May 21, 6 p.m. Patio show. Ryan Sutherland. Lovin’ Cup, 300 Park Point Dr. lovincup.com. Fri., May 28, 6 p.m. Patio show. Virtual Sing Around. Golden Link Folk Singing Society, online. goldenlink.org. Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m.

online. fivebyfivemusic.com. Sat., May 22, 1:30 p.m. Miguel del Aguila.

June 12. Livestream, online. Concerts at Sonnenberg Gardens, Smith Opera House, & Geneva on the Lake on select dates through Jun 12. genevamusicfestival.com.

Patrick Jaouen. Lovin’ Cup, 300 Park

CLASSICAL

Aeolian Pipe Organ Concerts. George

Eastman Museum, 900 East Ave. eastman.org. Sundays, 3 p.m. May 2: Joe Blackburn; May 9: Carol Cowan; May 16: Brenda Tremblay & violist Mona Seghatoleslami; May 23: Margaret-Anne Milne; May 30: Steve Kelly. Brass Guild. Eastman School of Music, online. esm.rochester.edu/live. Fri., May 7, 7:30 p.m. Chamber Music Extravaganza. Eastman School of Music, online. esm.rochester. edu/live. Wed., May 5 and Thu., May 6. Grad seminar & recitals. Eastman Wind Ensemble. Eastman School of Music, online. esm.rochester. edu/live. Wed., May 5, 7:30 p.m. Eastman@Washington Square. Eastman School of Music, online. esm.rochester. edu/live. Thursdays, 12:15-12:45 p.m. From Czechia with Love. Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, online. rpo.org. Through May 30. $25. From Saint-Georges to Schreker. Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, online. rpo.org. Through May 14. $25. Mahler 4. Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, online. rpo.org. May 6-June 20. $25.

The New Consort: O Stars, Conspiring Against Me. Pegasus Early Music, online. pegasusearlymusic.org. Thu., May 27, 7:30 p.m. and Sun., May 30, 4 p.m. Stravinsky, Janáček + Bruch. Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, online. rpo.org. May 27-July 11. $25.

fivebyfive: Composer Chats. Livestream,

JAZZ

Eastman Jazz Ensemble/Eastman Jazz Lab Band. Eastman School of Music,

WORLD

Geneva Music Festival. May 20-

Barbara B Smith World Music Series. Eastman School of Music, online. esm. rochester.edu/live. Sun., May 30, 3 p.m. Layale Chaker, Lebanese jazz violin. Rosa Boemia. Livestream, online. bopshop.com. Thu., May 20, 8 p.m.

online. esm.rochester.edu/live. Tue., May 4, 7:30 p.m.

Encsio, Colin Gordon, & Staebell w Max Greenberg. Livestream, online. bopshop.

com. Thu., May 13, 8 p.m. Jamal Damien Group. Livestream, online. bopshop.com. Thu., May 6, 8 p.m. Laura Dubin & Antonio Guerrero. Livestream, online. Ongoing, 8:30 p.m. Live on FB. The Rita Collective. 75 Stutson, 75 Stutson St. 75stutsonstreet.com. Thu., May 13, 8 p.m. $20. The White Hots. Livestream, online. bopshop.com. Thu., May 27, 8 p.m. Wine Down Wednesday. The Penthouse, 1 East Ave, 11th floor. 775-2013. Wednesdays, 6 p.m. May 5: Bob Sneider Jazz Trio; May 12: The Swooners; May 19: The Six Feet Apart Band; May 26: Riverside Soul. $20.

POP/ROCK

Amanda Ashley: Afternoon Cocktail.

Livestream, online. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 1 p.m. Live on FB. Mr Mustard. 75 Stutson, 75 Stutson St. 75stutsonstreet.com. Fri., May 7, 8 p.m. $20. Stravo & the Kire Najdovski Band. Comedy @ the Carlson, 50 Carlson Rd. 426-6339. Sat., May 29, 6:30 p.m. The Uptown Groove. Lovin’ Cup, 300 Park Point Dr. lovincup.com. Fri., May 7, 7 p.m. Patio show.

POPS/STANDARDS

Frank’s Rat Pack. OFC Creations Theater Center, 3450 Winton Pl. ofccreations. com. Fri., May 7, 7:30 p.m. $35 & up. Latin Heat. Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, online. rpo.org. Through June 13. $25.

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Volunteers needed: E-cigarette users

Earn $100 by participating in our study!

Two visits ($50 per visit). The second visit will be 6 months after the first. There will be lung function test and blood draw (two tablespoons), saliva, breath condensate and urine collection at each visit.

Call our Research Coordinator at 585-224-6308 if you are interested or if you have questions. Thank you! roccitynews.org CITY 25


ARTS

THEATER AL FRESCO

In response to the state's cap on indoor audience capacities, Ralph Meranto, artistic director of JCC CenterStage, is building a stage under a giant tent on the JCC's tennis courts. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

JCC CENTERSTAGE TAKES IT OUTSIDE The JCC’s CenterStage is erecting a giant tent to stage shows as a workaround to indoor capacity restrictions that are cost-prohibitive. BY REBECCA RAFFERTY

N

@RSRAFFERTY

ormally at this time of year, Ralph Meranto, the artistic director at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Rochester’s CenterStage, would be focused on planning upcoming productions for his 300-seat theater. But these aren’t normal times. Instead, Meranto has been busy securing permits from the Town of Henrietta to erect a giant tent on the center’s outdoor tennis courts, under which he plans to stage shows this

26 CITY MAY 2021

BECCA@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

summer and fall. The tent is Meranto’s answer to new state regulations issued in April that put a hard cap on audience capacity at indoor performing arts and entertainment venues and have forced theaters small and large to think outside the box in order to make staging a theater season financially viable. Under the regulations, indoor theaters can open at 33 percent capacity, with a limit of 100 people. The rules allow for 200 people at

outdoor venues. If all attendees test negative for the coronavirus or can prove they have been vaccinated, the maximum audience size can rise to 500 people outdoors, according to the regulations.   “I can’t make money on a big musical with 100 people in the audience,” Meranto said.  “At 33 percent capacity, we can’t afford to pay the bills and produce the quality productions audiences have come to expect from CenterStage,” he

said. “I could do shows, but they’re all going to be one-person shows, monologues, and low-budget shows. I don’t want to do that.” Performing arts theaters, music venues, and comedy clubs have been yearning for the governor to give them the greenlight to start staging shows again for live, fleshand-blood audiences. But the capacity restrictions have made it too expensive for some places to open their doors.


The Rochester Broadway Theatre League, for instance, recently announced that it intends to begin staging shows at the Auditorium Theater this fall — but only on the condition that the state loosens its rules. The theater has about 2,500 seats. “If we had to do these shows today, we couldn’t do them,” the RBTL’s chief operating officer, John Parkhurst, said upon announcing a lineup for the upcoming season that included expensive productions, including “Cats” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” “I think the most people we could have in here now is, like, 246 people, something like that.” Smaller venues have more flexibility to find workarounds, like what Meranto has dubbed “Canalside Stage at JCC.” The center sits on the Erie Canal straddling the Brighton and Henrietta town lines. A grant from art patron Dawn Lipson helped pay for the Canalside Stage infrastructure, which will include a stage with lighting and sound trimmings, 70 VIP seats, and the giant tent. The rest of the audience will be arranged in a perimeter around the tent, where there is room to spread out on the courts’ combined 23,400 square feet.  Meranto said the seating will take good sightlines into consideration, that measures for accessibility and access to bathrooms are underway, and there will be contingency plans for rain delays and reschedules. CenterStage plans to begin using the outdoor stage for its summer production of “You’ve Got a Friend,” scheduled for June 5 and 6. 

AN OPEN HOUSE Other performing arts groups and nonprofit organizations have expressed interest in renting the space to get around the state’s capacity limits on indoor productions, but also for the novelty of staging an outdoor event. Meranto said he expects TYKEs Theatre, the JCC Concert Series, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, A Magical Journey Through Stages, the Memorial Art Gallery, and Trillium Health to use the Canalside Stage in the coming months Danny Hoskins, artistic and managing director at Blackfriars

RENDERING PROVIDED BY THE JCC

Theatre, was one of the first to strike a deal. He plans to use the Canalside Stage for three performances this summer and fall, beginning with Blackfriars’ (delayed) 70th anniversary concert, scheduled for June 11 and 12. Blackfriars, located on East Main Street near the Auditorium Theater, is an exceptionally intimate space, with 126 seats. The state’s capacity restrictions means “sold-out” productions could play for 42 people at most. Hoskins said the new rules were a financial blow. “The 33 percent capacity cap does hamper us from doing anything indoors at all,” Hoskins said. Other theaters are also turning to the outdoors. Geva Theatre Center, the largest of the area’s theatre organizations, is planning its first show for a live audience since the pandemic with an outdoor presentation in August of “Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash.”  Artistic Director Mark Cuddy declined to share the location, saying negotiations with the venue were in progress. But he said the production would play on a professional stage under a roof with lights and sound. “It’ll be a full Geva production,” he said. Geva Theatre Center will not offer live theater indoors until the fall, Cuddy said, when it plans to open the larger of its two auditoriums — the 280-seat Wilson Stage — in October

to present the rock ‘n’ roll love story story, “Vietgone,” a hold-over from its 2020-21 subscription season. “We don’t expect capacity to be reduced by the time we produce,” he said.  In the meantime, Geva will stay virtual until the fall and move ahead with a two-week run of “The Real James Bond...Was Dominican” over Zoom, live from the Wilson Stage starting May 14.

INCHING BACK TO LIFE The moves outdoors are signs that the performing arts scene is inching — rather than springing — back to life under the new regulations. But it isn’t just the larger theaters that see the capacity restrictions as cost-prohibitive; it is also the smallest.   Reenah Golden, founder of The Avenue BlackBox Theater, whose 49 seats have been diminished to 16 under the new rules, is also looking outdoors. She plans to present live shows this year in an outdoor theater to be built as part of the Joseph Avenue Art Walk, a project approved by City Council in April. The venue is expected to be constructed this summer in a vacant lot across the street from The Avenue, and will be used for performances, youth programs, as well as a general gathering space, Golden said. 

For the time being, The Avenue is presenting hybrid shows that play to a small live audience and are simultaneously streamed for virtual spectators. Rochester doesn’t have many readyto-use outdoor performing arts venues. There’s the natural amphitheatre and small sheltered stage of Highland Bowl, where the Rochester Community Players annually present a different Shakespearean play each July. That show will go on, and this year’s selection is a dual English-ASL presentation of “The Tempest.” Co-Production Manager Rachel Pazda said movement into and out of the bowl will be controlled, and a ticketing system will cap the audience at 200. Though outdoors, audiences will be required to mask up and sit in “pods,” and concessions will be sold, but sealed. The Multi-use Community Cultural Center (The MuCCC) on Atlantic Avenue — the go-to venue in town for small theater companies without a home — has announced that its space will be available for rent again beginning June 1. Managing Director Doug Rice said MuCCC will split ticket sales with groups instead of charging the typical rental fee. As of late April, though, there were no takers. That was not just because the capacity restrictions have reduced MuCCC’s 80 or so seats to a meager 26. Some companies recognize that some theater goers aren’t ready to return. “Even though it’s open, it doesn’t mean our audience members are ready to get back in the theater themselves, even though I know we’re all chomping at the bit to get back on stage,” said Stephanie Siuda, the artistic director of the theater company Out of Pocket Inc.  Out of Pocket has used MuCCC over the past year to present shows that were streamed to virtual audiences. Suida said she was grateful for the opportunity and for not having had to carry the overhead of a physical space.  “We don’t have a theater, we’ve always wanted one,” she said. “And this is the first time that we’re actually grateful that, you know, that’s not falling on us.”

roccitynews.org CITY 27


VISUAL & PERFORMING ARTS [ Opening ] Artworks Gallery, 109 Fall St. Seneca Falls. Where in the Finger Lakes is it? Mondays-Saturdays. artsinseneca.org. Central Library, 115 South Ave. Thrift Style. May 17-June 21. 428-8150. Geisel Gallery, 2nd Floor Rotunda, Legacy Tower, One Bausch & Lomb Place. Bruno Chalifour & Howard Koft: Landscapes of the Mind. May 4-June 26. thegeiselgallery.com. The Mercantile, 240 E Main St. Roslyn Rose. Fri., May 7, 5-8 p.m. and May 8-31. roslynrose.com. Pat Rini Rohrer Gallery, 71 S Main St. Canandaigua. The Colors & Promise of Spring. Though Jul 10. prrgallery.com. RIT City Art Space, 280 East Main St. MFA Thesis: Art & American Crafts. Thursdays-Sundays. Through May 16. cityartspace.rit.edu.

[ Continuing ] Art Exhibits

axomhome.com 661 south ave

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28 CITY MAY 2021

George Eastman Museum, 900 East Ave. Stacey Steers: Night Reels (to Jun 6) | Carl Chiarenza: Journey into the Unknown (to Jun 20) | One Hundred Years Ago: George Eastman in 1921 (to Jan 2022). Wednesdays-Sundays. eastman.org. Image City Photography Gallery, 722 University Ave. Women’s Perspectives. Tuesdays-Sundays. Through May 16. 271-2540. International Art Acquisitions, 3300 Monroe Ave. Kaoru Mansour: Light and Plants. Through May 31. 264-1440. Livestream, online. Genesee Valley Plein Air Painters Annual Show & Sale. Ongoing. gvpap.com. Main Street Arts, 20 W Main St. Clifton Springs. Adrift. Through June 11. Appointments encouraged. mainstreetartscs.org. Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Ave. The 613 by Archie Rand (to Jul 18) | “To Help People See”: The Art of G Peter Jemison (to Nov 14). Ongoing. Reservations required. $6-$15. 2768900. NTID Dyer Arts Center, 52 Lomb Memorial Dr. This is Not Normal: Deaf Modernist Sensibilities. Ongoing. rit. edu/ntid/dyerarts-center.; Palettes of Nature. Ongoing. A collaborative exhibit with deafgreenthumbs. rit. edu/ntid/dyerarts-center.; Black is Black: Blackity AF. Ongoing. Part II: Generational Oppression. rit.edu/ntid/ dyerarts-center. Pat Rini Rohrer Gallery, 71 S Main St. Canandaigua. Canandaigua in Bloom. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Through May 22. Artist talks every Saturday, 1-3:30pm. May 1: Judy Soprano; May 8: Margaret Post; May 15: Pat Rini Rohrer; May 22: Steve Bondurant. prrgallery.com. Pittsford Fine Art, 4 N Main St. Pittsford. Featured Artist: Laurence E Keefe. Through May 30. pittsfordfineart.com.

Rochester Contemporary Art Center, 137 East Ave. Last Year On Earth | The Warp & Weft | Through The Cracks | UnJustness. WednesdaysSaturdays. Through May 8. $2. rochestercontemporary.org. Rochester Museum & Science Center, 657 East Ave. (rmsc.org). The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World. Through May 16. W/ museum admission: $14/$16. rmsc.org/changemakers. Visual Studies Workshop, 31 Prince St. vsw.org. Martin Hawk: Pressure Gradient | Priya Kambli: Passport Cancelled As The Holder Has Acquired Foreign Nationality. Through May 31. vsw.org/exhibitions. Yates County History Center, 107 Chapel St. Penn Yan. A Dangerous Freedom: The Abolitionists, Freedom Seekers, & Underground Railroad Sites of Yates County. Tuesdays-Fridays. Through Jun 30. By appointment. yatespast.org.

Comedy

Film

New York State Ballet: The Wizard of Oz. Through May 23. Livestream, online. $25. newyorkstateballet.org. Sankofa African Dance & Drum Ensemble. Through May 22. Livestream, online. Featuring Ballet Merveilles de Guinée $5/$10. fineartstix.brockport.edu. Virtual DANCE/Strasser. Through May 22, 7:30 p.m. Livestream, online. 3952787.

Dryden Theatre, 900 East Ave. Live Screenings. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Advanced tickets required. $5-$10. eastman.org/dryden-theatre. Little Theatre, 240 East Ave. Live Screenings. Fridays-Sundays. Virtual screenings continue. thelittle.org. Livestream, online. Rochester International Children’s Film Festival. Through May 9. kidsfestroc.org. Visual Studies Workshop, 31 Prince St. A History of Police Brutality & Accountability Initiatives in Rochester from the Portable Channel Archive. Ongoing.; Recordings at Risk: Early Portable Channel Video. Ongoing. vsw.org.

Readings & Spoken Word Tuesdays with BOA Editions. Tue., May 11, 7:30 p.m. Virtual Writers & Books. May 11: E.C. Osondu, “Alien Stories.” wab.org. Visiting Authors Series. Thursdays, 7:30 p.m Virtual Writers & Books. May 6: Patrice Gopo, “All the Colors We Will See”; May 13: Thomas J. Mickey, “All About Flowers: James Vick’s 19thCentury Seed Company”; May 20: Elizabeth Everett, “A Lady’s Formula for Love”; May 27: James Whorton, Jr., “Angela Sloan”; Jul 8: Heather Lanier, “Raising a Rare Girl.” wab.org.

Art Events ExhiBits: Women Running Rochester. Tuesdays Registration required JLF@ rochester.edu. Jon Henry: Stranger Fruit. Thu., May 6, 6 p.m. Virtual George Eastman Museum, online. Registration required $10 suggested eastman.org. MAGsocial Virtual DeTOUR: Artstrology 101. Thu., May 13, 6 p.m. Virtual Memorial Art Gallery. Registration required. mag.rochester.edu

Jade Catta-Preta. Fri., May 21, 7 & 9 p.m. Comedy @ the Carlson, 50 Carlson Rd $20. 426-6339. Lara Beitz. Thu., May 6, 7:30 p.m., Fri., May 7, 7 & 9 p.m. and Sat., May 8, 7 & 9 p.m. Comedy @ the Carlson, 50 Carlson Rd $12-$17. 426-6339. Let It Be with Unleashed!. Sat., May 8, 7 p.m. Livestream, online. blackfriars.org. Miss Richfield 1981: 40 Years On The Throne. Sat., May 8, 8 p.m. OFC Creations Theater Center, 3450 Winton Pl $40 & up ofccreations.com. Nuts & Bolts Improv. Thu., May 20, 7:30 p.m. Comedy @ the Carlson, 50 Carlson Rd $10. 426-6339. Samuel J Comroe. Thu., May 13, 7:30 p.m., Fri., May 14, 7 & 9 p.m. and Sat., May 15, 7 & 9 p.m. Comedy @ the Carlson, 50 Carlson Rd $20/$25. 426-6339.

Dance Events

Theater 2021 Playwrights Playreadings. Thursdays, 7:30 p.m Livestream, online. Through May 27 genevatheatreguild.org. Broken Mirrors. May 21-22. Livestream, online. outerlooptheater.org. Emancipation Denied, a Live Radio Drama. Mon., May 31, 7:30 p.m. Livestream, online. David Shakes & the North Star Players muccc.org. Festival of Ten XII. May 7-14. May 8, 5pm: Playwrights Symposium Livestream, online. $5/$10. fineartstix. brockport.edu. The Real James Bond ... Was Dominican. Fridays, 8 p.m., Sat., May 15, 2 & 8 p.m., Tue., May 18, 7:30 p.m., Tuesdays-Thursdays, 2 & 7 p.m., Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m., Sun., May 23, 2 p.m. and Wed., May 26, 2 p.m Livestream, online. Through May 29 $30. gevatheatre.org. Social Distancing: A Monologue Play. Ongoing. JCC CenterStage Theatre, online. jccrochester.org/centerstage.


INSIDE WXXI PUBLIC MEDIA | WXXI-TV PBS AM 1370 NPR CLASSICAL 91.5 FM | WRUR 88.5 FM | THE LITTLE THEATRE

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY NPR! Morning Edition Weekdays, 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. on AM 1370 + 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. on WRUR-FM 88.5

This year marks NPR’s 50th anniversary of its first on-air original program, All Things Considered. And since then, WXXI has been proud to be Rochester’s NPR station, using the power of public media to bring you in-depth news, public affairs, music, and more. All Things Considered hit the air on May 3, 1971. That same day more than 20,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C., to protest against the Vietnam War. NPR journalists covered the day’s events, producing a 24-minute sound portrait of what was happening. And they didn’t stop there. Over the years NPR and WXXI have reported stories that you’ve heard through your car radio, your smartphone and smart speaker, and read online. Throughout the year, we’ll celebrate the last 50 years with special programming, including an All Things Considered series called We Hold These Truths and 1971’s Most Enduring Artistic Moments on Morning Edition, plus anniversary specials on Fresh Air, 1A, Mountain Stage, and World Café. Tune in to AM 1370 and WRUR-FM 88.5 to learn more.

All Things Considered Weekdays, 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on AM 1370 + 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on WRUR-FM 88.5

SHARE YOUR FAVORITE NPR MOMENT WITH US! Do you have a story from All Things Considered that has stuck with you over the years? We’d love to know what that story was. Your response may be used in an upcoming story, on-air or online, and a producer may contact you to follow up on your response. Visit WXXI.org/events to learn more.

This American Life Saturdays, 12 p.m. and Sundays, 6 p.m.on AM 1370

Connections with Evan Dawson Weekdays, 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. AM 1370 + WRUR-FM 88.5

World Café Weekdays, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on WRUR-FM 88.5

See more WXXI TV and radio specials on the next pages.


WXXI-TV • THIS MONTH

POV: Through the Night

American Experience: Billy Graham

Monday, May 10 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV POV looks at the personal cost of our modern economy through the stories of two working mothers and a childcare provider, whose lives intersect at a 24-hour daycare center in New Rochelle, New York.

Monday, May 17 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV An international celebrity by age 30, Billy Graham built a media empire, preached to millions worldwide, and had the ear of tycoons, presidents and royalty. American Experience explores the life of one of the best-known and most influential religious leaders of the 20th century.

Credit: Pictured: Nunu comforts Noah Courtesy of Naiti Gam

Photo: Billy Graham at Youth from Christ Event, 1945 Credit: Courtesy of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Say His Name: Five Days for George Floyd Tuesday, May 25 at 11 p.m. on WXXI-TV The incomprehensible police killing of George Floyd on May 25th that sparked a global uprising is the epicenter in Director Cy Dodson’s Minneapolis neighborhood, revealing an immersive observation of unrest in the days between the police killing of George Floyd and the charges filed against police officer Derek Chauvin.

National Memorial Concert 2021

Great Performances: The Arts Interrupted Friday, May 14 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV Take an inside look at how arts organizations nationwide are surviving the pandemic and how they are maturing during the country’s reckoning with systemic racism. The special features interviews with artists and performances made during lockdown. 30 CITY MAY 2021

Sunday, May 30 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV Don’t miss the 32nd annual broadcast of America’s national night of remembrance. This multi award-winning television event honors the military service and sacrifice of all our men and women in uniform, their families, and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Credit: Courtesy of Capitol Concerts


ASIAN AMERICAN PACIFIC ISLANDER HERITAGE MONTH

WXXI is proud to pay tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success. For a complete list of specials this month, visit WXXI.org/asian-pacific.

American Masters – Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir Monday, May 3 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV Explore the life of the groundbreaking author of “The Joy Luck Club” in this intimate portrait. Archival imagery, home movies, photographs, animation and original interviews create a vivid, colorful journey through Tan’s inspiring life and career. Pictured: Amy Tan Credit: Courtesy of KPJR Films

Independent Lens: The Donut King

Antiques Roadshow: Celebrating AsianPacific Heritage

Pictured: Ted Ngoy Credit: Courtesy of Logan Industry

Monday, May 10 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV Travel with Antique Roadshow as they turn the spotlight on incredible items with Asian and Pacific Islands origins including a Hawaiian Kou bowl, a Gandhi presentation spinning wheel, and an 1888 Joseph Nawahi painting (pictured).

America ReFramed: Curtain Up! Tuesday, May 11 at 7 p.m. on WXXI-WORLD In New York City’s Chinatown, the theater club of PS 124 is staging an adaptation of the film Frozen. As the 5th graders gear up and rehearse for the musical production, nervous excitement and flubbed lines brush up against cultural stereotypes, family expectations, and post-graduation uncertainties. Curtain Up! shares a kid’s-eye view of the wonders of discovering art, culture, and identity.

Monday, May 24 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV An immigrant story with a (glazed) twist, The Donut King follows the journey of Cambodian refugee Ted Ngoy, who arrived in California in the 1970s and, through a mixture of diligence and luck, built a multi-million dollar donut empire up and down the West Coast.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Musicians Check wxxiclassical.org for weekly updates and new video interviews WXXI Classical is shining a light on prominent musicians of Asian and Pacific Islander decent that reside here and abroad. In video interviews with morning host Brenda Tremblay, you’ll meet David Chin, a conductor who’s sharing his passion for Bach in Malaysia as well as Mimi Hwang, a Rochester cellist and Eastman professor recently named the chair of the national network for ensemble music professionals, Chamber Music America. We’ll check in with two women composers: Korean-American performer and educator Beata Moon, and Chinese-American Wang Jie, who’s worked and thrived during the lockdown in New York City. Pictured: Mimi Hwang Credit: Judy Lasher Photography roccitynews.org CITY 31


TURN TO WXXI CLASSICAL FOR MUSIC PERFECTLY TUNED TO YOUR DAY Live from Hochstein: Hochstein Merit Scholarship Winners

Deutsche Welle Festival Concerts Wednesdays at 8 p.m., beginning May 19 on WXXI Classical In the year of the coronavirus pandemic, concert life in Germany shut down completely at first. Soon, however, special projects emerged, such as a oneof-a-kind performance of Bach’s St. John Passion from the Bach city, Leipzig, or a unique adaptation of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony to be performed, musicians socially distanced, in the composer’s home town, Bonn. We also take you to the medieval basilica of Knechtsteden near Cologne for a mix of wild and crazy folia pieces and otherworldly Gregorian chant. Rick Fulker hosts. Credit: RMF Ansgar Klostermann

the

great american songbook

The Great American Songbook Memorial Day Special

Monday, May 31 at 6 p.m. on WXXI Classical This special presents songs from the home front to the foxholes of World War II by some of America’s greatest composers and lyricists – songs that evoke nostalgia, longing for home and the safety of loved ones fighting and working for our country. Selections include songs by: Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan, Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Ira Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein, Johnny Mercer, Les Brown, and Herman Hupfeld. Hosted by WHQR’s Dr. Philip Furia. 

Support public media. Become a WXXI Member! Whether it’s television, radio, online, or on screen, WXXI is there with the programs, news, and information – where you want it and when you want it. If you value PBS, NPR, PBS Kids, WXXI News, WXXI Classical and so much more, consider becoming a member. Visit WXXI.org/support to choose the membership that works for you. There are many membership levels with their own special benefits, including becoming a sustaining member. MAY 2021

Wednesday, May 12 at 12:10 p.m. on WXXI Classical The season concludes featuring Hochstein students nominated by their teachers for their outstanding performance ability and selected via audition. Performers include: Joshua Fugate, violin; Katherine Huang, flute; Sean Li, piano; and Isaac Pollock, guitar. Credit: The Hochstein School

5 Things of Note about Marianne Carberry Weekend Host on WXXI Classical, Saturdays 12-1 p.m. and 3-6 p.m. 1. Where did you grow up? I grew up right here in Rochester, in the shadow of Highland Park. When I was a little girl, my friends and I (with assistance from our mothers) sold lemonade at our homemade lilac stand, on what was then a one-day event called “Lilac Sunday.” 2. Where did you go to college and what was your degree? I studied theatre for two years at Ithaca College. After a break in my studies, I switched my major to history and philosophy and finished my undergraduate degree at Nazareth College. After Nazareth, I took graduate courses in Communications at SUNY Geneseo. A highlight of my Geneseo experience was an internship with the veteran broadcaster Anne Keefe, before she left Rochester for KMOX in St. Louis. 3. What was your first job in radio? I started out briefly working as a “volunteer” news producer/reporter for WXXI-FM (back when WXXI had just one radio station). I then worked as the radio traffic person. After a few months, I transitioned into the position of radio operation director, a position I held for several years. 4. What are three things you can’t live without? Listening to public radio; all things related to gardening (including shopping for plants I can’t afford or don’t have room for), all things related to our beloved rescue dog Rosie -- including walking, hiking, and cuddling. 5. What was the last concert you went to? One of the most memorable concerts I’ve attended of late was when the renowned maestro David Zinman (a former RPO music director in the late 70’s through the mid 80’s) returned to Rochester and the Eastman School as a Distinguished Artist. I was fortunate to attend the concert on April 12, 2019, in which he conducted the Eastman Philharmonia in symphonies of Franz Schubert. Photo credit: Richard Ashworth


AM 1370, YOUR NPR NEWS STATION + WRUR-FM 88.5, DIFFERENT RADIO The Universal Title Sunday, May 2 at 9 p.m. on AM 1370 There may be no other actor on the world’s stage whose life has been as heavily documented as Muhammad Ali’s. Yet for all the ways the legendary athlete and humanitarian’s life has been scrutinized and celebrated, few have attempted to tell the story of what he valued most: his spiritual evolution. From America Abroad Media, The Muhammad Ali Center, and PRX, this one-hour special takes you on Ali’s spiritual journey from Christianity to Islam — and what really made him ‘The Greatest.’ Hosted by Preacher Moss.

Rethinking Mental Health Care Sundays, May 9 and 16 at 9 p.m. on AM 1370 This two-part series presents an honest critique of the nation’s mental health care shortcomings, while highlighting tangible solutions and models for improving access and quality of care. Hosted by Kimberly Adams (pictured) of Marketplace, the special takes a deep dive into failures, challenges and opportunities, while also allowing people to question mental health experts to ground the issues in matters most pressing to the public.

Program 1: Our Mental Health Crisis, By Design l May 9 America’s mental health system is designed to deliver too little care, too late. Current policy and care systems devote the most resources to treating people in crisis, but provider and bed shortages remain common. How are people still finding ways to connect with help?

Program 2: Reinventing the Future of Mental Health Care l May 16 Preventative mental health care is effective and can prevent early symptoms from becoming chronic illnesses. What will it take to reform the nation’s care systems and policies so that people get the wholistic care they need to prevent a crisis?

The Life of George Floyd Sunday, May 23 and again Sunday, May 30 at 9 p.m. on AM 1370 George Floyd has become a symbol, and a rallying cry. But what’s missing in our understanding is the man himself: a figure who was complicated, full of ambition, shaped by his family and his community and a century of forces around him. In this special, The Washington Post explores the life and experiences of the man who sparked a movement. This special will also repeat on Monday, May 31 at 9 p.m. on AM 1370.

How George Floyd Changed Us Sunday, May 23 and again Sunday, May 30 at 10 p.m. on AM 1370 As we mark a year since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, join MPR News host Angela Davis for a reflection on how he changed us. In this special, you’ll hear a range of voices articulating the transformation that’s taken place on both personal and community levels - from the young people whose worldview has been forever altered to the community members working to ensure the Black man killed when a police officer kneeled on his neck is never forgotten. This special will also repeat on Monday, May 31 at 1 p.m. and 10 p.m. on AM 1370.

Mountain Stage with Larry Groce Sundays 2-4 p.m. on WRUR-FM For more than 30 years, Mountain Stage with Larry Groce has been the home of live music on public radio. Recorded in front of a live audience, the series features performances from seasoned legends and emerging stars in genres ranging from folk, blues, and country; to indie rock, synth pop, world music, alternative, and beyond. Pictured: The Jeremiahs Credit: Brian Blauser/Mountain Stage

FIVE FACTS ABOUT WXXI NEWS’ MAX SCHULTE 1. Your role in the newsroom: As a photojournalist, my role is to bring a visual perspective to our news reports with storytelling images and video. 2. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? In eighth grade I knew I wanted to be a photographer. My parents were very supportive and bought me my first camera, a 1960’s Nikon F. 3. College + degree: I went to RIT for photography and focused on photojournalism. The program still exists and has turned out some of the most dedicated documentary still photographers I know. 4. Favorite place around town: My family skis at Bristol Mountain in the winter so enjoying time with my wife and kids on the slopes makes that a special place for me. 5. Favorite photo you’ve ever taken: I don’t have a favorite photo and I don’t hang my work up in my home. There’s an old news photographer’s saying “you’re only as good as your last image.” I guess that’s stuck with me over the years, pushing me forward and less retrospective about what I see through the lens. Photo credit: Richard Ashworth roccitynews.org CITY 33


Dinner & Drinks at The Little Café

Movies are back, and so are your favorites at The Little Café. Menu includes: A Muffuletta Named Desire, My Big Fat Greek Salad, quiche, soups, vegan and gluten-free options, and more. Beer and wine selections are also available. Café hours are the same as the theater. Pictured: Tuscan’s Son artichoke panini (vegan, bottom-left), Nicoise salad (top-left), and a collection of toasted cheese ravioli, My Big Fat Greek Salad, and A Muffuletta Named Desire (right). Photos by Matt DeTurck | The Little

Take A Little Break! Movie magic is back at The Little. Visit thelittle.org for new and upcoming movies, showtimes, tickets, trailers, along with COVID safety procedures. Photo by Max Schulte | WXXI News

6 CITY

The Little Theatre • 240 East Avenue • Rochester’s East End

SEPTEMBER 2020 MAY 2021


ARTS

ART MOVEMENT

George Haag describes removing a portrait of Andy Warhol by Robert Mapplethorpe from the wall at the Memorial Art Gallery. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

AN ACCUSED WOULD-BE ART THIEF HAS A DAY IN COURT BY DAVID ANDREATTA

G

@DAVID_ANDREATTA

eorge Haag had butterflies in his stomach, more like a performer in the wings than a defendant in a criminal case, as he waited to be called into Courtroom 401 at the Hall of Justice in downtown Rochester recently. “I’m excited,” he said. “I feel like I’m on a blind date.” He had yet to meet his public defender in the flesh and had dressed up for the occasion, wearing a brown sport

36 CITY MAY 2021

DANDREATTA@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

coat over a red knitted vest and a novelty necktie emblazoned with cartoon breasts that he bought at the adult store Show World in Henrietta. “I’m a boob,” he explained. When the public defender arrived, he advised Haag to remove the necktie, saying it wasn’t appropriate for his appearance before Rochester City Court Judge Nicole Morris. The matter at hand was no laughing matter, but Haag had prepared for his bit and wasn’t

about to let it go. Haag, 37, an aspiring comedian with dreams of reopening the old Monroe Theatre as a comedy club, was charged with attempted grand larceny in the second degree for allegedly trying to steal an item from the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Memorial Art Gallery back in January. The charge is a felony that carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. The item in question was a portrait

of Warhol shot by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe that is thought to be valued at $60,000. When Morris called his name, Haag walked into the courtroom, pulled the necktie out from under his vest and apologized for being overdressed. The judge, who either never noticed the imprint on his tie or was indifferent to it, told Haag he looked fine and that they best just get the show on the road. The show was to determine whether


Haag would accept a plea deal from Monroe County prosecutors to move his case to mental health court, a branch of the justice system that provides nonviolent offenders living with mental illness with treatment as an alternative to trial and potential incarceration. Everyone involved, it seemed, wanted Haag to take the deal — even the aggrieved Memorial Art Gallery. “MAG has no interest in seeing Mr. Haag go to jail for this offense,” the museum’s director, Jonathan Binstock, said after the proceeding. “We do hope that he avails himself of the diversion from the criminal justice system to mental health court that has been offered.” Haag would likely qualify for mental health court. In an interview in his Brighton apartment a couple weeks before his court appearance, he said he has been prescribed medication for a diagnosed mental illness. At the same time, he said that he disputed his diagnosis and stopped taking medication more than a year ago. He told his lawyer that he refused to go to mental health court, reasoning that he couldn’t be trusted to make the required routine appearances to report on his progress. Besides, Haag insisted, he never tried to steal the portrait. He said he just wanted to pick it up and that, when he did, he was inspired to move it. “It’s funny, I’ll be honest,” he said, “I did think about stealing it, but I decided not to, which is relevant because it’s an intent issue. “So, I flipped a coin because I’m a comedian, it’s fun,” he went on. “It came up tails and I made tails, ‘I’ll pick it up off the wall,’ then, what do you know?” But why did he pick it up of the wall? “To pick it up off the wall,” he said. “No, honestly, just to feel what it felt like. Like, I’ve never done that before. Who doesn’t want to pick up a piece of art off a wall of an art museum?” Did he know he wasn’t supposed to do that? “No,” he replied. In his apartment that day, Haag spoke at a rapid clip, like a fast-talking voiceover artist reading the legal disclaimer in a radio ad. He snacked on pastrami he brought home from the meat market down the street, where he does odd jobs a few hours a week. The owner there said he wanted to help

PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

Haag make ends meet. Haag grew up in Pittsford and earned bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and biochemistry from Case Western Reserve University and graduate degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of California. While in Los Angeles, he said, he tried performing stand-up comedy and felt he was on to something. He put audiences in stitches, he said, just like he recalled doing to the deputies at the Monroe County Jail when he was arrested, and in court during his arraignment in February. “Why don’t ants get the COVID-19?” was how he said he set up one of his best jokes for the officers. The punchline: “They got little antibodies.” “I’m joking around with these guys and all the cops behind me are sniggering because I’m having fun with this,” Haag recalled of his arraignment. After his foray into stand-up on the West Coast, Haag returned to New York and taught for a while at schools in Rochester and in the North Country, but he said he was unable to hold on to those jobs. In recent years, Haag said, he’s been dividing his time between the meat market, doing stand-up at open mics, working on getting his comedy club

venture off the ground, and attending sessions at Strong Ties Community Support Clinic, an outpatient clinic of the University of Rochester Medical Center for adults with severe and persistent mental illness. When Haag walked into the Memorial Art Gallery on Jan. 31, the day of the alleged attempted theft, he wasn’t a stranger to the place. A few years earlier, Haag was integral to a celebrated film installation at the museum by the artist Javier Téllez that focused on cinema and mental illness. Haag and other people living with mental illness in the Rochester area collaborated with Téllez through a series of workshops, helping him write the script and starring in the movie. When the installation opened, the museum threw a party for the participants that Haag attended. The film, “Nosferatu (The Undead),” has since been screened all over the world. Haag said he never paid to enter the museum the day he took the Mapplethorpe portrait of Warhol off the wall. “I had this incredible artistic moment, where I have no idea what I’m going to do,” Haag said. “It was great. I’m sitting here with Warhol in my hands. So I walk across the room.”

He estimated that he was about 100 feet away from the nearest exit when he entered a part of the exhibit fashioned like a living room that played Warhol television appearances. “I see this Andy Warhol TV room and I’m thinking, that is so perfect,” he said. “Just then, a docent walks by me and I held the picture up to him and said, ‘Hey look, a Mapplethorpe!’ . . . So I put it down on the ground in the frame leaned up against the Andy Warhol TV room.” He said he then walked to the main entrance of the museum, told another official that he thought the Mapplethorpe portrait looked better on the floor, and walked out. “I wasn’t running,” he said. “I just walked out when I was done. . . . Took them a week and a half to find me.” The Memorial Art Gallery released a statement on Feb. 10 announcing that a person had been arrested and charged in connection with an attempt to steal a work of art. The statement suggested that the would-be thief only got a few steps before he encountered a museum security ambassador, who secured the art and alerted police. Haag told police in a statement that he “just wanted to make people laugh” and that he thought “Warhol would look better somewhere else.” In court, after apologizing for being overdressed, Haag complained of being hot and took off his sport coat and vest to reveal a hand-written advertisement for his comedy club idea on a piece of paper taped to his back. The judge told Haag to put his jacket back on. He complied, but not before he tugged his necktie free and tossed it into the air. After that, the judge suggested she would shut down the show until Haag could get his act together. Then, the public defender interjected. “We won’t be able to resolve this matter today,” he said, explaining that Haag didn’t want to go to mental health court and that he was prepared for his case to go before a grand jury and, from there, possibly to trial. The judge agreed and adjourned the matter. Haag picked up his tie off the courtroom floor, gathered a few stray items he had left in the gallery, and exited saying, “That’s a show.”

roccitynews.org CITY 37


ABOUT TOWN Festivals

Literary Events & Discussions

Sundays, 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m Highland Park, 171 Reservoir Ave. rochesterevents. com/lilac-festival.

Central Library, online. Reviews posted weekly 428-8370.

123rd Annual Lilac Festival. Fridays-

Lectures

16th Annual Reshaping Rochester Lecture Series. Wed., May 26, noon. Dr.

Columbia Care Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Rochester now offering ground flower NEW PATIENT SPECIAL: Receive 20% off your first purchase

Home Delivery Available

Destiny Thomas on healing & atonement. Livestream, online. cdcrochester.org.

All About Flowers: James Vick’s 19thCentury Seed Company. Sat., May 8, 1-2:30 p.m. Virtual Central Library, online. 428-8370.

Good Mental Health Begins with Good Self-Care. Tue., May 11, 1 p.m. Virtual

Central Library, online. 428-8370.

In Focus Talk: Best Laid Plans. Fri., May 21, 1 p.m. Virtual George Eastman Museum, online. Registration required $10 suggested eastman.org. Jim Dierks: The Rochester Subway. Thu., May 6, 7:30 p.m. Mendon Community Center, 167 N Main St. Honeoye Falls / Mendon Historical Society 624-5655. League of Women Voters Webinar Series. Wed., May 5, 6 p.m. and Wed.,

May 19, 6 p.m. Livestream, online. May 6: Voting after a felony conviction; May 19: Police Accountability. lwv-rma.org.

Meet The Changemakers Speaker Series. Wed., May 5, 7 p.m. and Thu.,

May 13, 7 p.m. Virtual Rochester Museum & Science Center, rmsc. org May 5: Michelle Shenandoah; May 11: Mimi Lee; May 13: Alexis Vogt. Registration required $10 suggested. Monarch Butterflies. Thu., May 6, 2 p.m. Livestream, online. Brighton Memorial Library calendar.libraryweb.org.

New York’s Holy History: America’s Spiritual Soul. Thu., May 6, 2 p.m.

Livestream, online. Penfield Public Library calendar.libraryweb.org.

Ninety Feet Under: What Poverty Does to People. Tue., May 18, 7 p.m. Livestream, online. Pittsford Community Library calendar.libraryweb.org.

Olmsted & the Origins of the Parks Movement: A Walking Tour. Sat., May 8,

11 a.m. & 2 p.m. Mount Hope Cemetery, 791 Mt Hope Ave. $12. fomh.org.

Provocative Mothers Raising Precocious Daughters: Women’s Rights Leaders from the Finger Lakes.

Tue., May 4, 7 p.m. Livestream, online. genevahistoricalsociety.com.

Rochester’s Rich History: The History of Seneca Park Zoo. Sat., May 15, 1 p.m.

Virtual Central Library, online. 428-8370. Sunday Tours. Sundays, 2 p.m Mount Hope Cemetery, 791 Mt Hope Ave. North Gatehouse $12. fomh.org.

Find us

www.col-care.com/location/rochester New York Medical Marijuana ID required to make a Medical Marijuana purchase. 38 CITY MAY 2021

Treasures in the Attic: A Fascinating Photographic Discovery. Tue., May 18,

7 p.m. Livestream, online. Registration required perintonhistoricalsociety.org. Twilight Tours. Thursdays, 7 p.m Mount Hope Cemetery, 791 Mt Hope Ave. North Gatehouse $12. fomh.org.

What Racism Costs Everyone: A Conversation with Heather McGhee.

Wed., May 19, 7 p.m. Livestream, online. monroecc.edu.

Books Sandwiched In. Tuesdays Virtual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival. Sat., May 15, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Livestream, online. teenbookfest.org. Rochester Jewish Book Festival. Thu., May 6, 8 p.m., Mon., May 10, 8 p.m., Thu., May 13, 7:30 p.m., Wed., May 19, 8 p.m. and Thu., May 27, 8 p.m. Livestream, online. $6-$11. rjbf.org.

Kids Events

Freewheelin’ Fun. May 22-23. Strong National Museum of Play, 1 Manhattan Sq. (museumofplay.org) $18-$23. Nature Sunday Experiences. Sundays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m Genesee Country Nature Center, 1410 Flint Hill Rd Mumford $5 suggested gcv.org. Season Opening & Mother’s Day. May 8-9, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Genesee Country Village & Museum, 1410 Flint Hill Rd Mumford Limited admission; timed tickets $12-$18. gcv.org. Storybook Walk. Fri., May 21, 4:30 p.m. Helmer Nature Center, 154 Pinegrove Ave Registration required $5. 336-3035. World Video Game Hall of Fame Celebration. May 8-9. Strong National Museum of Play, 1 Manhattan Sq. (museumofplay.org) $18-$23.

Recreation

Geology Walk (10am) | How the Gorge was Formed: Story of the Park (12:30pm) | Memorial Tree Walk (2pm).

Mon., May 31. Letchworth State Park. Registration required 493-3682. Lunch in Old Growth Woods. Tue., May 4, 11 a.m., Thu., May 13, 11 a.m., Wed., May 19, 11 a.m. and Wed., May 26, 11 a.m. Letchworth State Park Registration required 493-3682. Open House. Sat., May 22, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Finger Lakes Museum, 3369 Guyanoga Rd Branchport fingerlakesmuseum.org. Warblers & Wildflowers. Saturdays, 1 p.m Sterling Nature Center, 15380 Jenzvold Rd Sterling (315) 947-6143. Wildflower Walk. Wed., May 5, 1 p.m., Sat., May 8, 2 p.m. and Thu., May 20, 1 p.m. Letchworth State Park. Registration required 493-3682. Yoga in the Pines. Sat., May 15, 10:30 a.m. & 1 p.m. Cumming Nature Center, 6472 Gulick Rd. $18. rmsc.org.

Special Events

Flower City Days. Sundays, 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Fri., May 28, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. and Mon., May 31, 8 a.m.-2 p.m Rochester Public Market, 280 N. Union St. cityofrochester.gov/flowercitydays. Light Bloom: A Faire For Houseplant Lovers. Sat., May 8, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Lumiere Photo, 100 College Ave 4614447. The Lucky Flea Market. Sundays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m Good Luck, 50 Anderson Ave. theluckyflea.com. Rochester Bike Week. May 7-16. Various, Rochester reconnectrochester. org/bikeweek.


roccitynews.org CITY 39


LIFE

Bijaya Khadka, a former refugee, is the founding chairperson of the city's New Americans Advisory Council. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

40 CITY MAY 2021


PUBLIC LIVES BY GINO FANELLI

@GINOFANELLI

GFANELLI@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

Bijaya Khadka builds the America he dreamed of as a refugee

B

ijaya Khadka was 17 when he and his family left the refugee camp on the eastern edge of Nepal in 2009 to seek a better life in the United States. Khadka, who had known no other life outside the bamboo and plastic huts of the camp erected on the banks of the Timai River, dreamed of America with wide eyes. He imagined a country free of poverty, free of crime, and full of opportunity for everyone. A “second heaven,” as he called it.    But when his family settled in northwest Rochester, Khadka’s vision was quickly shattered.   “What was going in my mind was I was thinking people had sold us somewhere else,” Khadka said. “I thought the place that I’m entering into was not America.”  It was a confusing time for Khadka, imbued with fear and anger at the realization that America was a dichotomy — a prosperous country with widespread homelessness, poverty, racism, and violence.  Now at 29, Khadka is on a mission to help build the America he once fantasized about through the House of Refuge, a volunteer social services organization he founded in 2015 to connect refugees to education, employment, and other resources.   His work caught the eye of Mayor Lovely Warren, who recently appointed Khadka as chairperson of the city’s New Americans Advisory Council, a coalition of Rochester’s refugee services organizations tasked with ensuring their interests stay on the radar at City Hall.  “We’re an underlooked community,” Khadka said. “People like to say, ‘We have to help refugees, we have to do this, we have to do that.’ But they don’t really want to do the work.” 

A SEARCH FOR A HOME Khadka came to America seeking a home. He wanted a place to plant roots like the ones his parents had had in their native Bhutan, a landlocked country sandwiched between China and India in the eastern Himalayas, before they were exiled to nearby Nepal. 

The Alexander Pharmacy serves the clientele of the Center for Refugee Health on Alexander Street. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

His parents were Lhotshampa, an ethnic minority of Nepali-speaking Bhutanese people who were effectively declared illegal aliens under the “one nation, one people” policy imposed by the country’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. By 1990, schools nationwide were barred from teaching in their language. When some Lhotshampa demonstrations to protest the discrimination turned violent, the Bhutanese military escalated the hostilities and began mass deportations. Khadka’s parents were among an estimated 100,000 Lhotshampa to be expelled to Nepal.    But the Nepalese government refused to assimilate the Lhotshampa, rendering them stateless. Khadka was born in a refugee camp there and raised as a man of no country.   To Khadka, America represented the chance to fit in somewhere free from persecution. But in Rochester, he and his family and countless other refugees found, the discrimination and maltreatment continued.  They were among a wave of nearly 2,600 Bhutanese refugees who settled in the city, mostly in and around the Jones Square Park area between Dewey

and Lake avenues. Within a few years of their arrival, their community reportedly documented some 300 incidents of violence and bullying at the hands of longtime neighborhood residents. Khadka recalled being suckerpunched in the back of the head and stripped of his bus pass. His father, Gokul, was beaten and robbed of the few dollars in his pocket by three men while walking along Lake Avenue in 2014. “We tried to find him, we looked all day long, we couldn’t find him,” Khadka said. “In the middle of the night, we got a call from Strong Hospital, saying my dad was in the hospital.”   His uncle, his brother, his friends, it seemed everyone had a story to tell of violence being perpetrated against them.   “We are always looking for acceptance, we came here looking for acceptance,” Khadka said. “We wish that people could accept us the way we are, the way we look, the way we sound, the way we dress.”  

PURSUING COMPASSION A year after his father was attacked, Khadka recalled, his life took a turn while in a car with a friend heading along Route 104. At an intersection, a young woman stood holding a sign

indicating she was homeless. Khadka was moved by the image and urged his friend behind the wheel to pull over. “I had $20 in my pocket,” Khadka said. “I don’t know if she understood me, but I did try to communicate with her, I tried to share my story of where I came from. I gave whatever I had, and I said, ‘I don’t know if this is going to help you, but I will be praying for you tonight.’”  Having grown up without a home, he saw himself in that woman on the roadside, and believed his community would, too. He and a few of his friends raised cash from Rochester’s Nepaliowned stores to clothe and feed the homeless, many of whom were then living in an encampment beneath the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Bridge.   “I told (the store owners), ‘Look, where we came from, our life was very different, and we can help people who are like us,’” Khadka said.   The effort would be the catalyst for the House of Refuge. Khadka was 23 when he had the idea to pull together Rochester’s “new Americans” — a term Khadka prefers to “refugees” — and help them CONTINUED ON PAGE 42

roccitynews.org CITY 41


help themselves by getting an education, starting businesses, and navigating the social system they inherited. That year, the House of Refuge had four volunteers. Today, there are 28, and Khadka estimates the organization serves more than 2,000 new Americans each year. He’s proud of the accomplishment while acknowledging there is more work to do, particularly in his new role with the city’s New Americans Advisory Council.    “When we talk about the federal government, or the state, or the city, they like to talk about big organizations, but they often don’t really care about the grassroot organizations that are giving time voluntarily, who are doing amazing work,” Khadka said. “But they don’t really get the support they need, or the resources.”  In 2019, Khadka tried firsthand to get the new American community representation in city government when he ran for City Council as a candidate for the Northwest District. He didn’t make it to the ballot, but that didn’t matter to Khadka.   “I was very, very excited to know that once you became a citizen of this country, you had the privilege to vote,” Khadka said. “I never had the privilege to vote, and running for any public office was out of the realm of imagination.”

A MASSIVE NEED Between 2002 and 2019, 8,093 refugees resettled in Rochester, according to Refugee Processing Center data kept by the federal State Department. Bhutanese and Burmese people topped the list, at 2,588 and 1,405, respectively. But refugees come from all over, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cuba, Ukraine, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria, to name a few countries.   They have often survived war, disease, torture, and political persecution. They arrive here from desperate camps, where they lived for years not knowing when, or if, they would be resettled in a new land.  Refugees who are admitted to the United States are subjected to an extensive vetting process that can take up to two years and involves multiple background checks, interviews with officials from the United Nations, the State Department, and Homeland Security, and placement with an 42 CITY MAY 2021

Kaif Ali, of the Center for Refugee Outreach. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

American resettlement agency. In Rochester, that agency is typically the Catholic Family Center, which, until the Trump administration, was assisting more than 600 new refugees a year with housing, social services, education, and job placement. The latest figures suggest about 100 refugees are now settling in Rochester annually.  Other organizations such as the House of Refuge, Mary’s Place Refugee Outreach, and Refugees Helping Refugees offer similar services as Catholic Family Center’s Refugee Resettlement program. Kaif Ali, of the Center for Refugee Health on Alexander Street, a one-stop shop for health services for refugees operated by Rochester Regional Health, said resources for refugees run by former refugees are a necessity.    Ali said the culture shock many newcomers experience can lead to their communities being insular. Neighbors rely on neighbors because they share

a cultural bond, and there can exist a mistrust of outsiders. “They tend to stay in their own little community, because they feel comfortable with themselves,” Ali said. “Because they don’t know the American culture, is it acceptable to knock on a door if you need water, if you need sugar?” Ali said the situation, coupled with lack of outreach into the communities, can lead to new Americans falling through the cracks. “They come to this country at a young age, they don’t have a role model, and they tend to follow the wrong path,” Ali said. “No job, no schooling, and no support to get them on the right path.” For about a year, Khadka’s day job has been at the Rochester Rehabilitation Center, where he works to connect refugees with employment and other vital services. Rochester Rehab’s Director of Employment Connection Mary Lou

McCloud described Khadka as being wise beyond his years. “He knows things you’d figure someone his age shouldn’t know,” McCloud said. “But the thing is, he’s always willing to learn more, and he realizes he doesn’t know it all. One of the things particular about him is his integrity, his work ethic, he’s a man of his word. Nowadays, that is so important. He talks the talk, but he also walks the walk.”  Now married with a son and daughter, Khadka has begun to establish the life he once dreamed of.  But, he said, the recent spike in violence against Asian Americans during the pandemic is a stark reminder that there is work to be done.  “We came here to live a life of freedom, and that starts with governmental agencies taking the lead,” Khadka said. “And also the broader community to really pay attention to what is happening.”


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PathStone has partnered with Rochester Regional Health to offer onsite supportive services to 78 units within Skyview Park Apartments. These units will be reserved for the Frail Elderly. To be considered Frail Elderly you must be a senior who is enrolled in Medicaid and need assistance with personal care/or community living, such as shopping, laundry, medication management, nutrition, etc. Additional requirements apply. Contact us for more information. The housing lottery will be held on June 8, 2021 at 2pm via Zoom.

https://zoom.us/j/94456826094 The application deadline to be included in the lottery is May 18, 2021

Income and Occupancy Limits are Subject to Change

roccitynews.org CITY 43


LIFE

PHOTOS BY MAX SCHULTE

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RANDOM ROCHESTER BY DAVID ANDREATTA

@DAVID_ANDREATTA

DANDREATTA@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

GOOD TO THE LAST PLOP Victor couple launches Schittin Good Coffee after bout with constipation

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he inventor Thomas Edison is said to have once remarked, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Had he known the story behind Kate and Kyle Korman’s breakthrough idea, though, he might have left room for constipation. The Kormans are the proprietors of Schittin Good Coffee, their trademarked brand of artisan coffee whose name puckishly plays on the natural laxative effect coffee can have on some people. (No, their coffee does not contain a laxative.) “It was an inside joke between us and the lightbulb just went off: Why not bring it to market?” Kyle said. They began selling two blends, “Keep It Regular” and “Hurry Hurry Hurry,” out of their home in Victor in Ontario County a few months ago under the slogan, “Gets You Movin in the Mornin.” (It beats “The best part of waking up is Schittin in your cup.”) The venture, they said, has kept them moving. The company currently ships a handful of 12-ounce bags a week to coffee drinkers across the country, and has acquired nearly 2,700 Instagram followers and a few hilarious testimonials in the process. “I don’t know if it’s mental or what, but ever since I tried the regular blend, I’ve truly become a more regular person,” wrote Trent from Dallas, Texas. Schittin Good Coffee is not on store shelves. Getting it there is Kyle’s job as the company’s “director of movement.” Kate sits on the throne as the company’s president. “We think it’s funny, we’re having a good time with it and the reception we’ve gotten from a wide audience of folks has been similar,” Kyle said. You might think it impetuous to name a product meant to be ingested and savored after a bowel movement. But the idea had been percolating for some time in the Kormans, who are married and both 35 years old. They pulled the trigger late last

Kate and Kyle Korman at their home in Victor, where they brewed up the idea for Schittin Good Coffee while quarantining during the pandemic. PHOTOS BY MAX SCHULTE

year while they were stuck working their day jobs from home and eager for a new project. Kate is a database training manager and Kyle designs HVAC systems. The couple conceived of Schittin Good Coffee in 2018 while on a getaway to Vermont prior to the birth of their son. Kate was seven months pregnant and, as happens with expectant mothers, she was constipated. “It was early morning and we were walking around and at that point it had probably been a couple of days since I had gone and I was just like, ‘We can’t go any further until something happens,’” Kate said. Kyle suggested a cup of coffee might loosen things up. “I said, ‘Whatever kind of coffee it is it’s got to be shittin’ good,’” Kate recalled. “I don’t know where that came from, but it sort of stuck.” Where it came from is backed up by science. About 30 percent of people feel the need to go after drinking their morning joe. Scientists have found — presumably by way of some very invasive studies — that coffee of any

sort can stimulate the distal colon, which helps push waste out of the body. But researchers haven’t figured out why. It’s tempting to attribute it to the caffeine, but the studies show that even decaffeinated coffee has the laxative effect. Some researchers suggest that the acidity in coffee makes the stomach dump its contents more quickly. Others speculate that something in coffee triggers the release of hormones that aid in digestion. The Kormans don’t really care what it is, as long as their coffee is enjoyed. “We said to ourselves, ‘This is a fun, tongue-in-cheek way to get people’s attention,’ and it has,” Kyle said. “But

when they buy the product, they have to open the bag and try it. Ultimately, if we want any repeat business, it’s got to be a good cup of coffee.” The Kormans consider themselves coffee connoisseurs, even coffee “snobs.” They like good, specialty coffee and are willing to pay for it. But they aren’t roasters. Their coffee is roasted and packaged, the Kormans said, by a roaster in Oregon that produces coffee for private labels, like Schittin Good Coffee. Hence another of the brand’s mottos: “West Coast flavor meets East Coast grit.” The couple said they taste-tested about a dozen blends from each of four different roasters before settling on their blends. “If it could pass our taste test, we figure we’ve got 90 percent of coffee drinkers covered,” Kyle said. Private label coffees are blends that are exclusive to one brand and not available to competitors. And they have become big business. Last year in the United States, private label coffee sales totaled more than $1.2 billion and were up over 7 percent, according to a report in Stir, a coffee and tea trade publication that cited Nielsen Research data. Schittin Good Coffee retails for $14.99 per 12-ounce bag and $4.99 for 2-ounce sample packs that can be ordered from the company’s website, schittingoodcoffee.com. The company ships for free. There are currently a few hundred bags of coffee in a climate-controlled room in the Korman home awaiting shipping. The Kormans are a cup-half-full kind of couple. The way they view Schittin Good Coffee is if it sells, they scale up; if it doesn’t, they drink up. “The one thing we committed to was if we’re going to invest our time and money into creating a business, we want to make sure that if it fails, we like the product,” Kate said. roccitynews.org CITY 45


LIFE

THE GOODS

Jon Olek of Black Cat Baking Co., seen here with a cinnamon roll, works from a commercial-grade kitchen in his home to supply several area cafes and shops with pastries. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

HOME SWEET HOMEMADE Monroe County has seen an explosion in home-based food processors during the pandemic, especially bakers. BY REBECCA RAFFERTY

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ike most bakers, Jon Olek starts his day long before sunrise. He fires up his oven at 3:30 a.m. and bakes for three hours before setting out to deliver fresh scones, Danishes, and brioche buns to city cafes and shops. “I get back right in time to go

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@RSRAFFERTY

BECCA@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

upstairs and help my daughter get ready for school,” he says, adding that he starts prepping for the next day’s baking when she leaves. Olek has that flexibility in his schedule because he doesn’t work at a commercial bakery, but rather out of a commercial-grade kitchen he built in his basement, where he does business

as Black Cat Baking Co. His is one of hundreds of homebased food businesses in Monroe County whose ranks have exploded here and across the state since the onset of the pandemic, as hobbyists who were hunkered down at home turned their quarantine into an opportunity.

Starting a home-based food business in New York requires applying for an exemption to licensing laws governing largescale food manufacturers. Last year, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, which oversees the CONTINUED ON PAGE 48


THANKS FOR BEING IN OUR CORNER For nearly 50 years, CITY has kept the powers that be in our community on their toes while highlighting the very best of our arts and cultural scenes. In the meantime, nearly half of all newsroom jobs nationwide were lost. Tech titans plundered newsrooms’ traditional revenue streams and did little to replace the local news coverage knocked out in the process. We’re still fighting the good fight. But every fighter needs a team. Many of you who value what we do have asked how you can help CITY stay vibrant, locally-owned, and free. Aside from reading and supporting our advertisers, you can become a CITY Champion. Find out how to make a one-time or recurring donation at rochestercitynewspaper.com Thank you for your support.

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Carter Burwell, left, of Burwell Kitchen, makes creatively-flavored baked goods and candies at home, including Walnut Debbie brownies. PHOTOS BY JACOB WALSH

exemptions, saw applications jump 56 percent over the previous year, according to the agency. Monroe County outpaced the state by a landslide, according to the agency, with applications from here doubling to 101 between April 2020 and March 2021 from 48 in the prior 12-month span. Today, there are 374 home-based food processors in Monroe County — an increase of roughly 40 percent over last year. There are about 7,100 homebased food processors across the state.   The marked uptick should perhaps come as no surprise, with so many employees in the restaurant industry having been out of work and the prospect of starting a business from home with little overhead dangling in front of them like a carrot. There is a wide array of foods that home-based food businesses can make in their home kitchens — from cookies to marmalades and popcorn to vegetable chips. But bakers by far occupy the 48 CITY MAY 2021

largest piece of the home-based food processing pie. Of the 101 new applications for licensing exemptions in Monroe County, 92 of them were from people who intended to make baked goods under company names like Baked with Love, Sweetology, and House of Schmouse. The rest were for candy, maple syrup, kettle corn, tea, and nuts. So yeah, that “homemade” buttery, laminated pastry you’re enjoying with your morning coffee at your favorite cafe, or the cake that’s capping a dinner out, might have actually been made in someone’s home.  Olek sells his baked goods, which include specialty items such as a vegan chocolate-strawberry version of PopTarts, at Ugly Duck Coffee, Rococo Coffee at Mercantile on Main, and Abundance Food Co-op, to name a few shops. His more frou-frou desserts, such as mini Bananas Foster cakes, can be found at spots like Rella. Ugly Duck Coffee owner Rory Van Grol has been selling Olek’s pastries


since 2015, before Black Cat had a name and before Ugly Duck itself had a brick-and-mortar store. Their friendship goes back 25 years, and having begun his cafe as a pop-up venture, Van Grol has an appreciation for small, home-based food processors, whom he calls “really passionate and loving people that excel at their craft.” “Brick-and-mortar locations can be such a big hurdle for a lot of folks that don’t have the resources to start at that point,” Van Grol says. There are restrictions to what home-based food processors can make and sell. Any food that requires refrigeration, for instance, is prohibited. That puts items like pickled eggs, canned fruits, and cream-filled pastries off limits. You can find the full list and regulations at agriculture.ny.gov/food-safety/homeprocessing. For bakers, in particular, there are pitfalls in the restrictions that can easily be overlooked. Frostings that were made with butter, eggs, milk, or cream cheese cannot be used, for example. Whereas caramel apples are

in bounds, candy melts are out. It can get tricky, and the territory can shift. Caramel apples were added to the list of permitted items just a few years ago, along with trail mix and dried soup. Registered home processor Carter Burwell of Burwell Kitchen diligently reads the regulations and stays in touch with an agent at the Department of Agriculture to make sure she’s in step with what’s allowed.  “In looking at (the list), they have added newer things that are prohibited, like cocoa bombs and fudge/caramel sauces, since I last looked,” Burwell said.  She can begin to sound like a mad scientist when she narrates how she’ll alter a recipe to get it in line with the rules: “I’ve gotten confirmation that shortening-based frostings are okay, so that’s an option for vegan and regular items for home processors. No cream cheese though. Still waiting on a response regarding Italian meringue buttercream, since it has a syrup cooked to 240 degrees poured into it.” Burwell doesn’t sell her creations to cafes and other businesses; she offers her baked goods and candies on a subscription basis to individual patrons. One of her most popular subscriptions is her rotating versions of Rice Krispies treats, which she makes in various creative batches such as chocolate Irish cream or lavender lemon, and sells by the pan. Subscribers get a pan of a different flavor each month.  “Her use of salt to balance out the sweet is perfection,” dedicated Burwell buyer Laura Seymour says. “We also really enjoy the serving sizes because they’re perfect for two people.” Some of the restrictions require home processors to devise ways to follow the rules and provide their unique and delicious products. Burwell says the limitations have boosted her creativity. “I’m always looking for a challenge, so to be given a list of don’t’s that I can turn into do’s is invigorating,” she says. “Learning all the rules so I can figure out how to navigate around them and continue to make the same level of stuff is fun. Maybe I should have been a lawyer.” roccitynews.org CITY 49


LIFE

ON THE LAMB

Grilling lamb chops and topping them with mint chutney is just one of the ways to prepare the versatile but often overlooked meat. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

THE OTHER RED MEAT Lamb is a healthy, spring grilling alternative to burgers and brats. Here are three ways to prepare it over an open flame. BY J. NEVADOMSKI

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he arrival of spring means the start of the outdoor grilling season after a long winter of indoor cooking. For most people, that means busting out the same old burgers, sausages, and hotdogs. But if you’re looking for a break from the monotony, lamb is an approachable, easy alternative to standard backyard BBQ fare for even mildly adventurous cooks. Lamb is the often-overlooked other red meat. But it is plentiful, flavorful, and versatile. Personally, I can’t get

50 CITY MAY 2021

enough lamb. I eat more lamb than I do beef or pork during the spring and summer, and have converted more than a few skeptics over the years. People who say they’re apprehensive about trying lamb for the first time are often surprised to learn they’ve already had it and enjoyed it. Those gyros at Greek diners and food festivals? Lamb. It’s more common than you might think. Lamb is an everyday dietary staple in some parts of the world. Cultures within the United Kingdom, Spain,

Greece, and Northern Africa all have outstanding and widely varied methods for cooking lamb, and some of the best raised lamb comes from Australia and New Zealand. My first experiences with lamb were in sampling Greek and Mediterranean foods as a kid. I loved sitting down at a restaurant and ordering a gyro or souvlaki with spanakopita and seeing the servers nod their approval. As I got older, I began to appreciate the wonders of grilled lamb and the diversity it can bring to any meal.

Properly cooked and seasoned lamb is delicate like veal, but with a more unctuous flavor profile. Lamb is nutrient dense, rich in protein, high in the good kinds of fat (such as Omega-3), and provides substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, and B vitamins. Lamb is also organically raised more often than not. So, spice up your spring grilling routine and make your cardiologist happy in the process with these dishes.


LAMB & VEGGIE KEBABS WITH LEMON AND RAS EL HANOUT Serves 4-6

Lamb and veggie kebabs are quick and easy, but the trick is to give your veggies a head start on the grill. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

LAMB CHOPS WITH HOMEMADE MINT CHUTNEY Serves 4-6

This chutney can be prepared a day in advance and can be frozen in small amounts for future use.

INGREDIENTS: 8-12 bone-in lamb chops Olive oil Salt & pepper to taste

STEP 2: GRILLING THE LAMB Starting at room temperature, wash the lamb with cold water and pat dry. Gently rub olive oil over each individual chop and season with salt and pepper. Starting your grill on a high heat, sear the chops on both sides and reduce to medium high heat (if using gas) and allow to cook to desired done-ness. Ideally you want the chops to be nicely seared on the outside, very rare in the middle. Cooking time will vary depending on your equipment, but a good rule is 10 minutes per inch of thickness, so if your chops are about 1 inch thick, they will need roughly 5 minutes on each side. Let rest 5 min before serving, plate the lamb chops and garnish the top with a dollop of mint chutney. Pairs well with grilled asparagus, yellow garden squash, and eggplant.

FOR THE MINT CHUTNEY: 2 jalapeño peppers (seeds removed, diced) 1/2 packed cup fresh mint leaves (stems removed) 1/4 packed cup fresh cilantro (stems removed) 1/4 packed cup fresh baby spinach (stems removed) 2 tablespoons of lemon juice 1/4 cup water Olive oil (optional, mustard seed oil also an option) Salt & pepper to taste

STEP 1: MAKING THE MINT CHUTNEY Carefully wash, drain, and pat dry the mint, cilantro, and spinach. Combine with the jalapeños, lemon juice, water, and salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Pulse on a low setting until the mixture reaches the desired consistency (thick or thin), fine tuning with small amounts of olive oil as needed. I recommend leaving the mixture thick enough to spread on top of the lamb without it dripping over the sides.

INGREDIENTS: 2-4 lbs. of boneless leg of lamb (cut into large cubes) 1/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream 1/4 cup fresh parsley (roughly chopped) 1 fresh lemon (cut in quarters) *Ras el Hanout (to taste) Olive oil Salt & pepper to taste 1-2 lbs. of mixed grilling vegetables cut into cubes such as: mushrooms, yellow squash, red onion, zucchini, eggplant *Ras el Hanout is an aromatic North African spice mixture, commonly available at grocery stores and locally at Niblack Foods (900 Jefferson Rd. #6) STEP 1: PREP THE LAMB Starting at room temperature in a large mixing bowl, combine the lamb, parsley, yogurt, Ras el Hanout and salt and pepper and mix well. Let the mixture rest for at least 15-30 min (or overnight in the fridge) before cooking. STEP 2: PREP THE VEGGIES In a separate mixing bowl, mix the veggies with a splash of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. STEP 3: KEBAB ASSEMBLY Using kebab sticks or skewers, thread all the meat and veggies separately onto the sticks. It is important to keep the meat sticks separate from the veggie sticks because they have completely different cooking times. Avoid the urge to layer meat and veggies on the same stick. CONTINUED ON PAGE 52

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NOTE: If you are using wood or bamboo kebab sticks, be sure to soak them in water for at least 20 min before preparing the kebabs. STEP 4: GRILLING THE KEBABS The veggie kebabs take roughly twice as long to cook as the meat kebabs, so timing is important and will vary depending on how rare you would like your lamb. Starting your grill on a high to medium-high heat, cook the veggie kebabs for roughly 10 min on one side, then flip each veggie kebab and add in the meat kebabs. Cook the meat kebabs for roughly 5 min on each side (10 min total) and both should finish at exactly the same time. Let rest 5 min before serving and top with a squeeze of lemon. Pairs well with and over a bed of golden couscous with green olives. 52 CITY MAY 2021

GREEK LAMB BURGERS WITH FETA AND HOMEMADE TZATZIKI Serves 4-6 INGREDIENTS: 2-4 lbs. ground lamb Greek feta cheese (crumbled) 2 tablespoons fresh parsley (chopped) 1-2 egg yolks Salt & pepper (to taste) FOR THE TZATZIKI: 2 cups regular low-fat yogurt 2 tablespoons fresh garlic (chopped) 2 tablespoons fresh parsley (chopped) 1 tablespoon fresh dill (chopped) 3 teaspoons lemon juice 1/4 cup water 1 English cucumber (peeled, seeded & diced) Salt & pepper to taste


Crumbled feta cheese mixed into the patties really makes these lamb burgers pop. Left, grilled lamb and vegetables. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

STEP 1: MAKING THE TZATZIKI Carefully wash, drain, and pat dry the parsley and dill. Combine with the cucumber, yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, water, and salt and pepper in a food processor or blender and pulse on a low setting until the mixture reaches the desired consistency (thick or thin), fine tuning with additional yogurt or water as needed. This sauce should be prepared at least 30 min before cooking and allowed to rest in the refrigerator prior to serving. Tzatziki will keep well in a refrigerator for up to 3 days. STEP 2: PREPARE THE BURGER In a mixing bowl combine the ground lamb, feta cheese, egg yolks, parsley, and salt and pepper and mix well. Allow mixture to rest in the refrigerator at least 2 hours (or overnight) before cooking. Form into

1/4 to 1/2 lb. patties prior to cooking (depending on preference). STEP 2: GRILLING THE BURGERS Starting your grill on a high heat, sear the burgers on both sides and reduce to medium high heat (if using gas) and allow to cook to desired doneness. Ideally you want them to be nicely seared on the outside, very rare in the middle. Cooking time will vary depending on your equipment, but a good rule of thumb is 10 minutes per inch of thickness. So, if your burgers are about 1 inch thick, they will need roughly 5 minutes on each side. Let rest 5 minutes before serving. Best served with lettuce, tomato, and onion on a toasted potato roll with a dollop of Tzatziki between the burger and the toppings. Pairs well with roasted Greek potatoes and sautéed spinach and beet greens. roccitynews.org CITY 53


LIFE

WHAT ALES ME

Benn Fee Spacher, left, and Jon Spacher, right, are the new fifth generation owners of Fee Brothers, taking over from Ellen Fee, center. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

FEE BROTHERS PASSES THE TORCH TO A FIFTH GENERATION BY GINO FANELLI

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@GINOFANELLI

t is hard to miss Fee Brothers on Portland Avenue. A bright yellow signage juts out boldly from the face of an unassuming brick building, adorned with the company’s time-honored slogan: “Don’t Squeeze. Use Fee’s.” Fee Brothers, a purveyor of cocktail syrups, cordials, and, most notably, bitters, is one of Rochester’s oldest businesses, having opened its doors on March

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GFANELLI@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

5, 1864 — and among the longest family-owned enterprises. The tradition continues with the recent takeover of the company by Jon Spacher and Benn Fee Spacher, brothers who recently purchased the company for an undisclosed price from their aunt, Ellen Fee, who, with her late brother, Joe Fee, cemented Fee Brothers’ reputation as a global powerhouse of cocktail mixers. “We’re a family-owned company, and we take a lot of pride in that,

obviously, and what we want to keep doing is just turning out a good product and getting the good word out to as many people in the world as we can,” Jon Spacher said. Joe died last year at the age of 55, and Ellen, after 42 years in the industry, was ready for a break. Jon steps in as chief executive officer, and Benn is the chief operations officer. “This was like two weeks after Joe died, when the two of them said

they were interested, it was like the clouds parted and the angels sang,” Ellen Fee said.

A FAMILY AFFAIR Some of the fondest memories Benn, 34, says he has of his childhood are at the company’s cocktail mix factory. Back then, conveyor belts dipped, dived, and zipped throughout the facility and doubled as an after-hours


Fee Brothers has a catalog of vintage labels from years past. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

Fee Brothers produces 98 products, including 19 varieties of bitters.

playground. Benn recalls sitting on a plywood sheet and riding the belts like a roller coaster. “One of my best memories as a kid was Ellen coming up to me and saying, ‘See this board? See this maze of conveyor belts?’” Benn said. “She said, ‘You’re going to be crying by the end of this, but it’s going to be fun. You will pinch your fingers, and it will hurt.’” It was the same childhood Ellen experienced and with the same caveats — don’t tell Mom if you skin your arm on the belt because the amusement park will be shut down. In Ellen’s day, Fee Brothers was run by her parents Margaret and Jack Fee. Jack, who also worked as a chemist at Eastman Kodak, is credited with innovating a wealth of new flavors to the Fee Brothers roster. Today, the company offers 98 products, including 19 types of bitters. Ellen’s brother, Joe, meanwhile, became an iconic figure for Fee Brothers as a traveling salesman. At 6 feet, 5 inches tall, he wore an Akubra hat like Crocodile Dundee, and trotted the globe to cocktail

PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

conventions and bars hawking bitters to anyone willing to take a nip. The result was that, for a time, Fee Brothers was on every continent besides Antarctica. That wasn’t for want of trying. “Joe went to Antarctica, with the bitters in his pocket, and never made it to even a laboratory bar,” Ellen said. “He wanted to put just one bottle down in Antarctica, and it didn’t happen.” While 88 percent of Fee Brothers’ sales continue to be based in the United States, the company has seen a global spike in demand. Australia, in particular, has become a hot market, according to the company. To take up the mantle at Fee Brothers, Jon and Benn left behind established careers. Jon, 44, was regional president for Main Street America Insurance. Benn was an information technology security administrator. The brothers broke with tradition somewhat in buying the company outright without first having had experience on the inside. Jon explained that previous generations, including Ellen and Joe, worked at

Fee Brothers before taking the helm, and earned shares of the company piecemeal through “sweat equity” prior to becoming full owners. While Ellen dreaded the thought of selling the business to someone outside the family, Jon and Benn said they never felt any pressure to take over. They said maintaining the legacy was not on their minds when they bought in. “This wasn’t about keeping the fifth generation going,” Jon said. “This was about, ‘Okay, how can we help Ellen?’” Ellen, 63, said she intends to stick around through 2021 to ensure a smooth transition. And then? “I’m going to get an RV, and I’m going to travel the United States every summer until I can’t travel the United States every summer anymore,” Fee said.

TURNING PRIESTS INTO BOOTLEGGERS The Fee Brothers we know today started in earnest as an importer of liquors and was founded by four brothers — John, James, Owen, and

Jacob Fee — who stumbled into the business after trying their hands at running a tavern and deli. British gins, Jamaican rums, and French cognacs all flowed through what they called “The Largest Wine and Liquor House in America,” first on St. Paul Boulevard and, later, on North Water Street. A yellowed copy of the original lease for the North Water Street facility sits in a frame on the wall of the company’s “museum room.” In the 1880s, the Fee Brothers took a turn at producing its own wine from the Genesee Valley Vineyard and Winery, a venture that would quickly become the nexus of the business. “There’s a story that’s told, this is at [the old plant on] Water Street, the guy next door wanted free wine, and my grandfather wouldn’t give him free wine, so he went into his basement and he drilled a hole through and put a pipe into one of our barrels so he could get free wine,” Ellen said. “The joke’s on him, because the truth is, the wine was brand new, it hadn’t fermented yet. All he would’ve gotten was a stomach ache.” When Prohibition hit in 1920, Fee Brothers did not go quietly into the night. The sale of wine, of course, was illegal, but a loophole existed behind the pulpit. Sacramental, or “altar wines,” were already a business for Fee Brothers, but, as company lore has it, sales of it shot up 700 percent during Prohibition. Churches were legally allowed to scoop up the wines, with a choice CONTINUED ON PAGE 56

roccitynews.org CITY 55


Fee Brothers' historical archives include a record book of people who utilized their home wine making service during Prohibition, including some key figures in Rochester society. Fee Brothers, a purveyor of cocktail syrups, cordials, and, most notably, bitters, is one of Rochester’s oldest businesses, having opened its doors on March 5, 1864. PHOTOS BY MAX SCHULTE

56 CITY MAY 2021

of 12 varieties for the discerning parishioner, ranging from port to Chateau Blanc. The story goes that worshippers in some parishes could walk away with a case of Fee Brothers vino in exchange for a healthy donation. “We were turning priests into bootleggers,” Ellen said with a laugh. Throughout Prohibition, Fee Brothers jumped through loopholes to meet demand. The company created “Bruin,” a malt extract sold with a detailed warning list of steps to avoid lest the syrup be turned into beer. Then there was the home winemaking service. Under Prohibition, the head of a household could make up to 200 gallons of wine per year. Fee Brothers seized on that opportunity, selling loaded vats of grape concentrate known as “VinGlo” to households and offering to return to bottle it up after the juice had fermented. The company still has a ledger bearing some of the names of people who indulged in the service. Among them were University of Rochester President Rush Rhees and the city’s fire chief, William Creegan. “There were also an awful lot of restaurants, too, or rather, restaurant owners,” Ellen said. “And then next to the restaurant owners you had their neighbors, and they used that so they could get the wine from their neighbors, too, and put it in the restaurants.” Those Prohibition tricks were not only classic examples of ingenuity during the Noble Experiment, but also what led Fee Brothers to shift into manufacturing bitters — or flavoring. Not to put too fine a point on it, but gin made in a bathtub isn’t likely to win any awards without flavoring. “My grandfather would say, ‘Here’s some peppermint extract, here’s some green food coloring, add some sugar, add your bathtub gin, and you’ve got crème de menthe,’” Ellen said. “That’s when he had this lightbulb moment where he thought, ‘I could be making these syrups.’” The wine business for Fee Brothers had receded by the middle of the last century, according to company lore, when the then-owner John Fee II decided to focus on the non-alcoholic products that were gaining in popularity. After he died in 1951, his wife, Blanche Fee, seeking to honor


Kelvin Osborne wraps and labels bitters for an international order. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

his wishes, contacted the State Liquor Authority to rescind their licenses. When liquor authority agents arrived to account for the leftover inventory, they were said to have busted the barrels open with hatchets and dumped the wine into the Genesee River. “You’d think they could have at least given us some time to sell off what was left,” Fee said. And as the Genesee briefly was tinted burgundy, Fee Brothers was officially all in on the syrups and bitters business.

A NEW WAVE OF SUCCESS Today, the company’s influence in the spirits world has reached the apex of society. At its Christmas party in 2009, the White House offered a “Stone Fence” cocktail made with applejack, apple

cider, mint, and a dash of Fee Brothers aromatic bitters. Fee Brothers’ success was also bolstered in the mid-2000s, when Angostura, the Trinidadian company credited with originating bitters, temporarily stopped production and redirected sales to Rochester. Business has been good lately, according to the company. Jon said sales have grown by double digits for the past five years or so, a growth fueled in part by the renewed interest in craft cocktails and the pandemic. “Everybody’s been home, everybody’s been doing these master classes online for all sorts of different things,” Jon said. “But one of the areas that has really exploded are master classes online for mixology.” Where Fee Brothers stands as a business is fairly ideal for new leadership. The machine is well lubricated. The facility boasts a modest staff of 10 people, and each label is

Jon Spacher, left, talks with Benn Fee Spacher and their aunt, Ellen Fee, in the makeshift boardroom that holds Fee Brothers history, including portraits of relatives who owned the company through the years. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

still affixed to bottles by hand, some by workers provided by the Arc of Monroe, a nonprofit that assists people with developmental disabilities. Much of the equipment remains unchanged since 1964, when the company moved into the Portland Avenue facility.

“It’s a lot of humility, a lot of gratitude, and a little bit of pressure,” Jon said. “We recognize that we’re coming into this, and such a great name has already been built.”

roccitynews.org CITY 57


LIFE

MOTHER, MAY I?

Across

Answers to this puzzle can be found on page 25

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PUZZLE BY S.J. AUSTIN & J. REYNOLDS

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58 CITY MAY 2021

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129. Tell roccitynews.org CITY 59


MAY 2021

Profile for Rochester CITY News. Arts. Life.

CITY May 2021  

CITY is Rochester's original monthly alternative news, arts, and life publication. Free since 1971.

CITY May 2021  

CITY is Rochester's original monthly alternative news, arts, and life publication. Free since 1971.

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