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Metro ink - 8.30.06 

COFFEE FOR A CAUSE

Anthony Simmons's café has been open for business for less than a month. A portable fireplace sits in front of an orange wall, and leopard-print chairs dot the room. A sign on the far wall lists his prices: $1.50 for tea and coffee, $1 to $2 for desserts. There are no $4 lattés at the SQLS cafe, no gourmet desserts. This is, after all, a predominantly poor area.

In choosing to lease the building on Chili Avenue on the city's west side, "I looked at the location that needed the most work," Simmons says. "I think this area has been looking for a place like this." Simmons means a hangout, a place for people to go before work in the morning or after lunch. And a place, he adds, for area youth to pass the time.

SQLS is short for Simmons Quality of Life Services, which was incorporated about three years ago. It's not a private business, says Simmons, but a small nonprofit organization that conducts food and clothing drives for area residents. Simmons hopes that money from the new café will help expand those services, as well as fund programs for young people between the ages of 16 and 26. Buy a coffee at SQLS, he says, "and you can look at someone's life change."

Simmons, a 19th Ward native who graduated from Edison Tech in 1989, says he decided to start SQLS after losing his job as a cell-phone technician. "My job went to Mexico," he says with a wry laugh.

Admittedly, money's tight, he says. He supplants his income with his earnings as a professional photographer. SQLS was originally included in the city's 2006-07 fiscal budget, but got removed during the approval process. Now, Simmons hopes to get a $10,000 grant from the city's economic development office. To be eligible, says Carl Daniels, a project-development contractor for the city, the city must decide that SQLS can survive for more than seven years. Daniels says he's confident that Simmons will receive the money.

While Simmons' long-term goals include expanding the café into the rest of the building, in the short term he'd like to hire some people to help him run the shop.

--- Sujata Gupta


FATE OF THE ART

The controversy surrounding the placement of public art at the airport doesn't promise to get less contentious anytime soon.

That was evident last week at a meeting of the CountyLegislature's Environment and Public Works Committee. Irondequoit Democrat Stephanie Aldersley had proposed that the legislature create a committee to make recommendations about art placement. This comes in the wake of a large renovation project that has already displaced some art and threatens to displace more.

"We politicians do not know best about this issue," she told the committee.

Half a dozen speakers (including two of the artists whose work is affected, Wendell Castle and Nancy Jurs) seemed to agree. All denounced the airport's plans to shift the existing art from its current locations.

"Site-specific art draws special and direct meaning from its site," Castle told the committee. "Moved from its intended location, it will lose that special meaning and become the worst possible kind of art: plunk art."

David Damelio, the acting director at the airport and the man overseeing the art moving, was on hand, and the discussion quickly took on partisan overtones.

When Democrat Travis Heider asked why legislators hadn't been notified of the changes when the renovations were submitted for approval, Damelio fumbled for a moment before Committee Chair (and Republican) Mark Cassetti told Heider to keep his questions to the substance of the referral. Moments later, when an answer of Damelio's brought sardonic laughter from some in the arts community in the audience, Cassetti threatened to clear the room.

"I'll have order here," he barked. "No laughing. If you laugh, you'll be thrown out."

And while Democrats' questions for Damelio were generally critical, Republicans asked questions that focused on the art that airport officials plan to add, and the problems of security at the airport.

The latter prompted Democrat Paul Haney to initiate this exchange: "Does the airport art somehow jeopardize security?"

"Damelio: No."

Haney: "Does having the ceramic sculpture where it is located in any way, shape, or form pose a security threat to the airport?"

Damelio: "No, it doesn't."

"Talk about a disingenuous conversation," Haney responded.

But disingenuous or not, the Democrats' proposal was voted down along party lines a few moments later, and security was one of the reasons given.

"I think it was clear in his comments that 9-11 changed a lot of things in our society," said Republican Legislator Jeff McCann. McCann also articulated the other objection to the referral, which is that talks about the fate of the airport's art are already taking place between the county executive's office and the arts community.

"We have people in place now who represent all those organizations that would need to be represented," he said.

Pointing out the speakers who attended the meeting, and how upset many of them were, Haney countered: "It's obvious that not everyone interested in this is at the table."

--- Krestia DeGeorge


JUDGING THE CURFEW

City Councilmembers approved a pilot curfew program last week, but how they plan to measure its success or failure remains to be seen.

"We know we can measure crime statistics," says Council President Lois Giess. For example, she says, it will be easy enough to see if crimes committed by or against those under age 17 go down during the curfew's duration (September 5 to December 4) compared to previous years.

But a key goal of the curfew, says Giess, is to help city officials determine which children are breaking the curfew and why. Ultimately, city officials hope to target and help at-risk children. At-risk behavior and its offshoots, however, are far more intangible than a crime stat. "We're going to be figuring out what we should be measuring," Giess says. Her hope is that the curfew will help the city determine the extent of the need and what services are needed.

"Maybe this raises the larger issue," she says. "Maybe we don't have enough services for distressed children. This will be one way to find that out."

--- Sujata Gupta


ANOTHER F WORD

With her hair cut close to her scalp and her dark, searching eyes, Robi Damelin looks almost manly in the photograph as she sits in front of a red background holding a picture of her son, David. A soldier in the Israeli army, David was killed by a sniper.

The text underneath the photograph includes a quote, Damelin's first words after learning of her son's death:

"Do not take revenge in the name of my son."

Journalist Marina Cantacuzino met Damelin while she was collecting stories for a photojournalism project called "The F-Word Exhibit: Images of Forgiveness."

"In the build-up to the Iraq war, I became so frustrated by the news coverage," Cantacuzino said in an interview with City. "It all seemed so vengeful. And I felt there was another story, another response that we weren't seeing."

That's the essence of the F-Word Exhibit. Cantacuzino and her photographer, Brian Moody, collected the interviews and portraits of 24 people --- victims of crime, social injustice, and war --- and their journey to reconciliation. The photographs and text have been displayed in Great Britain and South Africa, and will be shown in Rochester September 8 to 21.

Among the most moving interviews, Cantacuzino said, was with Gill Hicks, a woman who survived the July 2005 London bombing.

"I wish the world would stop, just stop and give us all time to see what is happening," Hicks told Cantacuzino. In Moody's photograph, Hicks is seen sitting on a sofa, her legs missing.

"The cycle has to stop," Hicks told Cantacuzino. "I cannot hate the person who has done this. The cycle stops with me."

The photograph of Tom Mauser shows him sitting in a wing-back chair, cradling a picture of his son Daniel in his right arm. The 15-year-old was killed in the Columbine shooting in April 1999.

"We make it too easy for angry kids to take revenge," Mauser said.

The nature of violence, says Cantacuzino, is to trigger revenge, and the process becomes circular.

"I learned that revenge doesn't work," she says. "It doesn't promote healing."

The schedule for the F Word exhibit in Rochester: September 9 and 10, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at School of the Arts, 45 Prince Street; September 12 and 14, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., at Bausch & Lomb Wintergarden, One Bausch Place; September 15 and 16, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and September 17, 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., at Sacred Heart Cathedral, 26 Flower City Park; and September 19 to 21, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., at Nazareth College's Shultz Center, 4245 East Avenue.

The exhibit is open to the public. Information: www.theforgivenessproject.com or Elaine Johnson, 381-3018.

--- Tim Louis Macaluso

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