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Supporting the arts 

7 ways to get involved

If you're an arts enthusiast, you may spend some of your free time in galleries or attending theater or dance performances, or going to one of the many local film festivals. Showing up at arts events is an important way to support them, but many smaller venues have less attendance than the big ones, and there are a variety of other ways to support artists and art organizations. Not all of them require spending money (though that's always welcome). Here are some suggestions on how to get involved.

click to enlarge Terry Chaka, executive director at The Baobab Cultural Center. - PHOTO BY RYAN WILLIAMSON
  • Terry Chaka, executive director at The Baobab Cultural Center.

1) Buy artists' work. Art may not seem affordable, but Rochester Art Collectors – an independent, non-commercial group of art enthusiasts – is helping people learn that buying art is not only accessible, but is a necessary part of a thriving arts community ( The group holds regular meetings and events that are open to the public, and it offers advice on things like buying art in a way that benefits both artists and potential buyers.

For example, asking an artist to lower the price of an artwork devalues the work. If you're in love with a piece but the price is out of your range, ask the artist if he or she would accept a payment plan. This way, artists get the dollars they deserve, and you're more invested not only in the piece but also the success of the artist.

2) Engage with artists at as many venues as possible and attend shows at the smaller, independent venues that are off the beaten path. There's a whole world of established and emerging artists who don't exhibit art or stage performances in the well-established art spaces. Rochester area's many smaller venues that show art or hold performances, screenings, lectures, and other events include Visual Studies Workshop, Gallery Q at the Out Alliance, Spectrum Gallery at Lumiere Photo, Joy Gallery, MuCCC, the galleries at Flower City Arts Center, art spaces at area academic institutions, and galleries-within-venues such as The Lobby at Bug Jar.

3) Visit artists at their studio spaces. Artists tend to be inundated at exhibit openings or performances, where they're the star of the evening and everyone wants to grab their attention. You have a better chance of getting to know them and their creative process during open studio hours. There are monthly open-studio events on First Fridays at The Hungerford and First Fridays and Second Saturdays at Anderson Alley. Many artists love having visitors in their space while they're working, which is a great way for those visitors to understand that making artwork is work.

click to enlarge Artist Olivia Kim and Carvin Eison with one of Kim's statues of Frederick Douglass. Volunteers were an important factor in producing the sculptures. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO provided
  • Artist Olivia Kim and Carvin Eison with one of Kim's statues of Frederick Douglass. Volunteers were an important factor in producing the sculptures.

4) There are occasional opportunities to assist with an artist's production as a volunteer. For example, volunteers played an important role in creating Olivia Kim's Frederick Douglass statues that have been installed around Rochester. A good way to learn about the volunteer opportunities is to get to know the artists (see Number 3, above). You can underwrite materials for a project, and you can also search on crowdfunding campaigns for local projects. If a hundred people donate just $5 to a campaign, that tiny contribution gets amplified.

5) Get a membership to smaller arts organizations. There's not a lot of state and federal funding for museums, galleries, and organizations, and the smaller an organization is, the less resources it has access to. The local and regional community can help support these spaces' operations by becoming members, which often come with benefits like discounts to events or workshops.

6) Support art organizations owned and run by people of color. The majority of businesses in every sector, including the arts, are owned and operated by white people. But there are valuable exhibits, events, and programs offered by The Avenue Blackbox Theatre, Joy Gallery, The Baobab Cultural Center, Borinquen Dance Theatre, and FuturPointe Dance. For a resource on black-owned businesses in Rochester, check out

7) Pay artists for their services. When we think of supporting the arts, we think of buying artwork or tickets to performances or making donations. But supporting artists also means paying designers, performers, and visual artists who offer a variety of services that people too often want to pay for with "exposure bucks." If you own a restaurant or cafe that is looking for artistic decor, consider hiring a muralist or buying work by local artists to display. And if you have a musical act or other performers who aren't being paid from ticket sales, don't make them work for tips, pay them.

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