The Destination Medical Center initiative is an effort to make Rochester an international destination and home for medical professionals, patients seeking care and the general public.
Attention to public art installations and “placemaking” projects have been a consideration while working to attain this goal.
Patrick Seeb, the director of economic development and placemaking for the DMC Economic Development Agency, said art especially has not been overlooked within the downtown “Heart of the City” project.
“All of the public space design that I’ve been involved with recently, we’ve really wanted to integrate public art as a part of the design,” Seeb said.
The DMC recently coordinated a group of artists to create installations that are authentic to Rochester itself. While they don’t know specific designs yet, international artists Ann Hamilton, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Inigo Manglano-Ovalle have joined local voices Eric Anderson, Sean Baker, Edgar Mtanous and Nicole and Seth Nfonoyim-Hara in these discussions.
But what has DMC done for public art outside of its own projects?
The Rochester Art Center’s artistic director, Sheila Dickinson, said that’s a question that is difficult to fully answer.
“It is hard to gauge what would’ve been generated organically over time or what DMC has contributed,” Dickinson said.
For example, there are already tangible examples of public art within the city that are outside of the DMC.
Most notably, the unnamed, 12-foot silver arching sculpture outside of Mayo Civic Center was the work of the City of Rochester Public Art Task Force, and the ongoing project to make over the Third Street alley is a local artist-driven project funded and directed by the Rochester Downtown Alliance. Additionally, the exhibits and art consistently displayed by both regional and national artists within the RAC are not funded by any DMC budgets.
But RAC Executive Director Brian Austin said support from the DMC comes in different ways, including its ability to coordinate collaboration and have an economic influence.
“I think one of the things that’s been really good about DMC is that they have not come in and said, ‘OK, we really don’t care about the art.’ It’s 180 degrees from that. Nor have they said, ‘These are the arts that we want or we’re buying.’” Austin said. “They have been very intentional about making their efforts generate from the community and be supportive of having the community involved in that.”
He said the money DMC has behind its intentions to “fire up” arts and culture in Rochester helps get on the radar of potentially otherwise out-of-reach artists and investors.
“I think that has a contagion effect, where it feels like, ‘OK, this is actually happening,’” he said. “They’re spending time and money developing this and they’re showing that there’s really a place for this. I think that helps kick start a lot of other artists and other people feeling like, ‘Wow, there’s something really happening here, and I might be able to have a piece or role in it.’ It helps expand that pie.”
Local arts videographer and Canvas & Chardonnay co-owner Tyler Aug agreed that DMC has an economic influence on the creation of art but ultimately doesn’t think it’s high on its to-do list.
“I don’t think art is their priority, but I do think they want to instigate more traffic downtown and at least make the outdoors more appealing in so many ways,” Aug said. “Art can be a public way of making a town brighter, and that’s the draw of how we get people to stay here. They know that that’s a problem. People will come here, but they want to leave.
“Art is not their priority, but they know it’s part of the package,” he said. “If DMC was a car, the arts might be the color of the interior.”