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Grassroots arts organization looking for a new location in Rochester

Grassroots arts organization looking for a new location in Rochester

(THE MED CITY BEAT) - Its future in limbo, Rochester's grassroots arts organization is looking for a creative approach to an all-too-familiar problem for the arts community: funding.

Concerned Citizens for a Creative Community, or simply "C4," needs to vacate its current location on First Avenue in downtown Rochester this July. The current building, dubbed "The Salon," will likely be demolished to make room for a more commercially-suitable project.

C4 has occupied the building since January 2013, just six months after holding its first official board meeting. Last year alone, the organization held 80 events — from poetry slams to film premiers — at the Salon. 

But the catch is C4 was never paying rent — just utilities. That allowed the group to keep membership not only affordable, but oftentimes free for artists willing to put in a few volunteer hours.

Now as the organization moves forward, it faces a key question: how does it become financially sustainable while remaining accessible to everyone?

Starting from scratch:

C4's newly-appointed board met for the first time last Thursday night to discuss the "impending doom." The board — just the second in C4's history — is made up entirely of a new members, a strategy designed to spur fresh ideas.

Though the details of the organization's future remain murky, the board provided a general framework of its priorities:

  • Finding a new location within walking distance of the downtown area
  • Generating consistent revenue through membership fees and sponsorships
  • Widening its appeal while staying true to its core mission of providing an open space for emerging artists

Photo: The Med City Beat

To assist in the transition, Patrick Keane, a recent retiree from IBM who is also a board member at the YMCA, has joined C4's board. He told the Med City Beat that the organization's primary objective is to remain relevant.

"We'll always have our money problems, our space problems," said Keane. "But I think the real challenge is making C4 a source of energy and having an impact here in Rochester going into the future."

Looking for real estate:

C4 is not the only local arts organization feeling the squeeze from the city's Destination Medical Center plans.

Words Players Theatre will have to move out of its current space inside the Conley-Maass building by July 1 (the building's new owners plan to recreate the building as a space for high-tech companies).

"Moving forward with DMC, the price of real estate downtown is not going to get any more affordable," said board member Jim Fricker II.

Realizing their fiscal constraints, the two organizations are now discussing the idea of sharing space. While a number of sites are being considered, C4's board said it is actively pursuing a 2,000-square-foot space under Mac's Cafe.

"We would like to have space right away, if possible, once we're out of here," said board member Jessica Ripley.

The site would provide both organizations with close proximity to Peace Plaza and the Chateau Theatre, which was recently purchased by the city (though future plans for the building have not yet been decided). 

The newly-formed Rochester Arts and Culture Collaborative, which consists of representatives from a number of local arts groups including Words Players and C4, is expected to submit formal proposals regarding the Chateau and the old armory building (currently occupied by the senior center).

However, it could be years before either building is ready for use and there is no guarantee that RACC's proposals will be accepted.

Final note:

C4 will hold what it's calling the "Salon Apocalypse" on June 27. The event will serve as a farewell party and a fundraiser. More information regarding the event will be announced on the organization's Facebook page.

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(Cover photo: The Med City Beat)

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