Big changes are afoot with the Arts & Cultural Council. Last Thursday, the board elected philanthropist Dawn Lipson as its new president. Other new officers include former Brighton Supervisor Sandra Frankel; Bleu Cease, director of Rochester Contemporary Art Center; Eric Townell, artistic director of Rochester Lyric Opera; Baal Bhagat, a director with the Kalidas Indo-American Community Theater Group; and Hon. Cynthia Kaleh. Annette Ramos, founder of Rochester Latino Theatre Company, now serves on the board as chair of the Diversity Committee.
The council has also partnered with the Rochester Area Community Foundation and plans to collaborate with other agencies, which board members say will have a positive impact for the arts in the Rochester area.
Lipson, who served on the council years ago, returned to the board two months ago. She says she was approached because many people felt the council needed invigorating, "that it wasn't functioning the way it should function, and wasn't maintaining its relevancy to the arts and culture in our community."
The council's operations have been relatively low-key since 2014, when news of its financial troubles broke, and Sarah Lentini resigned as CEO. The council then moved its offices from Goodman Street at College Avenue to northwest Rochester and last year, moved to 31 Prince Street and opened a gallery at 384 East Avenue.
The board is reexamining the council's mission, Lipson says, and will reach out to other arts and cultural organizations for input about the council's future. That's a response to criticisms Lipson has heard from people who felt that there wasn't any place to call when they had arts questions, when they needed collaboration, or when they were looking for artists for particular events.
"Those are all the kinds of things that the arts council should be doing," she says. "We're not the provider of the arts, we're the connector."