The site, rocartsunited.org, lists local exhibition and performance spaces and provides a central place where artists and organizations can find calls for work or project proposals and lists of potential funding sources. The website welcomes submissions and the lists are to be continuously updated.
Dozens of opportunities have been posted to date, including calls for work for the upcoming Rochester Maker Faire and the Holiday Art Bazaar at The Yards Collective, and for individual artists to apply for Genesee Valley Arts Grants. There are also opportunities listed that are outside of Rochester, such as the L.A.-based “Music Unites the World Songwriting Contest.”
“Identifying any and all performing arts venues in our county, and really giving that resource a concrete home that we can continue to add and grow to, that's really important for mid- and small-size organizations that don't have a home,” Roc Arts United member Annette Ramos said. “Having that resource and that information available makes it easier for them to be successful.”
Founded in 2019, Roc Arts United (RAU) is led by a diverse steering committee that includes artists, leaders of arts and cultural organizations, and arts advocates.
“We are a very siloed community, with the major art organizations being in the top echelons of that pyramid,” said Ramos, the executive director at The Rochester Latino Theatre Company. “And those of us who are really groundbreakers and ground foragers, meaning grassroots, diverse, brown and Black and Asian artists, we often don't know where the resources are.”
The pandemic underscored a complaint that artists and small arts organizations have voiced for years since even before the implosion of the Arts and Cultural Council for Greater Rochester — that there is no central advocacy group, no government post, that artists can turn to in times of crisis.
RAU is doing some of the advocacy and resource work that was performed by the former council. But RAU members insist they aren’t trying to become an arts council.
Bleu Cease, a RAU member who is also executive director of Rochester Contemporary Arts Center, said a better term for RAU is “local arts agency,” which is used across the nation to describe groups that promote, support, and develop the arts at the local level.
“It's still such a grassroots group,” he said. “For now the committee is staying focused on its two specific purposes — having a central place where organizations can list their opportunities for all kinds of artists, and a specific listing of organizations that receive and art open to proposals from artists.
“It seems everybody at Roc Arts United is in agreement that that has never really been handled well by anyone,” he added. “It's a really big need, and it is something that this grassroots group can take on, now.”
Photographer Quajay Donnell joined the RAU steering committee in January and said that creating a central space where artists and small arts organizations can find financial resources and opportunities was crucial, and that inclusivity is a primary concern for the group.
“Right now we're targeting the artists that may not have those resources readily available to them or that information readily available,” he said.
Roc Arts United also began functioning as an arts watchdog organization this year, and publicly dinged the City of Rochester in January for using images of murals of Daniel Prude and John Lewis in its promotional materials without crediting the artists.
Going forward, RAU plans to expand its focus on resources to include professional development opportunities for teaching artists, producers, and venue site programmers, Ramos said.
“And of course, really breaking down the silos of funding and economic opportunity,” she says. “This is a critical factor, especially for small and midsize art organizations and such a critical time with many doors on the verge of being closed. We need to work together to really revitalize the creative economy.”
Rebecca Rafferty is CITY's life editor. She can be reached at email@example.com.