parcel 5

EMBRACING OUR “CITY OF THE ARTS” James Sheppard’s Public Art Platform

Rochester is a City of the Arts:  From the Eastman Museum, Garth Fagan Dance, Eastman School of Music, Memorial Art Gallery, RPO, Geva, Rochester City Ballet, Rochester Lyric Opera to the countless organizations that celebrate local and regional talent, there are so many individual artists, right here, right now, contributing to the culture that is critical to our quality of life.  

But recent discussions regarding the development of Parcel 5 highlight the issue of whether the City has lived up to a decade-old commitment to publicly fund the arts. It also reminds us that we should expect more from private investors to include public art in their projects.

The City of Rochester has a Percent for Art policy.  It has been on the books since 2007, and requires that capital funds be allocated annually for public art installations. The law also stipulates that the administration develop and implement a process for the equitable distribution of funds for arts and cultural programs.   

The Sheppard Administration will adopt and fully fund the Percent for Art policy.

Public Art Installations

Every year, 1% of City capital funding will be set aside for public art – sculpture or other architectural enhancement. The goals of the Public Art program are:

  • To promote awareness of, and opportunities for, the development of Public Art.  

  • To create high quality public spaces through the integration of art, urban design and architecture.

  • To incorporate art into the public arena to contribute to the unique identity of the City of Rochester and to enhance the City as a location for diversified economic development.

  • To encourage the involvement of artists in the design and development of public spaces and streets by facilitating collaboration among artists, planners, architects, landscape architects, urban designers, and neighborhood groups whenever possible in the total design process.

  • To ensure that the selection of all Public Art is subject to a clear and equitable review process.

It is well-established that public art is a vital component to thriving, growing cities, and is essential for both economic development and quality of life.  The Liberty Pole and the Albert Paley Main Street Bridge enhancements are two prime examples of how our downtown life is enriched by public art.  We will create more of these opportunities throughout our city.

Arts and Cultural Programs

The City annually invests a significant amount of money and in-kind services to support a number of cultural events and institutions – for very good reason. Whether large (e.g., Jazz Fest, MusicFest) or small (e.g., RPO on the Town, Clarissa Street Reunion), these programs and events contribute to our vibrant city. But, these funding decisions are made without process. We must be able to communicate to the public why we support one and not the other.   

As called for in the Public Art ordinance, the Sheppard Administration will establish and implement a process that clearly lays out how program funds will be distributed. I am committed to implementing this policy to ensure that tax dollars are being spent appropriately and fairly without favoritism for events and organizations that matter to us all.

Public Art Committee (PAC) and Master Plan

I recognize that neither I nor most City staff members are experts in public art. We will engage City residents, artists, arts patrons, neighborhood groups, building and landscape architects, and urban planners to guide our Public Art planning, including the development of a Public Arts Master Plan. Successful integration of Public Art into City culture will result from the engagement of these interested parties at the earliest possible stages.

Under my administration, Rochester will truly reflect the value we have for our arts communities by resurrecting and fully supporting the Percent for Art policy, making a real commitment and celebrating our well-deserved reputation as City of the Arts.

Sheppard is looking forward to hearing the input from Rochester's arts community on the Parcel 5/Performing Arts Center proposal at the City Council's Arts and Cultural Committee meeting, which takes place today, Thursday, at 4PM in Council Chambers.

Open Up The Process And Let The Public Ask The Tough Questions

I’d like to thank the members of the Rochester City Council for holding this forum and allowing the citizens of this community their first opportunity to share their opinion about this critical piece of downtown’s future. 

I hope it is not their last opportunity.

This project deserves a full and open hearing, and deserved it from the very beginning.   This RBTL proposal was accepted by Mayor Warren without details, without financing, and without support.  In fact, it was common knowledge that the City was in negotiations with a different developer, who only learned that his proposal was no longer in the running from a newspaper reporter. 

This does not instill faith in the City’s development process, nor the people who lead it.  Even more reason to do everything possible to open up the process and let the public in on the deal.

But instead, very valid questions that have been raised by members of Rochester’s highly respected arts community -- and by so many others – from the appropriateness of the public investment, to the revenue projections, to the size of the building – have been met with defensiveness and deflection.

It is disingenuous at best for a Mayor who purports to lead the “City of the Arts” to shut out and shut down it’s own arts community.

What is the Administration afraid of?  That people might ask questions about how this City will support another public project, when so many others that were supposed to be self-sustaining – the Convention Center, the Blue Cross Arena, Frontier Field and the Soccer Stadium – are not? 

That an organization that sends 60% of its revenues out of the City will now own two major parcels of the Center City when they have had trouble operating one?

That the arguments the RBTL has used to garner support for the project – attracting shows like Hamilton, providing more space for operations, the revenue projections – have time and again proven to be false?

Yes, these are tough questions.  But like them or not, people have the right to ask them.  Just as they have the right to ask about so many other projects that have fallen on deaf ears – like Cobbs Hill Village, the EMMA neighborhood, and the Port. 

After all, this is not the Lovely Warren Performing Arts Center.  Or worse, Lovely Warren’s Fast Ferry.  The same people who paid for that mistake – the citizens of Rochester – have the right to demand that it not happen again.

Sheppard Responds to Arts Community on Parcel 5: I'm Listening

Sheppard Responds to Arts Community on Parcel 5: I'm Listening

August 4, 2017- The Parcel 5 site is an undeveloped jewel in the heart of our city - on that we all agree. But since Mayor Warren announced in April that she was completely disregarding the results of the City’s request for proposal process and selecting the Performing Arts Center project - without any public input - there have been many questions about this important project that have gone unanswered.

James Sheppard Responds to Parcel 5 Announcement

Along with all Rochesterians reacting to this morning's news about Parcel 5 - apparently including those directly involved in what was billed by the mayor as a deliberative, transparent bidding process - I am surprised. More than that, I am concerned. The scattershot, haphazard way in which new development projects are being conceived throughout the city is deeply troubling - and unfortunately, this is just the latest indication. 

Since nobody has any real detail on this project, which came completely out of left field, I am left with questions. Chief among them, what is the funding package? If in fact State funding will be necessary, have our leaders in State government been consulted - and has funding been committed? How about our local government partners on City Council? Furthermore, all signs point to a difficult budget picture for the City of Rochester headed into the next fiscal year. With so many competing needs, it is critical that we all understand how these decisions are being made, and what the City's priorities are. 

We are rich with talented people who care about our community, and are ready to invest in our future. That is amazing - and all the more reason why we need to get our house in order. Thank you to Tom Golisano, Bob Morgan, Andy Gallina and the many other developers who are investing of themselves to see a revitalized Rochester. We are all deeply grateful for your contributions.

It is important to have a leader who harnesses that tremendous potential - and addresses downtown development not piecemeal, but as part of an overall vision for downtown and our entire city. That is clearly not happening, and while I will reserve judgement until a full plan and vision is articulated, I am not encouraged by the lack of transparency surrounding this decision, or how it has been shared with the community. We can do better.