An initiative to energize Rochester’s center city by leveraging the Arts, Entertainment and Media sectors with an initial focus on the Main Street corridor

About Arts In The Loop

We are a group of community leaders, passionate about Rochester, that is gathering input to propose a vision of making Main Street a vibrant connector between the exceptional arts, civic, business, entertainment, and technology resources in downtown. Acknowledging current assets and pertinent plans (such as Roc the Riverway and ROC 2034), we hope to be a connecting thread that will help activate the Center City area.


Rochester’s Center City will feature vibrant and walkable street level arts experiences, support an artist-friendly ecosystem, and host a creative cluster of arts/technology/media/entertainment economic activity

Five Cities Report

The 2018 Five Cities Report reviews specific areas that have had (or are currently having) success creating a vibrant environment utilizing the arts – Brooklyn, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Nashville, and Grand Rapids. This report combines document reviews with in-person visits and interviews in order to learn about the steps, processes, and recommendations for building an initiative such as this.

History, Process, & Timeline

Phase I:

In 2017, Phase I of Arts In The Loop (formerly Music on Main) involved reviewing aspects of creative sector & cultural revitalizations in numerous U.S. cities. This was then narrowed down to 5 cities that have had (or are currently having) success creating a vibrant downtown environment utilizing the arts – Brooklyn, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Nashville, and Grand Rapids. Document reviews and interviews provided insight and perspective on steps, processes, and recommendations for building an initiative such as this and documented in our Preliminary Report. Five Keys to Success emerged from this work: leverage your city’s unique identity; create areas for creatives to cluster and work together; design for diverse culture appeal; empower effective partnerships across sectors; and ensure entrepreneurship training and affordable housing for artists.

Phase II:

Utilizing the preliminary report to promote this concept to leaders and stakeholders in the Rochester community, an Executive Committee was founded in Fall of 2018. The goals of the committee were to survey the community, craft a vision, articulate outcomes, and recommend next steps. As a part of this process, site visits were made to cities studied in Phase I and meetings were held with over 25 diverse leaders in those cities, resulting in our Five Cities Report. We also presented a public symposium in June 2019 featuring 5 panelists to discuss how they leveraged their creative community assets to revitalize their cities. These conversations helped to develop recommendations and processes for Phase III – the continued development and implementation of the vision.

Phase III:

Beginning in September of 2019, Arts In The Loop will be working with local artists, arts organizations, community, business, education and government leaders to gather more complete and diverse feedback from the community and to produce Proof of Concept activities. The focus of these activities will be to temporarily activate areas of downtown through the arts and creative sector, gather more input from the community, provide evidence to support the sustainable funding and support of artists and arts organizations, and work closely with the City of Rochester, County of Monroe and State of New York.  The Executive Committee will continue working to develop strategies for implementation with its subcommittee groups, and analyze the Proof of Concept activities and community input to evolve this work.

COVID-19 has temporary halted many of the in-person activities, though we are still pleased to present our ROC the Business of Art fall workshops online


  1. Vibrant and walkable street-level experiences will connect destinations, activities, and people.
    • Live performances, on or visible from the sidewalk, will be programmed, scheduled, and managed year-round, through the collaborative efforts of a downtown management entity, the Arts Council, and appropriate offices of City and County agencies. These will be tracked, including numbers, location and genres.
    • Galleries and installations, both temporary and permanent, will occupy several locations in the Main Street Corridor. These will be tracked by numbers, location and genres.
    • Residents, workers, and visitors will use the Main Street Corridor to travel between Center City activities, cultural destinations, and local businesses. Periodic on-site surveys will sample who observes and/or participate in activities, their reasons for being downtown, and the connections between places they visit.
  1. Indoor and outdoor venues will be utilized, including green spaces, restaurants, clubs, stages, community spaces, street corners, galleries, pop-ups, and businesses.
    • Key venues and spaces will have increased utilization, and as appropriate, economic activity. Venues and spaces will be tracked to note activities and performers, times, pedestrian traffic, and audience/customer numbers as appropriate.
    • The number of successful restaurants, clubs and venues will increase in the Center City area. Economic and participant activity will be tracked for existing and new businesses in this sector.
  1. Activities will be accessible and safe for community residents, workers, students, and tourists, year-round.
    • Pedestrian traffic in the Main Street Corridor and Center City will increase. Periodic on-site surveys will sample comfort-levels of pedestrians at and between activities. Downtown crime statistics will be correlated with arts activity frequency and density.
  1. Activities will reflect what is uniquely Rochester, including community and professional artists, groups, and organizations that are diverse by genre and demographics.
    • Rochester region artists and arts organizations will be featured prominently and marketed successfully. Presenters will be tracked by genre, demographic, and community/amateur/professional markers.
  1. Entrepreneurship and professional development training will be accessible and available to artists and arts organizations.
  • Multiple resources will be available to artists and arts organizations of all genres and sizes. The type, frequency, and quantity of entrepreneurship training and professional development programs, workshops, and resources will be tracked.
  • Artists and arts organizations that are diverse and representative of Rochester’s communities will access these resources. Participation, and the demographic make-up and income strata of artists and arts organizations, will be tracked for all programs and services.
  1. Legal and business resources will be accessible and available to artists and arts organizations.
    • Chapters of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and Business Volunteers for the Arts will be created and accessible. Participation, demographic make-up and income strata for artists and arts organization clients will be tracked.
  1. Affordable housing and workspaces will be available to artists and arts organizations.
    • The number, availability, affordability and occupancy of affordable housing and workspaces for artists, including live/work spaces, will increase and will be tracked.
  1. A robust, inclusive and accessible Arts and Cultural Council of Greater Rochester will be reimagined and supported to serve the needs of independent artists and arts organizations of all sizes.
    • The annual budget and staff of the Arts Council will increase and be supported by increased funding from government, grants, program fees, and donors. Budgets will be compared and analyzed year to year.
    • The clients of the Arts Council will reflect a diverse and representative population of artists and arts organizations. Program and participant data will be tracked.
  1. A creative cluster will include academic, incubator, maker-space, co-working space and a flexible and accessible high tech-enabled venue for performances.
    • A creative cluster that is roughly bordered by Sibley Square, The Eastman School of Music, and the Strong Museum will foster creative and economic activity. The number of collaborations and projects that are related to this sector will be tracked, including start-ups within existing facilities and new facilities as well as programs to serve this sector.
  1. The cluster will support creative sector assets (e.g., game-design, music for film and media, audio recording and engineering, filmmaking and related industries) that identify and leverage an industry niche for Rochester.
    • Existing businesses and organizations will experience growth and new businesses in this sector will be launched. The number, success/failure, of businesses and business activity in this sector and cluster will be tracked and measured.
  1. The creative cluster will feature a public/private collaboration between RIT, UR and other area colleges and universities, creative industries, economic development agencies, the City of Rochester, County of Monroe and State of New York.
    • A creative cluster anchor project that combines research and development, teaching and learning, creative collaborative projects, co-working opportunities, and a hi-tech performance/testing venue will be developed by these partners.

With Generous Support