Category Archives: Issue Four


Rochester’s ‘Alternative’ Avant-Garde: The point at which Alternative Music Film Society, MAG and fine art converge


In The Transformation of the Avant-Garde: The New York Art World, 1940-1985, Diane Crane explains that “artists working outside of styles are generally, although not invariably, acting as entrepreneurs” focused more on their own production, techniques and output than the advancement or dissemination of existing artistic concepts or canons of knowledge.

The avant-garde artist, while equally intent on doing more than just assuage or engage the public, advances that concept.

“He or she is attempting to paint in a way that no one else has painted before,” Crane adds, “but by using the body of artistic knowledge that already exists.”

In this way, they help define and educate others about their style. So it is with the Alternative Music Film Society.

AMFS’s most recent screening – held April 23 in Memorial Art Gallery’s 290-seat auditorium – was Records Collecting Dust. The 2015 film traces the origins of LP collections curated by some 30 underground or avant-garde musicians: Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Danny Benair (The Quick), Lisa Francher (Frontier Records founder), Clifford Dinsmore (Teenage Time Killers) and others.

Prior screenings included rockumentaries, docudramas and concert films made early or late in the careers of Daft Punk, Roxy Music and Sigur Ros – revealing the fine point at which AMFS, MAG and the art world converge.

“We love the (AMFS) because it’s a work of passionate participants in Rochester’s music scene,” submitted Jonathan Binstock,

Photography by John Schlia - Christopher Amann, Andrew Chinnici, Jennifer Sciarabba and Jonathan Binstock (Mary W. and Donald R. Clark Director of the MAG)

Photography by John Schlia – Christopher Amann, Andrew Chinnici, Jennifer Sciarabba and Jonathan Binstock

who was named director of MAG on July 7, 2014, holds a master’s degree and PhD in art history and was most recently a senior vice president and a senior advisor in modern and contemporary art for Citi Private Bank’s Art Advisory & Finance group in New York City.

“With this series, (AMFS and its patrons) share their love of music and documentary film with us and create another forum for the appreciation of creativity at the MAG.”

AMFS’s co-founders are Christopher Amann, Andrew Chinicci and Jennifer Sciarabba.

“As the owner of (Lakeshore Record Exchange), my entire life is immersed in music,” Chinicci explained.

Photography by John Schlia - Andrew Chinnici, Jennifer Sciarabba and Christopher Amann

Photography by John Schlia – Andrew Chinnici, Jennifer Sciarabba and Christopher Amann

“In a sense, I was fortunate enough to be able to live in this sort of suspended state of late adolescence – early 20s – where music is a big part of your life.”

Consequently he made a habit of screening music-related films in his free time.

“After watching dozens and dozens of them at home … it just dawned on me one night: It’s rare you ever get to see documentaries or performance films in a theatre. It happens once in a while with something that’s fairly high profile but, on the whole, it’s rare.”

As Crane might say, the trio built AMFS around an existing canon of knowledge captured on film and packaged it for public consumption – further defining alternative music and giving audiences an education in underground and avant-garde musical performance.

“It’s a universal story, usually: somebody telling how they got connected to music and why they (pursue) it,” said Sciarabba, aka Jen V., creator of “New Wave Wednesday” (WBER-90.5FM).

“It’s so great to hear how people are connected to music and, really, connected to art – what their vehicle is. Because, most of the time, you find out from these particular musicians that they’re not just musicians. They are artists and they are tapping that creativity (to channel it) in all different kinds of ways.”

Concert films, Amann noted, offer a rare glimpse behind performance. Assemblages of backstory, preparation and audience reaction, they’re rich in texture, context and community. The relationship between AMFS, MAG and art is equally rich and complex.

“It’s all art – it’s all creativity,” said Meg Colombo for MAG.

“What I see, when people are here for the movie,

Photography by John Schlia - AMFS at MAG

Photography by John Schlia – AMFS at MAG

is that there’s instant connection …. It’s that ‘I get it!’ feeling that, I think, people are pulling from the movies and relating to each other.”

“(Art is all about) connecting with your society.”

“If you think about it,” Chinicci posited, “music is an art form just like painting or photography or sculpting or anything else. Most people don’t perceive it that way because music is consumed more by the masses than other forms of art are – just like movie-making is.

“In that sense, I think it’s a perfect marriage to have a movie-themed series at a gallery because it’s an art form that you are kind of showing the process of: How it’s made and what goes into it. And, as Jen said, most of the artists are artists in a bigger sense.”

Adam Ant is one example, painting and sketching long before becoming a new wave/pop music icon. Bryan Ferry, of Roxy Music, is another. Art school was a vehicle through which they met other artists and collectively adopted music as their medium.

“The film The Origin of Post Punk focused not on one band but on the movement of music that happened after punk,” Chinicci explained. “It started out as this very basic form of rock ‘n’ roll, but what it did was show young people that you didn’t have to practice an instrument for years on end and be technically proficient to make an artistic statement.

“What started out as just purely, straight-ahead, basic rock ‘n’ roll exploded into all these different forms: everything from electronic to avant-garde rock to noise to everything.”

That “everything” falls in the art rock category, describing work by artists as diverse as 10cc, David Bowie, Daft Punk, The Human League, Kraftwerk, Roxy Music, the Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa. This subgenre of rock dates to the late 1960s – when avant-garde efforts collided with classical form to spawn art-based, experimental music.

AMFS celebrates its two-year anniversary in May, opening in April 2013 with a free concert that brought the UK’s China Crisis to MAG for its first-ever Rochester performance and drew fans from Toronto, NYC and LA. The band is returning for a June 13 concert at Montage Music Hall.

“Here’s a place where not only is art happening, but (it’s created) in different ways,” Sciarabba said of MAG. “Seeing a band play here and planning that (was) something that, probably, most people would never experience. It was wonderful being able to do that.”

The AMFS did that by structuring its series like an installation piece on a limited run, bartering its way into a six-month contract with the gallery in exchange for an A/V facelift.

“We hoped to recoup our costs of the donation we made, but it was a donation,” Chinicci said. “So, it wasn’t like, ‘Well, we have to get our money back.’”

Amann and Chinicci pulled $5,000 out of their own pockets and replaced MAG’s aging video system with an HD,

Photography by John Schlia - Christopher Amann and Andrew Chinnici talk in the projection room before the film begins.

Photography by John Schlia – Christopher Amann and Andrew Chinnici talk in the projection room before the film begins.

theatre-grade JVC X30 digital projector and a HDMI-, LAN port- and legacy A/V connection-equipped Sony BDP-S590 Blu-ray/DVD player that has built in Wi-Fi and is 3D and iOS/Android remote control capable.

“Either way,” Amann added, “we knew we’d walk away doing something good for the art gallery – and they’d have a projector system they could use for years to come.”

The AMFS planned to work off use of the auditorium with the trade but, by the end of those first six months, MAG extended its run. AMFS recently hit another turning point, doing away with a $10 ticket price to screen films for free and remove lingering barriers of entry for movie goers.
Chinicci’s co-founders laud his tenacity, hunting down films of all genres and types with alternative music as his constant muse.

“We try to program films we think will be interesting and that we think the audience will like,” he said. “We do do avant-garde stuff and we’ve done fairly mainstream stuff, as well. (But) you can never tell what sort of reaction you’re going to get … in terms of attendance.”

In collaboration with one another and the gallery, the founders of AMFS blend their unique skills, creative talents and perspectives on a monthly basis – lifting the veil on the process:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the same way they let audiences peek behind the curtain to watch musicians hone their craft, they give Rochesterians and out-of-towners a view of MAG from the inside out.

Upcoming free screenings include Genesis: Sum of the Parts (2014, 124 min.) on Thurs., May 28, and Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police (2012, 79 min.) on Thurs., June 25, at MAG (500 University Ave.). Learn more at



The obsession to stay current is exhausting. Nearly everything these days is disposable and the expected lifespan of any tech device is at an all-time low. Upgrade used to mean “enhance” – existing hardware could be fit with newer software to more closely compete with the new model. “Replace” is a more accurate meaning for upgrade today. In most cases it is simply more cost effective to toss the old and buy the new than it is to monkey around trying to massage more flexibility into last year’s model. Information is everywhere and we obviously need it all. We’re incessantly pummeled by untruths, half-truths, and ugly truths on TVs, phones, watches, and even eyewear… and it’s still not enough. We need more. More. Faster. More. Brighter. More. Smaller. No wait…Bigger. Yes. Bigger. More. More. More! Whew! I may need a smoke after getting carried away a bit. But seriously, life is hectic. It’s noisy. Even all of those wonderful tech gadgets need to recharge. As do we. We need quiet; we need art to take us out of the fast lane.

Art is the portal to the forgotten dimension of stillness. Whether your pleasure is creating art or appreciating art, it really does not matter. Art allows us to bathe in the moment and let time pass unnoticed. I don’t really care if you choose to stare at paintings in a gallery or museum, watch movies, listen to music, read books, dance, cook, or even garden. All of these activities allow quiet to resonate as our batteries recharge. We are allowed to visit new whens, wheres, and whys through art, as we lose ourselves in another world. Imagination and focus are the keys to everything. Focus on the words on the page and voila! you find yourself inhabiting the same world you’re reading about. It’s rather like magic. The world can continue to race by at its blistering pace, but it can’t hurt you in your bubble of peace and quiet.

Even non-traditional activities can possess artistic qualities based on the idea that sharp focus on the detail erases the ticking clock. There is beauty in refining a technique to create rhythm, losing sight of the large task at hand and breaking it down into smaller, less daunting pieces. That is how art is made: the process. Heard that before?

Think about it in a different way and apply it to your everyday life. If you file papers in an office, or twist caps on detergent bottles, the idea is the same. Focus on the series of movements required to complete the job and do each as well as possible, blocking out the scope of the quantity and concentrating on the quality. The monotony fades away and your body moves more efficiently without the mind cluttering the processWhen the body finds that rhythm the mind is free to roam, to daydream, to be somewhere else. I know from experience. I have shoveled, wheeled, and raked countless yards of dirt, stone, and mulch. I have mowed seemingly infinite stripes in grass. I have put paper and wire on thousands of picture frames. And, yes, I have worked in a liquid soap factory twisting bottle caps and stacking pallets. In each and every chore there are small steps that are taken to achieve a greater end, and my mind was free to go anywhere as my body did the work. That may sound as if I didn’t care how well the task was performed and just let my mind wander and dream as I carelessly tossed dirt here and there. I assure you that is the exact opposite from the truth. Focus on the movement and on the process needs to be present to allow the mind and body to work independently from each other. I cut each and every stripe of grass focusing solely on getting that line as straight as humanly possible. After a few passes it becomes an innate sense and I achieve inner quiet despite the roar of the mower engine. As crazy as it sounds, finding that zen within something as menial as cutting grass is an art. It is a portal into another world, any world you choose to visit.

You know what I love about art? It’s always there when I need an escape. I can get lost in the heavy brush strokes of Mr. Van Gogh or the absurdly brilliant abstraction of Mr. Picasso. I can open a novel and let the author lead me wherever she wants. I can pick up a pencil or a brush and explore color, texture, shape, and movement in any way I choose. Art doesn’t stop the passage of time; the clock keeps ticking and the earth continues its steady rotation around the sun. Not that you’ll notice though.

Life isn’t even possible without art, more so, when the definition of art is expanded to include everyday tasks. It is stillness that produces the motion and the silence that amplifies the sound. It is the same idea as not knowing love or pain without the other. Art allows us the opportunity to recognize how frenzied our lives have become by offering us the sanctuary of quiet. The imagination to create comes from allowing stillness to permeate our beings. I believe that without art we would easily fall prey to the flood of technology. The flow of information grows stronger by the day and our connections to other beings simultaneously erodes. Ignore the blinking message alert that resembles a lighthouse beacon. Its promise of safe harbour is quickly revealed as a ruse, as a siren’s hauntingly sweet song enticing us to succumb to the sea.

Art enriches everything and everyone that takes the time to be still for one second. With almost no effort whatsoever we can let life rush on by as we take the time to savor the little moments of peace.


By Devon Curtin

Rochester has a penchant for community. Here, there is a very strong affinity for neighborhoods with distinctly individualized personalities and this has led to the development of many of the city’s most successful areas.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon

The benefit to these congregations is profound; an area such as the South Wedge would have been considered a rough spot 15 years ago. Since then it has seen remarkable growth in retail establishments, property value and interest in the arts.

So what makes the South Wedge different? The area’s proximity to different universities certainly helps, but the key to the prosperity in districts like the South Wedge is greatly influenced by their communities. For example, the Upper Falls area is a very old section of Rochester that is home to the Genesee Brewery, portions of Kodak, and also the location of one of the city’s newest co-ops: Makerspace.

Based upon Boston’s successful Artisans Asylum, Rochester’s Makerspace is a community based crafts studio designed to allow access to a variety of knowledgeable artists and lots of equipment.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Lulzbot Mini 3D Printer

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Lulzbot Mini 3D Printer

The studio is home to a full woodworking area, 3-D printers, a CNC routing machine, electrical fabrication stations and machining equipment. It is also home to a hackerspace which is a collective devised to bring  people together for projects and activities focused around a growing interest in new technologies such as 3-D printing and digital art.

“What is Makerspace?”

“It’s an open space, there is no specific niche. It’s non-denominational.” That was Rob, one of the founders of Rochester’s Makerspace who told me he wants the space to benefit the local community and to be a space for people to come to work and learn. Rob isn’t doing this for money, he has a comfortable job as an engineer for a local telecom company; the intention of Makerspace is for it to be an intellectual endeavor and a place where anyone can learn. As it stands right now there are two things Rob wants for the space: members and artists.

Gaining Visibility

Makerspace is still relatively unknown in the city, but that will change with the addition of more artists. Rob would also like to offer small studio spaces where artists may keep and work on projects.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Wood Shop

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Wood Shop

A visual array of current projects is both inspiring and helpful to other members who may find starting a project daunting. Makerspace is not the first of its kind in Rochester, but others have tried and failed to build similar programs. Makerspace is a non-profit organization and the margins for these programs are slim, so members and volunteers are crucial. To succeed there needs to be a community interested in taking advantage of what Makerspace has to offer.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon

Fortunately, there is momentum growing and this means true revitalization of the arts scene in Rochester. At just two years old Makerspace is still in its infancy and everyone there is eager to attract new members. Membership costs only $40.00 per month and members have access to the facilities every day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Inexpensive classes are on offer and studios are open to the public every Thursday evening from 6-9:30 p.m.

The Rochester Makerspace is located at 850 St. Paul Street, Rochester, NY.

Turn down Scranton street, the parking lot is in the back on the right.

Additional information is available at:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


By Dan Scally

Education, Encouragement, Exploration, Expanding, Exhibiting

 Why Join An Art Group ?

Art groups are an educational forum for learning new art techniques and provide a great opportunity for members to share similar creative interests. Joining an art group can help expand one’s artistic horizons and provide strength and motivation. In the Rochester area there’s opportunity galore for all skill levels, hobbyists and professionals alike. The ages in most local art groups vary and can range from  students in their 20s to experienced artists in their 80s. Art Group members come from all backgrounds as well. Some have studied art at the college level, taken workshops and some are self -taught. Most local groups have a mix of painters, sculptors, craftsmen, mixed media artists and some count photographers among their members. There’s also the teamwork aspect where each member has to perform some role or duty to contribute to the inner workings of the group. As with most groups there are leadership opportunities and positions such as president, program director, art show director as well as media and newsletter responsibilities. Most have member critiques and provide opportunities to exhibit one’s work at local venues. For the creative individual, there are also the emotional and cognitive benefits of the arts as well.

 Being an artist can be a lonely thing; being “stuck” in the studio for many hours can be positive and negative at the same time. Art Groups allow you to “show your face,” socialize and meet other artists. Most groups have monthly meetings where there is a presentation by an established local artist or where one artist in the group presents his/her work and techniques, usually followed by questions and answers.  If you can learn from other creative individuals, then there must be something you can share from your artistic experience as well. Most art groups include retired “art educators” who are more than willing to share their experience and knowledge from years of teaching. The interest level of local art group members ranges from hobbyists to more serious artists who want to grow and expand by showing their work.

 At last count there were over 50 Art groups in the Rochester metro as well as the surrounding suburban areas. There are the Art collectives such a Anderson Alley Artists Studios and the Hungerford Art Studios. There are long established juried art groups such as The Rochester Art Club and Arena Art Group and the newer urban groups such as Dudes Night Out. There’s also a number of drawing groups such as the NY Figure Study Guild, DRAW and the Rochester Area Colored Pencil Club. There is the art discussion group known as The Artist’s Breakfast Group. There are also quite a few suburban groups, some that have been around for 40-50 years. Other groups include The Chili Art Group and the Batavia Society of Artists, The Suburban Art Group, The Penfield and Pittsford Art Groups as well as Genesee Valley Plein Air Group. There is also The Irondequoit and Webster Art Clubs to name a few.

 Art Groups can help you find new opportunities for showing your work and most area groups organize a few group shows throughout the year. Some are juried and some unjuried. This is an excellent way to start exposing yourself and your art and to start building your resume and brand as an artist if that is your goal. The juried art shows are even more important, as their quality is often much higher. Getting to know where the art shows are, what their requirements are and who might participate in them are all things that can be learned at the local level. You will gain the respect of your fellow artists in your group and they will be willing to help you in return. Through volunteering by participating and arranging shows, you will get to see what happens behind the scene and learn what is involved. If you want to create art and sell your work, you have to start somewhere. Your local art group can be one such place where you expose who you are, learn what drives you, make friends and eventually become known in the local area and community.

You’ll most likely meet these types of creative people in an Art Group 1) Those who enjoy the act of creating art as a hobby in their spare time and want to socialize with others that do the same.  2) Those who are more serious about creating art, want to learn new techniques and have an opportunity to show their work. 3) Artists who want to network and take their creativity to another level. 4) Artists who are looking to get back on the creative path after years of absence, perhaps because of raising a family or dedication to a full time job 5) Retired art educators who want to share their knowledge of the arts . 6) Professional, full-time artists who maintain studio space and regularly show their work.


Here is a short list of local art groups and their email contacts:


Arena Art Group

Artists’ Breakfast Group

Batavia Society of Artists

Chili Art Group

Draw (Women of)(no listing)

Dudes Night Out

Genesee Valley Plein Air Painters

Image City Gallery Group(photographers only)

Irondequoit Art Club

New York Figure Study Guild

Penfield Art Associationemail:

Pittsford Art Club

Rochester Art Clubcontact: Suzi Zefting-Kuhn 585-233-5645

Rochester Area Colored Pencil Club

Webster Art Club

Suburban Rochester Art Group


* Special thanks to Suzi Zefting Kuhn of Rochester Art Club

Her ongoing project involves the creation of an Art Group Directory for the Rochester area.

Thanks also to Zanne Brunner and Nancy Valle for their involvement in promoting local art groups.

When complete, the group listings will include history, meeting schedules, as well as contact and membership info.

Art House Press will be sharing this information throughout the coming year. We will also profile many of these groups and feature the work of their members in upcoming issues.