WDET's Raw Feed

Rochester: The Intersection of Old, New, Art & Nature

August 30th, 2012


Over the past year and a half that WDET has been holding community conversations, as part of our “Crossing the Lines” coverage, the turnout has ranged from a few dozen to a handful.

I was greeted by two interesting things yesterday morning in Rochester:

Main Street is still under construction and that’s kept some folks away from downtown, according to the locals. New sewer lines, new sidewalks and “the whole nine yards” appear to be going on. I was told that the construction has improved, but crews have been working since the snow melted in the Spring. The understanding was that it should have been done in time for the Summer heat (July was the date, I was told), but the hope now is that downtown Rochester will be “new and improved” by the time the snow flies this winter. But the feeling is for the long term gain, the current inconvenience should be worth it.

At the same time, as I parked, I was greeted by a painted/decorated sheep - "Baart Simpson". It made me chuckle. Not sure why, but it just seemed like an odd mixture at 6:30am on a Wednesday in Rochester.

But as I looked around, I noticed other sheep - including “Shrek”, or was it “Shrep”, that was guarding a nearby parking meter. "Free parking today", it said. That’s something you don’t see every day. It was kind of quirky but that’s seems to be part of the charm of Rochester.

Small Town Feel with a Modern Mood

The first things that are striking about driving into Rochester on Main Street are the antique storefronts and walkable downtown. The facades speak to an earlier era but many have been updated to spark a modern feeling. Old diners, pubs, décor shops and more can be found along Main Street.

Rochester – Arty Place

Beyond community engagement, I also cover the arts and culture scene in Metro Detroit. Over the past four years or so, I've found that Rochester has some great, innovative places for art. One in particular is a non-profit gallery offering engaging work and connective art opportunities for the community – the Paint Creek Center for the Arts. (Full disclosure – I have purchased works from PCCA in the past.)

The space has hosted many local artists working in a broad range of disciplines from sculpture to painting to fabrics to mixed media.

Since 1982, PCCA has worked on showcase art while offering classes and community events like “Art & Apples” (now in its 47th year – September 7th, 8th, 9th) and the twice-annual Downtown Rochester Gallery Stroll.

PCCA’s Mary Fortuna stopped by the coffee conversation at Bean & Leaf and told me about how the gallery stroll has become a way for businesses – not directly related to the arts – to offer something to bring in the curious. This fall’s stroll will feature nine shops offering artists a place to showcase their work and the public will get a chance to see something new.

Following our conversation, I took a few minutes to check out the latest exhibitions at PCCA:

“Graphic Playground” featuring Joseph Bergman, Jackie Brown, Dorothy Anderson Grow & Mark Piotrowski.

I was also able to see “January, February, Spring Summer Christmas” featuring the work of Davin Brainerd of TimeStereo/Noise Camp fame.

On the Trail

During the conversation, a Troy resident – Jay – sat down for a few minutes. Decked out in his cycling gear, Jay said he bikes up to Rochester almost daily. He said he’s a big fan of the various trails that allow him to enjoy nature while working out.

Photo from the Paint Creek Trail Website.

While not related to Rochester, directly, Jay said he’s involved in the business community in the Village of Almont in nearby Lapeer County. He said he has found that his efforts currently hinge on trying to change the model of how businesses build connections between businesses and the community through the idea of seeding small gifts. Jay said that he feels people need to think beyond the short term exchange of giving to a more long term model of philanthropy that can build relationships.

As I waited at the light to head back south down Main Street towards I-75 and back to WDET, I thought about what Jay had said – the idea of moving from short term to long term. It’s something I’ve been working on since I started doing community engagement reporting several years ago. The idea is that when I talk to someone it goes beyond what I call “transactional” - just doing one interview for one story. The idea is building relationships with people. Building stronger, deeper connections and more authentic stories will come from that process. It’s about more than just filling space on-air or on-line. For me, it’s about connecting on a much deeper level.

That’s why I’ve been enjoying my coffee shop tour.

Where should I go next? I hope you know WDET is always here to listen and share.

Let’s talk.

You can contact me through the following: rstmary@wdet.org 313-577-5237 Twitter: @RobDET

I look forward to hearing from you soon! Thanks again, Rochester! Rob St. Mary

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