Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rochester - Art matters

Flat-Iron building on Rochester's University Avenue
Rochester, NY, is one of those places you think vanished from economic prominence when manufacturing moved to low income southern states, or to zero income automated robots. Truth is in the late 19th and early 20th Century, Rochester was one of America's first boomtowns.                                                                                                                                                                              
Today it still sports some excellent university and medical centers but sadly, like many northern cities around the rust belt, it has struggled with a high crime rate and declining economy.

Rochester's metro population is over a million and it is the second largest urban economy in New York State. Like other places, some neighborhoods are troubled with disorder and drugs. 
Comic relief on a public bench in Neighborhood of the Arts
Look a bit closer, though, and Rochester surprises. Some neighborhoods are emerging as cultural landmarks and quality of life stars. One of those is the Neighborhood of the Arts along University Avenue. Our Rochester SafeGrowth class recently walked a night-time audit here. 

Streetscaping and outdoor art is the dominant feature. Sure, along with demographics and prosperity, it is only one ingredient in the crime mix. Still...murals, sculptures, flower planters, and other art plays a significant role. For example, though street lighting wasn't particularly good, it didn't matter. There was a palpable comfort walking here at night. Lone women jogged by us quite relaxed as nearby bar patrons celebrated something or other. 

This is a cool area and a great asset. For humanizing the public realm Rochester proves, art matters.

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