A Facebook post in the Rochester Urbanists forum in September 2018 generated an exchange about a crosswalk in California that depicted a piano keyboard. Someone’s comment lamenting that Rochester didn’t have something similar inspired me to action. This led to the creation of Composers Crossing on East Main and Gibbs Street during the Rochester International Jazz Festival last June.
The project took 10 months from idea to completion. Facing many challenges and obstacles along the way, I had little awareness of the source for my inspiration nor the impact it would have on our community.
Upon reflection, I realize that I was attempting to demonstrate how a small group of people with a love and passion for Rochester can shape its future. Citizens delegating their decision making and vision setting is an unfortunate loss of opportunity. We have agency and the power to effect change. The strength of a small a group, working collaboratively and with purity of purpose, should never be underestimated.
I partnered with friend and gifted artist Shawn Dunwoody, and we created an artwork that is a powerful symbol. The evidence is present for anyone to experience since it resides in a public space. My definition of art hinges upon personal interpretation; each individual is free to form a personal response. With Composers Crossing, mine involves issues around racial equity. As a co-creator, I can assure you, that wasn’t our conscious intent.
Composers Crossing helped build community in unanticipated ways. We had many supporters along the way, including the 75 volunteers who helped paint, provide nourishment, and perform jazz during the six hours we had to paint it. Neighbors and community friends provided funding to cover the cost. Only days after completion, a reporter wrote about Composers Crossing in the Washington Post’s Inspired Life column, giving it national exposure.
Other local artists contributed by taking photos, videos, drone images, and even creating a nine-minute documentary: “Composers Crossing: A Love Story.” Viewers can learn about entrepreneurial drive, modern urbanism and place making—and the power of community collaboration. After watching it, you will also discover the appropriateness of the title.
Richard A. Glaser is co-founder of RocGrowth and People for Parcel 5.