As the hometown of numerous artists of national and international renown, Rochester now is cultivating a new generation of performing and visual artists who share a passion for their craft.
Like their predecessors-names that include woodworker Wendell Castle, sculptor Albert Paley, opera singer Renee Fleming, jazz musician Chuck Mangione and ballerina Sarah Lane-these young artists might one day become household names in their fields. Here are three budding members of the creative class:
Since his middle school years, Brighton native Benjamin Baker has known that he wanted to be a visual artist. Today, metal is his material of choice.
Baker, 25, earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from SUNY College at New Paltz in 2008 and discovered that his greatest passion was to create one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces. Earning a living exclusively as a jeweler, however, can be challenging. So Baker plies his trade in a more practical setting, as a blacksmith craftsman for Keuka Studios, a position that he has held for three years. The Rush company produces high-end architectural ironwork for commercial and residential clients, including Wegmans Food Markets Inc., Reid Eye Associates and more.
Baker, whose father is a local homebuilder, enjoys what he does.
"Any project transforming two-dimensional concepts into three-dimensional objects is in my blood," says Baker, who also is an avid ukulele and accordion player, captain of a volleyball team and kickball enthusiast.
He cannot contemplate an alternative career path for himself.
"I have no second-choice career interests," he says. "I was born to create and express myself in a creative way."
Baker, who rents an upstairs bedroom and a basement studio at a friend's home in the 19th Ward, frequently attends gallery openings at local venues, such as the Rochester Contemporary Art Center. He still creates unique metal jewelry pieces as gifts for friends and family, and recently he had a piece on exhibit through Future of the Finger Lakes: A Young Artists' Collaborative at Smith Center for the Arts in Geneva, Ontario County.
"I'm a happy guy," he says. "I'm doing what I love to do, I'm living pretty comfortably and can put food on my table. I feel blessed."
West Irondequoit native Megan Kamler donned her first pair of pink ballet slippers at 4 years of age, and she has been dancing ever since.
In September, Kamler-who is 22-will join the performing troupe at Rochester City Ballet. It is a dream come true, says Kamler, who started dancing with the Draper School of Dance, a feeder school to the ballet company, five years ago. In May, Kamler earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance from the University of Arizona in Tuscon.
"Dance is the only thing I know how to do. It is my passion and a great escape," says Kamler, whose favorite roles in the past several years have included the magical doll in Rochester City Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" and as choleric temperament in her college's production of George Balanchine's ballet "Four Temperaments."
The work at Rochester City Ballet is intense-five-hour rehearsals on weekdays and six-hour rehearsals on weekends-but Kamler says she loves every minute of it. While she receives a salary from the dance company, Kamler still lives at home with her family and works part-time for Wegmans to help pay off her college loans.
Still, she cannot imagine doing anything else, with the possible exception of teaching dance to youngsters.
"I want to dance for as long as I can; then my long-term plan is to find a good place to teach ballet," she says.
But the thought of a truly alternative career leaves Kamler feeling stumped.
"If I wasn't dancing, I guess I'd be sleeping," she says.
Business was booming for visual artist Abby Kuperstock during this year's Park Avenue Festival. The first-time festival exhibitor sold a number of pieces at her booth, and-best of all, she says-she handed out 150 business cards to prospective clients.
The 30-year-old, who operates her business under the name Abby Dora Studios, produces children's book illustrations, original stationery and paper party goods. Customers include "lots of new moms and grandmas," Kuperstock says.
The Farmington, Conn., native found her way to Rochester as a freshman at Rochester Institute of Technology in 1999. There, four years later, she earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in illustration. Upon graduation, she moved to New York City after landing a job as a book designer for Dutton Children's Books. There she earned a master's degree in communication design from Pratt Institute.
"I loved the work as a book designer, but after seven years I decided that I could do this for myself," she says.
So Kuperstock's next goal is to find a publisher for "Anna's Big Idea," a children's book that she has written and designed. In fact, she sold some individual prints of the book's artwork during the Park Avenue Festival.
"It has always been my dream to write and illustrate a children's book and get it published," says Kuperstock, an ardent baker, cook and literary fan of Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling.
She believes books let "children explore the world in a very safe manner. Through literature, kids learn how to critically think about their world. Books are a stepping stone to becoming a strong human being."
Business during the last 12 months has been "a rollercoaster," Kuperstock says.
Still, she is encouraged that she recently was hired as an adjunct faculty member for RIT's illustration department, and she sells her artwork on etsy.com.
Kuperstock is excited about her new adventure in Rochester.
"Within the last month or so, my business has built up a lot of momentum," she says. "I am excited about the future."
Debbie Waltzer is a Rochester-area freelance writer.8/26/11 (c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail email@example.com.