Art Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneur Launches MedCity Studio to Serve as Resource for Local Photography Community

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Entrepreneur and Baltimore native Brendan Bush looks to change up the photography scene in Rochester with his business MedCity Studio. Located right next to Silver Lake, Bush aims to use the business to build and connect the local photography community and to serve as a resource for those just getting started in the business.

Bush himself comes from strong photography roots. His father was the Director of Photography at The Baltimore Sun and Bush always grew up with a dark room in their family home. Later he attended the University of Western Kentucky University for photojournalism; Bush worked in the newspaper business for several years before moving to Minnesota in 2014 with his wife and children. 

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After relocating to Rochester, this creative decided it was time to try something different. Digital photography had opened up the market to a variety of people including new professionals, amateur photographers, and people who just wanted to take better photos in their everyday lives.  

Bush launched MedCity Studios in May 2018 as, at the surface level, a rental studio for those seeking an affordable indoor location to shoot photos and meet with clients. However, the value add of the business runs much deeper. Bush himself serves as a resource for people as they are using the space, offering assistance for things like lighting set up to adjustment of poorly taken photos. 

“This is an opportunity for [new photographers] to have a place to learn from and experiment and practice,” Bush explained.

He hopes the business also creates a connection point for the local photography ecosystem to host events and serve as “an exchange center for photography information in the community.” 

Bush began running photography classes from the studio to help support and provide education for local photographers. He ended up landing on a huge value add for the community. 

“I never thought that photography classes were going to be that big of a deal. But, yeah, they’re really selling like crazy,” he laughed.

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MedCity Studio’s first DSLR basics class wrapped up at the end of January. Bush aims to run the class again in February as well as host photo walks in the springtime. He hopes to create a real experience with MedCity Studio through the classes, support for the photography community, and with the rental space itself. 

“The market is changing, and they say millennials are more about experience than they are about product. And I think that lends itself well to here,” he explained. 

Bush said his studio space has been gaining a steady following of repeat customers, including those that don’t fall into the traditional photography space. He’s had people use the studio for product photo shoots as well as to record video commercials.

“Photography is an art that has a strong technical side that attracts some people just for the technical aspect,” he said. “Some people just like the creative aspects and then there are all those shades in-between. But I think, in this town, photography could work because it has technical aspects that would attract technically minded people.”

Public Art, Oil Paintings, and Social Activism- The Work of Eric Anderson

Image of Anderson's painting that will be featured at Forager show. Photo courtesy of Eric Anderson.

Image of Anderson's painting that will be featured at Forager show. Photo courtesy of Eric Anderson.

Local artist, writer, and social activist Eric Anderson is witnessing his visions take form.

This Rochester creator has not one, but two public art installments that will hopefully come to fruition in the near future. Next week, his first ever solo-artist show will take place at Forager Brewing Company, where people will attend to exclusively experience his art.

Photo of Eric Anderson from the Discovery Square Community Celebration and Innovation Showcase in November.

Photo of Eric Anderson from the Discovery Square Community Celebration and Innovation Showcase in November.

A transplant to the Rochester area, Anderson grew up in a military family and frequently moved as a child. The longest time he spent in one place was in a rather bleak sounding region of southeastern Virginia, aptly called “the Great Dismal Swamp.” This area, as the name suggests, is a marshy, wildlife-filled area where Anderson lived with his family on a military communications base.

“I think that’s where the creativity side kicked in. You have the world to play with, but you didn’t really have anything to do,” Anderson joked.

Eight years ago, he moved to Rochester from Boston with his wife Rose, a Product Manager at Mayo Clinic. Since that time, the pair have become deeply engaged in the Rochester community with different social justice and entrepreneurial endeavors. Just this past year, they worked with four high school students to remove gender bias from the Rochester Home Charter Rule, a document that establishes how the city is governed.

In 2016, the couple became involved in the Rochester PlaceMakers Prototyping Festival- an event hosted by Destination Medical Center, the Rochester Art Center, and Rochester Downtown Alliance- where teams of city residents developed small prototypes that could transform public space, revolving around the concept of health and the built environment.

Anderson had several ideas for his team’s design, most of which involved some sort of wayfinding. During the process, however, he was struck by a vivid memory. While doing his undergraduate studies in Boston, Anderson worked a nighttime security detail at a local hospital to earn some money. At times, the hospital received patients who needed to be restrained, for their safety or for the safety of others. After he assisted in restraining a patient for the first time, Anderson said a lullaby immediately began playing over the intercom system in that same room. Later, he learned this signified the birth of a baby just a few floors above in the hospital.

This experience, Anderson said, exploded the context of the moment; the sound of the lullaby was so removed from the experience he just had within that same building. The event helped him to “realize the complexity of life, almost right there before you in a very strange way.

During the Prototyping Festival, Anderson wanted to create a similar experience to relay individual health events- like the completion of a final round of chemotherapy or the awarding of a 24-hour Alcoholic Anonymous token- to the public. He saw this as a way to connect people to their neighbors and to share these significant health moments with the Rochester community. And as a bonus, Anderson’s concept would use infrastructure that was already in place- Mayo Clinic Information Technology (IT) and the actual landscape of downtown Rochester.

By the end of the process, Anderson’s team developed a working prototype that utilized Mayo technology in a de-identified and safe way. His three-dimension structure, The Artery, would share significant health events occurring within the clinic as different, ever changing colors of light.

The design was one of four prototypes selected by the Heart of the City Design Team to potentially be included in the final DMC Heart of the City sub-district. Anderson says a massive 40 x 30-foot Artery is currently part of the design schematics for the revitalized Peace Plaza area. Hopefully, he will see his concept come to completion in the community in 2019.

Anderson said there will likely be a key near the base of The Artery to help identify the significance of the colored lights displayed by the art piece. Eventually, he hopes the meaning of the colors will become “part of the language of the city,” where people will just understand what it means when the installation turns violet, red, or blue, for example.

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“[The Artery] creates new interaction points as well as conversations. Once people have it, I think they’ll have it,” he explained.

Public art pieces, like The Artery, are important additions for a healthy community, Anderson said. They can act as magnets and draw people to under-utilized regions of the city. They can also help people to interact with and think differently about their surroundings. Plus, art, such as the new installation outside of the Rochester Civic Center, means different things to different individuals.

“There’s no right answer to what it is. I think that’s important in a city, especially one that’s so predicated on clinical practice and checking a box ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” he said.

As an artist, Anderson is juggling several projects at the moment. In addition to The Artery, he’s also designing an installation for the 2018 Open Source Pharma conference in Bangalore, India.

He also works in oils.

“What I like about oil painting is that it’s very forgiving,” Anderson explained.

He spent several years persistently learning the technique of master painters. Unlike public art, he says it’s sometimes difficult to paint, knowing the limited amount of people who may experience it, especially if the work is purchased by an individual.

“But that’s fascinating to think about making something someone passively or non-passively interacts with for the rest of their life,” he said.

Anderson will display some of these works next Monday at Forager Brewing Company as a Gallery 24 featured artist.

“This will be my first time having a lot of [my art] in one big place and then everyone maybe going to look just at it. So, it’s a little terrifying,” he admitted.

Anderson says that writing, which he thinks is much more personal than painting, helped him prepare for moments like this. He has a “folder full of rejections” from sending writing pieces off to different literary journals. But, he’s learned to not take these “failures” too personal.

“I realize it’s not me, ever. It’s not the piece, typically. It’s other reasons,” he explained. “There’s limitations on something that someone else is looking for. So, it was the rejection, the acceptance, that helped so much to go through that with writing.”

Although there are no dedicated collegiate art programs in Rochester, Anderson says it’s a healthy time to be in the art community here. Local art can be shown at a variety of places around town like Rochester Community and Technical College, Gallery 24, Forager Brewing, Café Steam, 125 Live, SEMVA Art Gallery, and Dunn Brothers North.

“There’s all these outlets and all these things happening,” he stated. 

Rochester Native Returns Home to Produce Latest Film

Photo courtesy of  Project Gaslight .

Photo courtesy of Project Gaslight.

After spending the last decade in L.A., Rochester native, visual effects specialist, and film producer Jon Julsrud has moved back to the city to create his latest film Project Gaslight. Currently, Julsrud and his team are participating in a national crowdfunding campaign to gain support for the film, which is set to begin shooting in Rochester next summer.

Julsrud and the team behind Project Gaslight have strong ties to Minnesota, especially the Rochester area. Julsrud himself graduated from Mayo High School in 2000. Afterwards, he attended nearby St. Olaf College, pursuing degrees in Psychology and Asian Studies. Julsrud later obtained a degree in visual effects from the Art Institutes of Minnesota, but could not find much work in that area within the state.

Instead, he set out to cut his teeth where it all happens in the film industry, Los Angeles. He spent the last decade as a compositor and visual effects specialist for films like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 and Captain America: The First Avenger. After a brief stint in Montreal, Julsrud returned home to Rochester to visit family and friends over a year ago and has remained in the city ever since.

“My goal has always been to come back here and make movies,” he explained.

After re-landing in Rochester, Julsrud launched a new company, called Box Office, just this May to assist in the marketing and distribution of independent films, which Julsrud explained is an “even bigger problem now than it was ten, fifteen years ago.” Box Office is also partnering with the company Brandwood Global to integrate brands and products into films, allowing the filmmaker to get paid for the provided exposure (think Reese’s Pieces in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial).

Box Office will present Julsrud’s latest project, a psychological thriller with the working name Project Gaslight. This film centers around the concept of gaslighting, which Julsrud explains is “essentially emotional abuse, psychological abuse that you systematically undermine someone in order to make them think they’re losing their grip on reality.” The film will center around two couples and aims to highlight “a common but often misunderstood form of emotional abuse.”

The cast and crew behind Project Gaslight is Minnesota-based, split between Rochester and the Twin Cities. The Director, Will Cox, has been a business partner of Julsrud’s for seven years; the pair opened their own boutique film production business in 2014. The film’s Screenwriter, Elyse Forbes, is based out of the Twin Cities, as is the Director of Photography, Ben Enke.

Alex Kauffman, one half of the Twin Cities’ hip-hop/electronica group Dichotomy, is creating the soundtrack and score for the film. Kauffman and Julsrud were childhood friends, growing up on the same block in Rochester. One of the female actresses, Emily Tremaine, also grew up in the same Rochester neighborhood. Quite a success story herself, Tremaine recently landed a role as Kevin Bacon’s daughter in the new Syfy series Tremors, a reboot of the 1990s cult classic.

Julsrud plans to shoot most the Project Gaslight scenes in Rochester, largely at his parents’ home on the outskirts of the city. He said the film was written with that location in mind.

Now, Project Gaslight is in the final stages of a crowdfunding campaign as part of Seed & Spark’s Hometown Heroes Rally to help bring the project to life. Seed & Spark is similar to other crowdfunding platforms, like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but is focused solely on film and television production work. The Hometown Heroes Rally runs for one month and will end on Friday, October 13th as participating films vie for financial supporters and followers.

The Project Gaslight team aims to raise about $11K from this campaign, which amounts to 15% of the total budget for the film. Julsrud said the project will still happen if they don’t raise these funds, but the team will have to “be a little more creative with our overall budget.”

About eighty films are participating in the Rally, including two other projects from Minnesota: Minneapolis the Movie and Gleahan & the Naves of Industry.

The top ten performing campaigns- based on the number of followers- have the unique chance to be executive produced by Mark and Jay Duplass- actor, director and production brothers who have produced films like Safety Not Guaranteed. Julsrud said landing the Duplass brothers “would mean a whole lot” to his film. Besides potentially providing some funding for the project, the siblings would supply knowledge, experience, and a multitude of connections.

Ultimately, Julsrud hopes this project helps to spur more movie production in the Rochester and southeastern Minnesota area, which he says will provide a boost to both the local economy and tourism. As a passion project, he’s working to bring a regional tax credit to southeast Minnesota to attract and enable more filmmaking in this portion of the state.

Café Steam Brews Artistic Expression Through Limited Edition Mug Series

Photos courtesy of Will Forsman.

Photos courtesy of Will Forsman.

About the author: Ryan Cardarella is a freelance writer who recently moved to Rochester after spending 12 years in Milwaukee.

Artistic expression has been a hallmark of Café Steam since they opened their doors in 2015. Their latest collaborations with local artists have taken that expression to another, more personal, medium—your coffee mug.

The designs created for Café Steam’s limited edition artist mug series provide valuable exposure for several talented Rochester-area artists while continuing to bolster the strong connection between the coffee shop and the local arts scene. The first design in the series was the handiwork of local artist Nick Sinclair, which debuted in March and quickly sold out.

“We wanted to encompass the Steam experience into something you could enjoy from home,” said Café Steam general manager William Forsman. “Other coffee shops generally have branded merchandise like mugs and t-shirts, but we wanted to take it a step further by promoting the work of local artists. Nick has been a powerhouse in terms of cultivating the local art scene, and we could not have thought of a better person to start this series with than him.”

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The second design in the series, launched just last week, features the artistic stylings of Beth Sievers, who has had several pieces of her encaustic art displayed at the café, along with a spring show entitled “DISCARDED.” This continued support has been instrumental to Sievers as she pushes her artistic career forward.

“It’s very important for local businesses to support local artists. Often, I see a disconnect between the art community and the medical/business community,” said Sievers, who works at Mayo Clinic as a clinical nurse specialist as her day job. “When businesses like Café Steam make art part of their environment, it’s easier for patrons to take note of the art community and start to appreciate it.”

In addition to the mug series, Café Steam hosts an Open Mic each Thursday night, live musical performances on Friday and Saturday evening, and an eclectic mix of visual art throughout the café—elements that help make it a unique Rochester institution. To Forsman, outlets such as these are critical as Rochester continues to develop as an artistic community that supports and promotes local talent.

“The Arts are the soul of any good city,” Forsman said. “We see a budding community in Rochester that wants to foster their more creative side, but doesn’t necessarily have access to the resources or the social acceptance that larger cities have. It’s been our mission to not only serve great coffee, but to open doors and connect artists with individuals who share their interests.”

Mugs can be purchased for $15 at the café and the series will continue with new designs in the near future. Announcements on future collaborations will be made via social media.

“We definitely plan on continuing the series with future artists,” Forsman said. “There’s been such a warm reception and it’s really taken on a life of its own as a great way for artists get their name out there and as a great way for us to connect with them."