The Artery

Locally Designed Prototypes on Display in DMC's Heart of the City Subdistrict for Next Month


Three Rochester innovators will see their creations come to life this month as part of this city’s downtown infrastructure. After a two-year journey, these public health prototypes, created during a city-wide prototyping festival, are on display in Destination Medical Center’s Heart of the City subdistrict for further development as the structures seek their final home.

All three concepts- “the Artery,” “Info Alley,” and “Multilingual Pedestrian Signage”- were born in June 2016 at the Rochester “Idea Jam,” an event to engage the community to tap its creative side and transform the built environment to better support public health. This initiative- supported by DMC, the Rochester Art Center, and Downtown Rochester Alliance- brought together fifty-five community members to develop concepts engaging nature, food, connectiveness, inclusivity, accessibility, diversity, or art to improve health. Twenty different ideas for prototypes, or small models to test a concept, emerged from this session.

Over the next few months, ideas for prototypes were submitted as proposals, with sixteen concepts chosen to be built and displayed during a three-day PlaceMakers Prototyping Festival in September 2016. During that time, about five thousand people interacted with the prototypes.

Now, three of these original concepts have been scaled to an even larger level and are on display for the next month for further refining and testing in the Peace Plaza. These prototypes include: “The Artery,” “Info Alley,” and “Multilingual Pedestrian Signage.” 

Development of “The Artery” is led by local artist Eric Anderson. This art piece displays “the profound moments of hope and healing happening within our healthcare institutions every day.” This installation changes color based on real-time data from Mayo Clinic to signal health events such as a birth, organ transplant, or chemotherapy treatment completion. 

The “Info Alley” prototype team is led by local business owner Sean Baker. This installation is “an interactive multimedia display that enhances an otherwise underutilized space by projecting live video, event listings, social media activity, and other relevant community information.”

Development of the final community prototype, “Multilingual Pedestrian Signage,” is led by Edgar Mtanous. This prototype is designed “to advocate for a collaborative, healthy, and vibrant community by forming stronger cultural and infrastructure links between Rochester, its citizens, and visitors.”

All three prototypes were unveiled on October 17th as part of DMC’s 2018 Annual Meeting. The installations will be on display in the Peace Plaza for thirty days.

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.


“[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. 

Summer Prototyping Festival makes Permanent Impact on City

Yesterday morning, the first in a series of three Art + Business = Innovation breakfast events was presented by Rochester Downtown Alliance, Destination Medical Center (DMC), and Rochester Art Center. The purpose: to discuss how art and business intersect. While the connection between these entities may not seem so straightforward, they are linked. Art can not only make a city environment more unique, it can spur creativity among the city’s residents, including innovation in the business sector.

The first installment of the Art + Business = Innovation series focused on “Creative Place Making: the Rochester Prototype.” In a city best known for strong medical roots, this past year the PlaceMakers | Rochester Prototyping Festival activated the creative side of Rochester. This event engaged Rochester residents in a community-wide discussion of what the future of Rochester could look like and got residents to consider how they could transform the urban environment around them into something that could better support a healthy city.

The germ of an idea for the prototyping fest began back in December of last year when it was first introduced by Patrick Seeb, DMC Director of Economic Development and Placemaking. An Idea Jam event took place in early June to brainstorm ways that we, as ordinary Rochester citizens, could transform aspects of Rochester along seven selected foci that residents associated with a healthy city including: nature, food, connectedness, inclusivity, accessibility, diversity, and art. Over fifty-five community members attended this event and twenty individual ideas emerged from the session. By the end of June, teams submitted these ideas as proposals to construct prototypes, or small creations to test their ideas. Sixteen designs in total where chosen to be developed into full prototypes. Teams then had three months to bring their ideas to life. In September, a three day PlaceMakers Prototyping Festival took place in downtown, displaying these concepts on the streets of Rochester to encourage engagement and feedback from the community.

The "Rocker Talker" built by Tyler Whitehead and Chuck Stewart.

The "Rocker Talker" built by Tyler Whitehead and Chuck Stewart.

The PlaceMakers Prototyping Festival had three main goals: to test ideas, to engage the community, and to demonstrate change. As stated by Patrick Seeb, Rochester is undergoing a tremendous change right now. And it’s important for us, as residents of this community, to own and shape the change that is occurring around us. The prototyping festival demonstrated the intersection of creativity and place. It encouraged the idea that “place” is something that we live in, but it is also something that we very much have the power to change. All we have to do is just ask and try.

Five to six thousand people attended the festival, as demonstrated by statistics shared by the organizers. 89% of the attendees felt more creative after the event, while 89% also felt more engaged with the downtown area. Prototype Maker Dee Sabol related that people, in general, want to feel more connected, and the festival offered them the opportunity to meet in a new place. Besides creating a sense of community, the festival also spurred discussions about belonging, or feelings of not belonging, in the city.

And as Rochester Downtown Alliance Executive Director Jenna Bowman stated, the PlaceMakers Prototyping Fest brought something else to the surface, something that might not be quite as apparent. Risk taking, and even failure, were almost requisite to this experience. The makers creating these prototypes not only gave up large chunks of their time to bring their ideas to life, they also had to stand up next to their work at the festival and engage with the community, witnessing first-hand the reactions to their idea.

Now that the festival is over, how will this event impact the future of Rochester?

As Maker Rene Lafflam stated, lessons learned during the Prototyping Festival could have lasting impact on the city. Rene and her team developed the prototype “Creative Crosswalks.” This concept not only brought art into the crosswalks to make them more aesthetically pleasing, it made pedestrian crossings more noticeable, promoting a safer downtown walking environment. Painted crosswalks are not a new concept, even in Rochester. But the festival taught Rene and her team the correct protocol to follow to get a work like this implemented into Rochester neighborhoods, potentially allowing “Creative Crosswalks” to start popping up around the city soon.

Some of the prototypes found permanent homes. The Rochester Art Center purchased two of the structures, the “Rocker Talker,” a large rocking platform that can seat multiple people, and “Chime In,” a set of life-size, multicolor chimes, for Mayo Park. This space will, hopefully, slowly be transformed into a public art park.

"The Artery" built by Eric Anderson, Rose Anderson, Diane Klein, Matthew Moore, Anthony Huber, Nel Pilgrim-Rukavina, and Grace Wengler.

"The Artery" built by Eric Anderson, Rose Anderson, Diane Klein, Matthew Moore, Anthony Huber, Nel Pilgrim-Rukavina, and Grace Wengler.

There are plans to permanently house the “Artery,” a three-dimensional installation that relays significant health events in the city by changing colors, in the 3rd Street Parking Ramp. A storm water waste management system will also be installed in this ramp as part art project, part educational piece to encourage public interaction and learning.

PlaceMakers | Rochester Prototyping Festival activated and showcased a part of Rochester that often goes unrecognized. It allowed residents to get a taste of what role they can play as this city develops. Now it’s time for us to play our parts and help to mold the future of our city into an inclusive place for all of our residents.