It’s Dangerous to Go Alone!

By Linnie Schell

It’s a tale as old as time – a Rochester student comes in devoted to STEM, and somehow gets sidetracked by the arts. While I did end up keeping my Computer Science major, I knew by the end of my junior year that it was not all I wanted to do. However, I knew that I would to learn more about the art world if I was going to be successful. Because I already had several specific projects planned, the e5 program was the perfect fit.

My project is immersive installation, a type of site-specific installation that uses many elements of traditional theater to tell a story while inviting audiences to interact with and become part of that story. I also collaborate with artists at the U of R and the wider community. I wanted to share some thoughts I had after a year and a half in the e5 program, and how my thoughts on entrepreneurship have changed in general.

My first project was an installation located in both Hartnett Gallery in Wilson Commons and Drama House (co-directed by Elise McCarthy). It told the story of a missing girl that drew on mythology and Lovecraftian horror. And honestly, I was hooked. When I applied to the e5 program I hoped to get access to more resources and advice, but I did have some trepidation about the “entrepreneurial” part of the program. Before I started, my overwhelming perception of entrepreneurship was the stereotype of the solitary entrepreneur, working long, lonely hours, with little support. To be honest, I found it a little off-putting.

It wasn’t the hard work – and to be honest I already resembled that stereotype in many ways. I wear many hats, and am ultimately responsible for every part of the project. When someone is interviewed about the project, it’s me. Budget proposals, emails, collaboration requests, comments and complaints, all come to and from me. When a review of the most recent project appeared in the campus, it was Homeworld, “by” Linnie Schell. But for me, the distinction was that I owe most of my success to the incredible people who have been on my teams for each project. They are the reason that I list myself as “director” of the project, rather than “creator.” My perception was that this “entrepreneurial way” was the antithesis of the collaborative spirit that I so valued in my projects.

Photos from my most recent project, Homeworld. We had over 30 people help in some way, including Micheal Wizonerak (lighting), Brenn Whiting and Dana Bulger (sound), Gabby Novak and Mekayla Sullivan (set), and Neal Kumar and Ryan Chui (photos), with other contributors.

While I have been working through the project, I have been cheered to see that my initial impressions were entirely inaccurate, and that the problem might have been more about presentation. We like to glorify the leadings entrepreneurs as the sole arbiter of their successes, but it really seems a case of ignoring the people that worked behind the scenes.

And sure, the companies and products created by these visionary entrepreneurs couldn’t have existed without them, and they did at one point start with just themselves. There’s a reason I’m listed as “director” not “random-person-who-does-some-stuff,” but at some point, a person with drive and a great idea will stall out without other people.

Without my team, Homeworld would never have happened. In addition, the network of people and organizations here, including the Ain Center, were absolutely crucial for our success. So celebrate the visionaries and their big ideas. But don’t lose sight of the people behind them.

Saralinda “Linnie” Schell ’19 (’20 e5) majored in Computer Science, Political Science, and Turkish Studies. Her e5 project is focused on immersive art and theater, and using these installations to promote collaboration with artists at the U of R and the greater Rochester Community. She has an upcoming installation at the Rochester Maker Faire in November 2019.