Startup Bytes featuring Roc the Business of Art

By Ain Center Staff

Pre-pandemic, the Ain Center would host in-person lunches each month, convening faculty, staff and students to explore different topics in entrepreneurship. Because gathering on campus currently is a no-go, the Ain Center has created Startup Bytes – a digital brown bag lunch series open to students, faculty, staff, and anyone else who would like to join. Each month, a different speaker or group shares their entrepreneurial experience via Zoom, with time for Q&A with attendees.

The second Startup Bytes event featured the three community organizers of the Roc the Business of Art workshop series: Amanda Chestnut (owner of A Lynn Ceramics, adjunct faculty at St. John Fisher College, and member of the Roc Arts United Steering Committee), Annette Jimenez Gleason (Program Officer/Vitality for the Rochester Area Community Foundation), and Annette Ramos (teaching artist and founder of Rochester Latino Theatre Co.). Amanda, Annette, and Annette worked with staff at Eastman’s Institute for Music Leadership, ROC Arts United, and the Ain Center to organize the webinars, which were designed to teach artists important business skills and how to thrive even during a pandemic. During Startup Bytes, they discussed the importance of entrepreneurial resources for artists and ensuring that all offerings are accessible and inclusive.

In 2017, the Eastman School of Music received a grant allowing them to explore cities with vibrant arts communities, with the intention of applying their learnings to the revitalization of the greater Rochester area. The project – originally titled Music on Main – became Arts in the Loop, complete with a broader strategy and more inclusive vision.

As Arts in the Loop grew throughout 2018, the leadership team based at Eastman created a steering committee comprised of University, corporate, and community representatives, though not without struggle. Amanda, Annette, and Annette shared that there was friction at first; leaders in the artist communities saw gaps in offerings or noted that the proposed programs wouldn’t speak to the needs of Rochester artists and creative entrepreneurs. Artist engagement committees were created to address these issues and to amplify the voices, particularly of BIPOC folks, of those who are too often left out of strategic conversations.

One pain point identified by the committees was a lack of entrepreneurial training for artists, which has since become a key aspect of the Arts in the Loop initiative. Throughout 2019 and into 2020, the community leaders created a survey and gathered information from artists to understand their needs and who they wanted to learn from, both pivotal to developing trust and legitimacy within existing artist spaces in Rochester. Following the conversations with potential participants, Amanda, Annette, and Annette worked with University of Rochester staff at Eastman’s Institute for Music Leadership and the Ain Center to develop a robust series of professional development workshops (originally intended to be held in-person, but moved online for safety reasons).

Roc the Business of Art has seen great interest and engagement throughout the past two months. Workshop leaders have shared best practices and tips on topics ranging from website development to sharing your work in a COVID world. Annette Ramos said it well: when you’re an entrepreneurial artist, “your hustle is your art and your art is your hustle.” Learning these skills allows artists to build their brand, grow their networks, and, ultimately, expand their impact.

Roc the Business of Art flyer

The final Roc the Business of Art workshop will take place this weekend, but that doesn’t appear to be the end of the partnership between these community leaders and the U of R. In fact, Amanda, Annette, and Annette envision an even more robust system of support for artists who wish to develop entrepreneurial skills and networks. In the meantime, they recommend supporting local artists/small business owners, building community, and encouraging creative thinking – all valuable insights for artists and entrepreneurs alike.

We’d like to again offer our thanks to Amanda, Annette, and Annette for sharing their time and expertise with us this month.

Though shared above, the full recording of the October 16 event can also be found on our Vimeo page. Be sure to tune in on November 20 for the next edition of Startup Bytes, which will feature Kate Cartini, Partner at Chloe Capital, a VC firm that invests in women-led companies. If you have any questions, contact