Rochester Artist Collaborative renews commitment to community with ‘Creators Labs’

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Artist Collaborative is both local non-profit — as well as a collaborative project and a platform — founded by local photographer Adam Eaton. While he started the 501c3 in 2019, 2021 represents an opportunity for him and his project to renew their commitment to supporting young, local Black creators by providing an affordable “Creator Lab.”

“(The collaborative) provides space, equipment, technology, and opportunities for artists in our community to create art, and to grow their small businesses as an artist,” Eaton said.

He is encouraging more artists to use the space, and for anyone who wants to support the project to donate.

Eaton, officially the director of Rochester Artist Collaborative, is himself a photographer. He’s trying to use this Collaborative to help avoid some of the same difficulties he and his friends faced when they were first starting off in Rochester.

“Many of my friends are artists, and they were very concerned about being able to make a career in the arts in Rochester,” he said.

He said none of his friends thought they would be able to become artists full-time. Eaton pointed to Rochester’s lack of an arts council, as well a lack of prominent gallery space for local emerging artists, as well as chronic poverty, as barriers to entry. Many of them contemplated leaving Rochester.

“So I wanted to fix that problem, and give them the resources that they (needed) to be successful,” Eaton said.

Given those barriers to entry, Eaton offers the space for only $200 a month. That modest sum even includes props, backdrops, and a full lighting kit. Eaton’s own research indicates that similar spaces in Rochester — and this would be just the room, no equipment — range from $600 to $1,000.

Eaton helped along one local photographer in particular, Allison McDonald.

McDonald is from Rochester originally, and is a graduate of both  MCC, majoring in photography and television, then went on SUNY Brockport and graduated with major in studio art with a photography concentration. Now she’s a working photographer, thanks in large part to Eaton and the Creator Lab.

“Creativity shouldn’t be on hold due to finances,” she said. She says that having a studio space allowed her explore different lighting, ideas, and subjects. “Before I had access to the lab, there were so many projects that were ‘I wish I could…’ But I couldn’t afford it.”

McDonald now has a scholarship to the lab, allowing her to access it with nothing out of pocket. She says she goes once or twice a week.

But the scholarship not only allows her to explore her creativity, but also to reach Eaton’s other goal: to he;p artists promote her business.

By having access to a studio space, it helps her book clients. She says it can be difficult to only do on-location shoots, which faces challenges with the weather, and lighting. Not to mention her subjects would have to change in her car, instead of a cozy indoor space.

Now she is able to do more portrait work — still with the occasional shoot outside — and begin to explore product photography as well, an art that is nearly impossible without excellent lighting.

“But I feel like Adam has made (these challenges) diminish. Anything is possible,” she said.

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