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RACF Celebrates 50th Anniversary with the Arts

By Sasha Smith

Simeon Banister, Jennifer Leonard, and James Norman. Photo provided.

Rochester Area Community Foundation celebrates its 50th Anniversary by sponsoring 24 free opportunities to experience arts and culture throughout the Greater Rochester-Fingerlakes region. During the “Gifts for Good: Sampling Cultural Gems Across Our Region” event, RACF will underwrite free tickets and admissions to an array of arts and cultural sites and performances.

“Gifts for Good:..” is a yearlong program, which runs from April 2022 to March 2023, that will provide the community with unique ways to experience arts in Monroe County and surrounding areas.

“We want to offer free arts experiences for people across the community,” Jennifer Leonard, President and CEO of RACF, said during a press conference. She went on to speak about this event benefiting people who may not have the money or exposure to experience these types of events.

Families are encouraged to attend.

Gateway Music Festival will be the first event to benefit from Gifts for Good.

RACF will sponsor up to 400 tickets to the Gateway Music Festival orchestra performance, which features an all black, classical, symphonic orchestra, at Kodak Hall on Wednesday, April 20.

“Gateway affirms and celebrates the important role that people of African descent have played in classical music for centuries, and is proud of its unique role in strengthening the community of such musicians,” James Norman, director and chair (emeritus) of Gateway. 

(For more information on the Gateway Music Festival, check out our article at

Other sponsorship opportunities include; a community paddle on Keuka Lake, May 28th, free admission to Strong Museum, June 18th, for the museum’s Juneteenth celebration, and a tour of Genesee Country Village and Museum, in December, to name a few.

“Our hope is for these ‘Gifts for Good,’ is that the good that they do introduces performing groups and cultural organizations and venues to new patrons that might not have otherwise had the opportunity to experience many of these venues,” said Simeon Banister, executive Vice President of RACF.

Simeon quoted Vince Van Gogh, stating “All art is a gift. It is first of all a gift that the maker can do it. It is then a gift to someone else, whether they pay for it or not. Art is life seeking itself. It is our intractable expressions of love for the beauties, ideas and epiphanies we regularly find.”  Banister said he gained confidence gained by sharing art with the world and making it more accessible to our community. 

According to Banister, Gifts for Good extends the legacy of RACF by enabling regional philanthropists to make strategic investments in a vibrant arts and cultural community.

RACF is the largest grant making foundation in our region.

The foundation’s community-based initiatives currently focus on building an equitable community and strengthen the vitality of our community.

For more information and a detailed list of events, visit