WXXI AM News

Rochester women create safe festival for chaotic times

Mar 3, 2021

Siena Facciolo.
Credit Provided

After the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Rochester singer and songwriter Siena Facciolo, and her friend, the writer Taylor Solano, took a hard look at the past year.

Black Lives Matter. A contentious presidential election. A pandemic that has killed more than a half-million Americans. 

The rapid response by Facciolo and Solano was to create this weekend’s CommUNITY Arts and Wellness Festival. CommUNITY, with the tail end of the word spelled in all capital letters, less you miss the point. Unity. Three days of music, yoga, dance, live painting, writing, workshops. An upbeat prelude to Monday’s International Women’s Day.

“One thing that I think this festival is offering, and the thing that I think has been taken away from a lot of people this year because of COVID, has been safety,” Facciolo says. “I think this festival is trying to offer a safe kind of refuge for whoever wants to come, and for the musicians and performers and workshop leaders, that we have not experienced with COVID.”

The free, virtual festival is the intuitive movement of ecstatic dance, coming at you from different platforms. Zoom, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram. The details are available at the CommUNITY Arts and Wellness Festival website.

“It is focused on general well-being as kind of manifested or experienced through art,” Facciolo says. “But it’s also focused on female-identifying or women artists.”

Ten of the 14 artists have ties to Rochester. Most are women, with an emphasis on women of color.

Facciolo, who opens the three-day festival at 6 p.m. Friday, is a singer and songwriter. The aim of her music is to comfort. “People have come up to me after shows, just saying things like, ‘I really needed to hear that song right now, I’ve been having a really hard time with depression.’ I didn’t realize on my own that that is what I did with music.” 

Some of the festival's artists are gender fluid, such as Rochester choreographer Zachary J. Frazee, who uses the pronoun “they.” The artists of the CommUNITY Arts and Wellness Festival speak the language of the 21st century.

“I think this new language, and this new recognition as to how people are as individuals, has been slowly evolving,” Facciolo says. “But for some reason this year, I think because of the pandemic, it’s all just gotten crunched together, and the evolution has just sped up all of a sudden.”

The CommUNITY Arts and Wellness Festival is the arts stepping up, when a society in distress needs something to latch onto.

“COVID has randomized our lives, it is complete chaos, you know,” Facciolo says. “We can’t do anything, we can’t know anything for certain, we realize we have no control over anything, it’s just complete chaos. And I think this festival is trying to just offer a little taste of safety that we have all been missing.”

Jeff Spevak is WXXI’s Arts & Life editor and reporter. He can be reached at jspevak@wxxi.org.