Meet the giant faces projected on East Avenue trees 

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After sunset on Tuesday, and for the next 12 nights, the towering trees outside Third Presbyterian Church on East Avenue will have eyes.

And noses. And mouths. They may even smile, frown, or yawn.

click to enlarge NARADA J. RILEY
Giant video images of close-cropped faces of three people will be projected onto trees at the church parking lot on Meigs Street (across the street from the Strathallan Hotel), as part of an outdoor exhibit by Australian artist Craig Walsh.

The exhibit, “Craig Walsh, Monuments,” runs from 8 to 10 p.m. throughout the Rochester Fringe Festival, which opens Tuesday and ends Sept. 23.

The work is part of a series, begun in 2014, in which Walsh partners with cities around the world to memorialize local unsung heroes, whose pursuits are not widely recognized but whose contributions to their communities are significant nonetheless.

If you happen upon these spectral images—and if you’re in the neighborhood you’re not likely to miss them—you might wonder about the people behind the luminescent apparitions and their quiet emotions.

The three honorees were among dozens of nominees fielded by the festival, and were selected by a panel of festival board members based on their impact on the Greater Rochester community.

click to enlarge From left, exhibit honorees Liza Robbins Theuman and Ronnie Reitter, artist Craig Walsh, and honoree Patricia McKinney. - NARADA J. RILEY
  • From left, exhibit honorees Liza Robbins Theuman and Ronnie Reitter, artist Craig Walsh, and honoree Patricia McKinney.

The first monument depicts Liza Robbins Theuman, a Penfield resident and anti-hunger champion.

The 64-year-old married mother of two began her journey feeding families struggling with food insecurity about 10 years ago when she began assembling Thanksgiving baskets as part of a social justice project through Temple B’rith Kodesh in Brighton.

From there, her passion snowballed. Two years ago, she began collecting bagels from Bagel Land that went unsold at the end of the business day, and arranging for them to be delivered to soup kitchens. Over the summer, she organized backpacks loaded with non-perishable goods for 55 campers of low-income families.

A day before her image was to become part of perhaps the most visible exhibit of Rochester Fringe, Theuman was delivering Rosh Hashanah baskets to seniors.
Theuman said she was “extremely humbled” by being included in the “Craig Walsh: Monuments” tribute.

“There are so many other people in Rochester who I am sure are much more worthy of this than I am and who do things that are much more significant,” she said.


The second monument depicts Ronnie Reitter.

She is a storyteller in the Seneca and Haudenosaunee tradition, but hers was a role she came to later in life. Reitter, a Seneca of the Wolf clan, was raised outside of her Native American culture, but reconnected with her heritage as an adult.

The process led her to become an accomplished storyteller, cornhusk artist, traditional beader, and seamstress, who shared her journey and her culture for years with the Greater Rochester community while working as an interpreter and educator at the Ganondagan State Historic Site.


If there is a person who could be described as the eyes and ears of School 23 in the Park Avenue neighborhood, it would be Patricia McKinney. Her image is the third monument.

McKinney has worked at the school, also known as the Francis Parker School, for 14 years in a variety of capacities. She started there as a part-time lunchroom aide and custodian, but has been the school’s parent liaison for the last seven years.

Her role has been described by the Rochester City School District as critical to keeping parents engaged and students on track. She helps register students for special activities, greets parents at arrival and dismissal times, and assists with attendance matters throughout the year. School 23 is a special place for McKinney, who attended the school as a child.

“I feel like destiny, fate, and God brought me back to this building,” she said.

McKinney said she was touched and humbled by her selection as an unsung hero for “Craig Walsh, Monuments.”

“I feel like it’s a win for not just me, but my entire community. I’m being acknowledged because my community sees what’s inside of me,” she said. "I’m going to cry now.”

David Andreatta is an editor for WXXI/CITY. He can be reached at [email protected].
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