Nature in the City art expo comes to Rochester Public Market 

The Rochester Public Market has long been a favorite community space for a direct, soil-to- stomach exchange between food growers and their customers. When the market hosts the first annual Nature in the City art expo on July 2, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. as part of Rochester’s First Friday activities, soil will again play a role in people’s nourishment — this time through a day-long exhibition featuring live painting, music, and dance, as well as local artists selling their work.

The seed for Nature in the City was first planted when event organizers Hayley Dayis and Alexander Fals — visual artists and musicians who split their time between Rochester and Popayán, Columbia — sought out an opportunity to sell the paintings they had created using soil.
click to enlarge Nature in the City, an art expo organized by Alexander Fals and Hayley Dayis, draws connections between human experience and the natural world.
  • Nature in the City, an art expo organized by Alexander Fals and Hayley Dayis, draws connections between human experience and the natural world.
For Fals, using soil in painting is not about novelty, but about utilizing the organic colors of the minerals found in Columbia’s soil-rich southwest region. “I love to paint,” he says. “And I really think that these colors are some of the most beautiful and easy to work with, because they go together so easily.”

Fals, a native of Naples, had success presenting his soil paintings in his hometown at disparate venues such as Cumming Nature Center and Hollerhorn Distilling, but there were more obstacles to showing his work in more conventional art spaces in Rochester, he says.
click to enlarge Soil paintings by Alexander Fals. - IMAGES PROVIDED
  • Soil paintings by Alexander Fals.
Between high commission fees charged by galleries — typically 30 to 40 percent — and taking international flights to transport the artwork, Fals found the process cost-prohibitive. He wanted a setting for himself and other artists that cut out the middlemen standing between creators and the public, he says.

“Because we're both artists, and because we're both pretty social, community-oriented people, we just sort of naturally have been organizing a lot of little shows and gatherings since we've been together,” Dayis says. “But it's been tough with COVID, so we decided to really go all out for this one and and really collaborate.”
click to enlarge Soil paintings by Hayley Dayis. - IMAGES PROVIDED
  • Soil paintings by Hayley Dayis.
In partnership with Rochester Contemporary Art Center, Fals and Dayis will feature thirty-eight artists and businesses at the expo, including live painting by artists from The Yards. Numerous musical acts — ranging from the Zimbabwean Marimba Ensemble and vocalist Allyn Van Dusen to jazz fusion outfit Acid Raindance and roots rock band White Woods — will perform, joined by dancers throughout the event to create what Fals calls a “living music box.”

As more artists signed on, Dayis and Fals sought out the Public Market in order to accommodate more participants and ensure a safe outdoor environment for people to gather. While the art featured at the expo doesn’t have to have an explicit connection to nature, it does have to consist of the artist’s original creations. Any health and wellness products have been vetted to ensure that they use no artificial ingredients, colors, or fragrances.

Beyond merely exhibiting the work of local artists and connecting them with art lovers in the community, the expo will also incorporate conversations about soil and the interaction between human nature and the natural world, Dayis says. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County will host an all-day, family-friendly soil painting workshop, and the city agricultural organization Taproot Collective will be on hand to talk about urban gardening in Rochester.

Admission to Nature in the City is free. Food and drink vendors will also be on hand. Masks and physical distancing are required. For more information, go to

Daniel J. Kushner is CITY’s arts editor. He can be reached at [email protected].
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