I met Elaine Lennox by the light of the silvery moon.
In 2014, I had recently moved into the Corn Hill neighborhood when I heard that there was going to be a “Super Moon” one evening. I had an idea for a photograph I was eager to attempt. I grabbed my camera and tripod, then walked over to the median strip on South Plymouth near Exchange Street, about where the “Doors” sculpture now stands. My goal was to capture the moon resting on the dish of the Water Spirits sculpture at the Corn Hill Landing. That shot would become the first of my photographs to appear in the Corn Hill Gazette (September 2014).
As I waited for the moon to reach the proper height, a car pulled up beside me and a woman asked me what was I photographing. She was Elaine Lennox of Archer Communications, just returning from a meeting for the Corn Hill Arts Festival.
Elaine and her husband Jeff are now retiring from their company after years of providing public relations services for the Festival. Despite working with Elaine on several occasions, I knew very little about the couple’s long association with Corn Hill. Therefore, in addition to interviewing them for this article, I invited several former and current Arts Festival chairs to share their memories.
The Archer company began in 1987 under the name Lennox Graphix with an emphasis on graphic design and advertising. Nine years later, the name was changed to Archer Communications and its focus shifted to strategic marketing and branding. Clients included Kodak, St. John Fisher College and, thankfully, the Corn Hill Arts Festival.
Archer has been associated with the Festival since 2006 but it wasn’t until 2010 that Elaine began to manage our account. Her impact, according to Joanie Fraver, was immediate. Although the Lennoxes don’t live in Corn Hill, “Elaine became very invested in the neighborhood and the community engagement purpose of the festival. She understood what the neighborhood was about and was thoughtful in promoting the Corn Hill neighborhood as much as the Corn Hill Festival.”
Elaine brought in new sponsors to support various aspects of the event. Jeff Holdsworth says that was significant. “Winning the support of large and small corporate sponsors has helped the Corn Hill Arts Festival evolve and prosper. While some festival fans regret the need for corporate sponsorships, our festival is a balanced mix of various components to help make the overall event successful and sustainable.”
Keeping in mind that we are the only festival in Rochester run by volunteers, Elaine offered valuable guidance to residents who were selected to chair the annual event. Fraver, a past chairperson, appreciated that support. “Elaine has been a constant as the chairs and members of the Festival Management Team have changed over the years. She knew what needed to be done and when, who the most effective national festival promoters were, and what goes where in terms of placement and layout of parks, fields and parking lots.
“She met with me many times in the early months of planning when I ran the festival, collaborating with and guiding me in the best way to promote our event in the various arts publications. I never doubted for a moment that Elaine wanted the festival to succeed as much as I did.”
Elaine, in turn, found the residents equally inspiring. “It was so apparent from the start that the neighbors put their heart and soul into the event. The passion for excellence comes through in their attention to detail for visitors’ enjoyment and a desire to provide artists with an opportunity to showcase their work. We’ve had the opportunity to work with multiple Festival Chairpersons over the years and each of them brought a slightly different perspective and style. It’s a big job and requires a wide array of skills to do it well.”
When the chairmanship passed to Bill Kelly, he went over to the Archer offices to meet with Elaine and Jeff and came to a startling realization. “I was not only interviewing them, but they were clearly sizing me up as well: ‘Will this guy make it as Chairperson?’”
Elaine understood that Kelly faced a significant challenge because he would oversee the 50th presentation of the Corn Hill Arts Festival, an important milestone. “The challenge was to commemorate and to offer visitors something special while at the event. The opportunities were numerous. The first item on our to-do list was to re-brand the festival. Archer and a team from Corn Hill worked together and the gazebo became the focal point. This image was utilized in all our online and print communications along with all-new street signs.”
That wasn’t the first rebranding our neighborhood had experienced. Because the Festival originated in 1969 as the Greenwood Area Art Show, Elaine wanted to pay homage to that early history when a crime-ridden slum known as the Third Ward was rebranded and reborn as Corn Hill. She asked me, as the neighborhood historian, to write the script for a video that described how that evolution was aided by a small art show that grew into a major festival that endures to this day.
Elaine also played off the original 1969 date with other activities that were staged during the 50th festival. “We took the major cultural ‘happenings’ and
incorporated them into the 1969 Revival Parade: an eclectic array of dancers, the Beatles, First Man on the Moon, Woodstock and other floats entertained the visitors on Saturday morning. It was a memorable weekend!”
With the decision to retire, Elaine looks back fondly over her years with the festival and cherishes the things she was able to accomplish. “We have always strived for excellence in our presentation of the Festival. Doubling sponsorship support and securing ESL Federal Credit Union as our Presenting Sponsor has been a key accomplishment. They have been true partners and donated their sponsorship dollars in 2020 despite cancellation of the festival due to the pandemic.
“The other major contribution has been the Fairy Houses Tour.
We struggled with finding the key to bringing families to the Festival and for the past seven years, the Fairy Houses Tour accomplished that. We engaged the community, sparked imaginations and have drawn thousands of new visitors to experience all that the festival has to offer!”Jeff Holdsworth acknowledges that contribution. “While not a neighbor in the literal sense, Elaine has earned the badge of Honorary Corn Hill Neighbor!”