Sarah Murphy Abbamonte
On a Thursday night at Equal Grounds
Interview No. 65
Location, community, atmosphere—it’s made us attractive to a persistent, progressive population of dedicated, passionate individuals.
Where are you originally from?
Spencerport. I did both my undergrad and my master’s at Brockport. I did go away and come back briefly—I spent a semester at school in Boca Raton when I was 18. When I returned to Rochester, I really embraced what we have here. Like food and drink, for example! We can be really good at not appreciating what we have. But really, there’s so much to appreciate here!
What was your favorite part of living in Rochester?
The arts and culture. I’m a theatre kid at heart. There’s so much amazing art and culture here in Rochester. Everything from the Fringe Festival to small community theatre—there’s just a creative vibe in this city. Plus, it helps with Rochester’s economic development.
Do you have a favorite neighborhood?
The Wedge is my favorite neighborhood in the city. It feels like a true community. You can walk to so many great shops and restaurants! There’s a Wedge Waddle every year that I love to take my nephew on—the whole community comes out and it’s a great time.
What’s the most interesting or unique event you’ve ever attended in Rochester?
It was at The Yards awhile ago—a multimedia dance performance. You just stand right there and it’s very immersive. You become an active participant in the performance rather than just passively receiving it.
Describe your dream Rochester day.
I would start at the Public Market, grab a coffee and walk around. There’s always lots of people to see and things to do. I’d go see a show at the MUCC, then check out some of the little galleries around Rochester, with great food and drink interspersed among those stops. It would definitely be a fall day—I love autumn.
People look at Rochester and see our cold winters, but they don’t see our culture or activism.
Do you have any favorite/secret Rochester spots?
Highland Bowl and other well-known areas of Highland Park are great, but I love going off the beaten path in there too. But every neighborhood in Rochester is different and they all have hidden gems! For example, Barry’s Old School Irish in Webster is fantastic—it’s family run, and you can always have a pint and watch a Notre Dame game there. The food is amazing!
What is your personal coping mechanism for cold/gray weather?
Reading and drinking tea.
Do you have a favorite local nonprofit/charity you like to support?
Other than the one I work for, right now it’s Planned Parenthood—they’re foremost in my mind currently. The Association of American University Women is great too; I’m a member there and they have an excellent mentorship program, speakers, and a branch dinner.
What makes Rochester unique?
A lot of things! Location, community, atmosphere—it’s made us attractive to a persistent, progressive population of dedicated, passionate individuals. People aren’t necessarily full-time activists, but we have tons of people who are activists in addition to their day jobs.
Cultural groups make Rochester unique and special too. We have great ones that help promote identity and heritage. There’s a really strong Irish American group here; people often equate Irish with inauthentic things, like green beer, but there’s so much more to it than that. There’s a great Irish Studies program at Fisher, and a really wonderful musical community too. Near and dear to my heart is one of our sister cities, Waterford!
What do you think could be improved?
We need to stop having happy hours. We’re very big on networking, but I’d like to see us do something more substantive. Let’s have a drink, talk about change, and follow through.
What is your favorite Rochester memory?
Figure skating with the Genesee Figure Skating Club when I was a kid. Nutcracker on Ice came through in the late 80s and I got to perform in it because they used local kids!
If Rochester were a person, who would it be?
It would be a person, and it would be either Susan B. Anthony or Frederick Douglass. You always see stern images of Sue B., but she was really a very warm, witty person in her diaries and letters. She had to be a persistent fighter, though! People look at Rochester and see our cold winters, but they don’t see our culture or activism.