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Shannon Halligan

On a Tuesday at La Casa

Interview No. 102

1 - Intro1 - Intro

Where are you originally from?

I’m from Ithaca; I came to Rochester to attend graduate school at Nazareth, where I studied art therapy. I liked it and stuck around! I’ve been here since 2000.

What is your favorite part of living in Rochester?

The arts community here and the opportunities available are my favorite part. We’re located near so many different options, from the Brainery to museums, family events to festivals. Ithaca is a progressive city, but I feel that the arts community there isn’t as strong as it is here in Rochester.

Do you have any favorite/secret Rochester spots?

There’s a Unitarian Church on Winton with beautiful gardens and a labyrinth behind it. It’s maybe a half-mile of different gardens and stone sculptures, and it’s so quiet back there. It’s like a different world! I also like the history and mystery of Mt. Hope Cemetery.

What’s the most unique or interesting event you’ve attended in Rochester?

Fringe Festival. I’m an artist but not an actress, but I participated in a Fringe show once! I was a part of Spoon River, which really pushed me out of my comfort zone. It was challenging and made me use different skills, but I met a lot of cool people and am so glad I did it!

Do you have a favorite charity/nonprofit you like to support?

I’ve worked with many of our local charities and nonprofits as an employee or as a consultant. ABVI is a great one—they serve the blind and visually impaired. Their campus runs right through this area, from Clinton to Alexander. They have a manufacturing facility right here, where blind and visually impaired people are sewing and making post-it notes. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes!

I also appreciate the Arc of Monroe and other organizations helping individuals with developmental delays. That’s definitely something I’m drawn to.

If you had $100 and 2 hours to kill in Rochester, how would you spend the money/time?

I’d visit some South Wedge businesses, like Little Button! And maybe some of the art galleries around the city, like RoCo, ArtisanWorks, and the MAG.

Do you have a favorite neighborhood?

North Winton! My business is on Alexander Street, and I like the culture and vibe in that area…but the North Winton Village feels like home. It’s so central to everything, and there are interesting new businesses popping up in the area all the time!

What is your personal coping mechanism for cold/gray weather?

I stay inside. I’m not a cold weather person. I try to focus on my own art and cook more. It’s more the lack of sunlight than the cold temperatures that bothers me.

What is your favorite Rochester memory?

Going to festivals with friends always stands out. I make fairy houses with my daughter and we sell them at festivals.

The first festival I went to in Rochester was the Clothesline Festival, when I first moved to the area in 2000. I didn’t know a soul and went alone, but I had a great time meeting people and seeing local art!

What makes Rochester unique?

It’s a good mid-size city—it has the right balance of towns, suburbs, and the city component.

What do you think could be improved?

I’d definitely say the schools. People leave great neighborhoods because of poor quality schools. Having more charter schools doesn’t seem to fix the problem, and the gaps in the quality of education between the city and the suburbs seem large.

What made you decide to start a business in Rochester versus somewhere else?

My business is called Halligan Creative Arts Therapy, and I opened it here in Rochester because it felt like the right place to do it. We have a rich arts and therapeutic community here in Rochester; networking made me feel connected enough that I could offer this unique thing and it would be well received. I do everything from wellness retreats to staff development, individual therapy and group therapy, for people ages 5 to 85! I’ve also started teaching arts-based classes in the past two years at venues like the Rochester Brainery.

What is the best part of owning a business in Rochester?

Getting to work with diverse individuals of all ages has been great. There’s a lot of variety, for me, and it’s a good mix of experiences, so I’m not just working in a clinical setting.

What are some of the challenges you face?

Funding is always a challenge. I get a lot of, “We’d love to, but we can’t afford it” from prospective clients. I’ve partnered with agencies sometimes to write grants to help fund these endeavors. But generally, it can be a bit of a challenge to show that this is indeed worthwhile. It’s an education issue.

Do you have any advice for up and coming entrepreneurs in the Rochester area?

Don’t be afraid to collaborate—even outside your niche. People can be resistant to share information for some reason, but by sharing information and collaborating with others, you can learn lots and have fun too!

Shannon Halligan is a creative arts therapist who runs her own business, Halligan Creative Arts Therapy. For more of Shannon's perspective, check out our Instagram.