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Woman to Watch M. Cardulla


(Photo: Photo provided by Michelle Cardulla)

What could be better than doing what you love? Not much, according to Michelle Cardulla.

Cardulla, the publisher and editor of Lake Affect magazine, a magazine that showcases local poets, artists and writers, and founder of MoKa, a kid-centric arts museum, considers herself very fortunate to be immersed in causes that she deeply cares about, on a daily basis.

"I feel very lucky," Cardulla said. "I never take what I do for granted."

But luck alone does not nearly describe the pluck, perseverance, and passion necessary to bring not one but two dreams to fruition.

The cleverly-named Lake Affect magazine came into being in 1994 when Cardulla decided to join a friend in the adventure of starting a new art/culture/literary magazine. She readily admits that she had no idea what she was doing, but kept on doing it even after her friend moved on, because " I love doing it, I meet so many cool entrepreneurs – it's different every time."

As she looks forward to celebrating the magazine's twentieth year next year, it is clear that Cardulla has gained the requisite experience and reputation to attract an eclectic group of creative contributors. She is particularly sensitive to the difficulties women in the arts face and tries to include lots of women in each issue. "I'm always mindful of the fact that women often get the short of end of the stick," Cardulla said.

Children are another demographic Cardulla is mindful of. As a child, she recalls looking forward to art class most of all. "I couldn't wait to go to art, it was so much fun. It was so open, there were no mistakes, no right or wrong," she said.

It pained Cardulla that many children, particularly inner-city kids, were deprived of this pleasure.

In 1997, when she learned that a majestic but dilapidated building slated to be razed was sold to the North East Development Group for a dollar with an eye towards its renovation, she approached the development group and asked: "Wouldn't it be great to have a free neighborhood art museum for kids on the third floor of this building?" They wholeheartedly agreed.

And so the Museum of Kids Art (MoKa) was born. The old building was transformed into a bright and airy environment in which the kids learned about art, music, cooking, gardening, yoga – "all the fundamental stuff," as Cardulla sees it.

But after six years, the funding dried up and MoKa became a thing of the past. Yet, as the saying goes, one door closes and another opens. The CEO of Young Audiences of Rochester, a staunch supporter of the arts and of MoKa in particular, learned of MoKa's demise and over coffee hired Cardulla on the spot to join the program.

So Cardulla is once again surrounded by kids – their freshness and creativity.

Is it any wonder that her mom says of her: "For a poor girl, you're so rich?"

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