Nearly a year after Franconia Sculpture Park fired its founding executive director for “inappropriate conduct toward a young female artist,” the arts organization has finally filled the job.
Ginger Shulick Porcella, who now serves as executive director and chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, said she was attracted by Franconia’s mission to “provide wide and open spaces to create work.”
A 43-acre park near Taylor Falls, Franconia features more than 120 sculptures in a rural setting that is free of charge and encourages visitors to observe resident artists at work.
“I like the role art can play in our daily lives,” said Porcella, who will start Sept. 3. “I think Franconia does a really great job at incorporating art into people’s lives who may not go to a museum or a gallery.”
Franconia’s board came under fire from some community members who questioned the abrupt departure last August of John Hock, who had led the nonprofit since it was established in 1996. Initially, it offered no explanation, but later released a terse “reason for termination letter” that it had given Hock.
While the board refused to discuss details of the incident, Hock told the Star Tribune that it involved a “regrettable conversation over drinks that included some sexual content” but said there was “no coercion, no harassment, and no sexual touching of any kind.”
Hock has since launched a new artist residency program and exhibition space in northeast Minneapolis, the NE Sculpture Gallery Factory.
Franconia board chairwoman Dorothy Goldie declined to comment on the effect his departure had. “Clearly the organization was strong enough, interesting enough and enough of the fundamental core values remained in place so that someone of [Porcella’s] caliber and quality was attracted to the opportunity,” she said.
“Ginger has transformed every organization she’s been a part of. We’re very anxious to get her in. Come next spring when we do our next season of artist residencies, I think you’ll start to see a lot of new faces [and] broader reach in terms of the artists we are attracting.”
A native of Chicago, Porcella studied art history at DePaul University and earned a master’s degree in sociocultural anthropology from Columbia in New York. Before taking the job in Tucson, Ariz., in April 2017, she led the San Diego Art Institute for three years, boosting attendance and fundraising and earning praise as a “creative and energetic force.”
Porcella said she wants to make sure that Franconia continues to be by and for the community, and that it showcases voices traditionally not at the forefront.
“I think the best work that I do happens in the community,” she said. “My background is working with women, queer artists and artists of color, and giving them a voice and making sure they are at the top of what we do.”
Initially, she expects to spend most of her time getting to know the arts community and rebuilding trust.
”The board and staff have done a really good job working on rebuilding those relationships with artists,” she said. “And I think we’re going to do some great things.”