Above: The new multi-use space Franconia Commons, located at the entrance of Franconia Sculpture Park. Image courtesy of Franconia.

Franconia Sculpture Park celebrates the opening Franconia Commons, a new 7,000-square-foot, multi-level space, with a big ribbon cutting event this Saturday from 3-9 p.m. Visitors can catch performances by artists-in-residence (3:30-5:30 p.m.), the opening reception of “New Domestics” at the Mardag Gallery (4-6 p.m), live performances by XOXOTECH (6 p.m.) and Little Tin Box (7 p.m.), and plenty of food trucks, beverages and guided tours of Franconia Commons and 2020 sculptural additions to the park. The public will be able to tour Franconia Commons between 4-8 p.m. 

“We are turning 25 years old but have been operating like a scrappy startup,” said Executive Director Ginger Porcella. “I think we look so much more professional now, which is what we are going for.”

When she took the reins about a year ago, she wanted to shift the focus toward audiences and community, and become more outward-facing rather than inward and mostly on the residency programs.

“I named it Franconia Commons because I want it to be a space for the community,” she said. “Not just for Franconia to use – I want other community groups to use the space.”

Money for the $2 million dollar Franconia Commons was fundraised through a five-year capital campaign launched by former co-founder/CEO John Hock, who was fired in 2018 for ‘inappropriate conduct’ toward a young woman.

Porcella, who joined the park a little over a year ago, inherited that campaign and decided to shift its direction from a youth education center to a multipurpose space for artist studios, workshops, screenings, and performances, a visitor center, gift shop, café and staff offices.

Porcella also got rid of the park's iconic old bathrooms, which were filled with visitors’ wall scrawlings. She said a lot of people were upset about that, but she was determined to start fresh.

The new Franconia Commons also offers a café, something that Porcella felt has always been lacking. When she was first applying for the job, she said kept reading comments on the park’s Facebook and Yelp with people begging for a café.

“It’s Franconia – now with beverages,” she said. “You can have your coffee and plan your day at the park.”

Northwoods Roasterie in Lindstrom, Minn., provides the coffee. 

The Mardag Gallery is another new addition to the park. The first exhibition, “New Domestics,” curated by Porcella, features artists from around the world, and explores themes of domesticity in contemporary art at a time when people are forced to stay in because of COVID-19.

Porcella views the gallery as a way to bring more artists into the park. She’s already thinking about doing a show with the Emerging Curators Institute, a yearlong fellowship designed to support curators from diverse backgrounds.

The schedule is still up in the air, but she intends to do quarterly exhibitions.

“We are open to whatever,” said Porcella.

Above: The multi-use Driscoll Education Center at Franconia Commons. Image courtesy of Franconia.

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