There’s been a lot of talk lately about Ginger Shulick Porcella, executive director of the San Diego Art Institute, a nonprofit arts organization in Balboa Park that’s been around for 75 years.
During our Beef Week last month, an arts insider clued me in to some drama happening behind the scenes at SDAI. Artists who have long been members of the institute are unhappy with Porcella’s leadership, the tipster said. Among her big changes, according to the Union-Tribune: She’s replaced holding juried exhibitions with curated ones, started an artist-in-residence program and has made an effort to showcase artists from Los Angeles and Tijuana too.
At the time, there was only chatter – nothing really to dig into. Then a Facebook thread in a private group made up of San Diego artists, arts writers and organizers went off the rails. The conversation started as a call-to-artists to participate in SDAI’s annual C-Note event, where artists sell works priced at $100 or less and give 50 percent of their sales to the institute.
That last stipulation was the point of contention that led to some major shots being fired on Facebook. Some applauded and defended Porcella for taking what’s been considered a stale arts organization and turning it into a must-visit spot. Others said she’s ruining the institution, and made personal attacks, going so far as to tell her to go back to where she came from (that’d be New York) and saying the institute had been “hijacked by foreigners,” whatever that means.
The Union-Tribune dug into the complaints against Porcella’s leadership style, which even drove a group of members to urge the city to find that the art institute is violating its lease.
Porcella, for her part, is taking a dirt-off-your-shoulders approach to the critiques: