I originally presented this as a talk titled From Intention to Intentionality: Centering Equity, Inclusion, and Representation in Cultural Preservation at the two-day colloquium, Diversity in Collections Care: Many Voices, organized by The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) in March 2021. Because it memorializes the beginnings of a monumental shift for Balboa Art Conservation Center (BACC) , the script from that talk has been transcribed and formatted to be shared here.
I join you today from the ancestral homelands of the Kumeyaay Nation. Colonially known as the San Diego/Tijuana border region of Southern California/Baja California Norte. The Kumeyaay peoples continue to maintain their connection to, and care for, this land.
Last summer, like many of your institutions, in the throes of dual pandemics, covid-19 and systemic racism and violence against the Black community, BACC decided it was time to make a change. After much thought, staff conceived of Preserve Community Art. This initiative was born in response to both a long standing need to acknowledge systemic racism and exclusion in the field of conservation as well as in direct and immediate response to the Summer of 2020 movement led by Black Lives Matter to address racial injustice. In its initial form, Preserve Community Art sought to support the documentation and preservation of San Diego Protest Art. The staff got to work on creating guidelines for protest art preservation and preventive care and put a call out to community members who could benefit from what BACC had to offer.
The staff at the time, put much thought into how to approach this work. It was, after all, a new direction. Assuming, like most of us do, that if we took the time and the resources to build it, "they" would come. BACC built it, but much to its surprise "they" did not come. BACC did have the opportunity to work with a couple community led projects, but in all honesty, the Black community, whose historical exclusion from these services was what inspired the creation of Preserve Community Art - was not engaged.
I titled this talk From Intention to Intentionality.
BACC's intention was to address the disparity in access to conservation services and engage the Black community and communities of color in art conservation. But intentions, as well intentioned as they may be, are passive.
Intentions are what we wake up with in the morning.
What we say to ourselves in the mirror to remind us that we've got this.
What we whisper into the wind.
We put intentions out, because we believe in some cosmic flow that will take them somewhere and materialize them for us. But Intentions are just that. Mutterings of what we want.
The journey from intention to intentionality is a long one. It starts with intention, sure. we need those. to verbalize what is in our hearts. But without intentionality, those intentions just sit there idly.
For BACC, Preserve Community Art was intention.
The Balboa Art Conservation Center (BACC), the western region’s premier and only nonprofit art conservation center, is thrilled to announce that it has hired cultural heritage champion and experienced arts administrator Leticia Gomez Franco as its next Executive Director. She will start in early December.
“I am incredibly honored and humbled to lead BACC as its new Executive Director and committed to the possibilities in this new position,” Gomez Franco said. “Conservation centers play a pivotal role in ensuring the objects that make up our historical cultural inheritance survive the times. Let us dare to reimagine our role as more than caretakers of objects, but also of the stories they keep, the societies they represent, and the people they exclude. Let this be the moment we shift — along with the world — into the uncharted territory of inclusivity. As the leading conservation center in the west, the small but mighty team at BACC is ready to engage communities, demystify the field of conservation, stimulate dialogue, and usher the work into a more inclusive framework.”
A seasoned arts professional with deep roots in the San Diego community, Gomez Franco’s commitment to preserving culture, as well as her hands-on experience with exhibitions, artists, and communities, were some of the elements that the hiring committee of BACC’s Board of Trustees found most engaging. Her background in reimagining spaces, decentralizing narratives, and engaging collective knowledge makes her uniquely positioned to expand on programs like those BACC has recently launched to engage with the broader community. Not surprisingly, RISE San Diego nominated her for a 2020 Inclusive Leadership In Action (ILIA) Award in the “culture shifter” category and the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures has awarded Gomez Franco two fellowships: one for advocacy in 2019 and another for leadership in 2015.
BACC’s Board President, Karen Coutts, said, “Leticia Gomez Franco’s background and perspective are an excellent complement to the expertise of our world-class conservators. With Leticia at the helm we are reaffirming the importance of the work we do every day in conservation and preservation while moving to diversify our audiences and expand our work to new communities.”
Gomez Franco most recently served as the Senior Arts and Culture Funding Manager of the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture where she administered over $11 million in grants for community arts organizations, reenvisioned programming guidelines and, in the last few months, made dynamic shifts to administrative processes in response to the global health crisis. She was instrumental in forging long-term systemic change to ensure the City serves and responds to all of its diverse communities. A fan of the literary arts, Gomez Franco was behind the launch of the City's first Poet Laureate program, as well.
Before joining the City of San Diego, Gomez Franco served as Director of Programs and Lead Curator for the New Americans Museum, an institution dedicated to preserving and presenting the immigrant experience, and established The Front: A Collaborative of Art, Culture, Design and Urbanism as a formal art gallery and leading binational laboratory of creative thought in the world's most trafficked border region, San Ysidro/Tijuana. As an accomplished curator she has developed more than forty exhibitions at various museums and galleries. Her independently curated work has elicited nationwide press and attention, as well.
Gomez Franco holds a master’s degree in Curatorial Theory from the Liberal Arts and Sciences program of San Diego State University, and a bachelor’s in English and Chicana/o Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.
BACC is one of the first art conservation centers that was established in the United States and Leticia Gomez Franco’s hire is another step in the organization’s transition to a new business and leadership model as supported by the Mellon Foundation’s Comprehensive Organizational Health Initiative. BACC’s previous Executive Director, Janet Ruggles, retired at the end of 2019 after 37 years of dedicated service to the Center.
For more information, or to request images or an interview, please email Staci Golar.
BACC’s Assistant Conservator of Paintings, Morgan Wylder, recently received the Professional Associate designation from the American Institute for Conservation.
To obtain this designation, conservators or preservation specialists are required to have completed an undergraduate degree, received formal education in their field for at least two years, and then completed at least three years of full-time conservation or conservation-related work. Applicants must also submit a portfolio of conservation projects, essays about AIC's Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Conservation, and letters of recommendation from other AIC members with Professional Associate status.
As the field of conservation has no official legal licensing to determine who can be called a conservator, the Professional Associate designation is one way that conservators can demonstrate that they have had both extensive training and understand the ethics of the conservation field. All Professional Associates can be found on the American Institute for Conservation's website under the "Find an Expert" tab.
In early 2019 Staci Golar joined BACC as its first staff member in development and marketing, a hire made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Comprehensive Organizational Health Initiative grant given “to help support change and growth capital.”
Golar has spent her career almost entirely in the arts, having held positions at the Museum of International Folk Art, SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, the Institute of American Indian Arts, the International Folk Art Alliance, and others. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Art and a Master’s in Arts Administration.
Here she shares some insights on what it’s like to work at BACC.
BACC conservators were called out of the lab this July to carry out a conservation treatment on an early 20th-century relief mural by a well-known San Diego Impressionist painter. Although the mural is undated it is likely more than 100 years old. Remarkably, it still survives in its San Diego home.
The piece features a tranquil desert scene that was first sculpted in relief on the wall, and then later painted in earth tones with splashes of bright color. When coupled with the beautiful craftsman architectural features of the room, the California Impressionist mural instantly transports one back to the San Diego of the early 20th century.
The BACC team stabilized some local areas of cracking plaster on the mural, gently and safely dusted the piece, and inpainted a few small, scattered plaster and paint losses throughout the room to visually reintegrate them into the greater composition. Now the mural is both structurally stable and visually refreshed. It is complete, once again.
Considering its age, the fact that the mural was found in such good condition is a testament to the generations of careful stewards who have owned the house since its creation. This, of course, includes the current owners of the house, who admirably prioritized the preservation of the mural so that it will continue to live on. This project reveals how it's not only institutions like museums that preserve local art and heritage for future generations, but it's individuals within our community, as well.