The Boys are Back in Town

To date, Franconia has hosted more than 800 artists from around the world. A few of these artists have returned as staff members, held multiple fellowships, participated in the annual iron pour, collaborated on projects, or just come back to say hello. Whether here for just a season or for the entire 19 years, each member of the Franconia family has left an indelible mark on the park. Over the next few months we’ll be rewinding the clock as we take a look at alumni from years past and find out what they’re up to now. Here’s our first installment of FSP Alumni Legacies featuring Bobby Zokaites and Dane Rudisill Winkler

Bobby Zokaites

The Man with a Big Laugh 

Bobby1Bobby first came to Franconia as an Intern Artist in 2007. Soon after completing his internship, he transitioned into the role of Site Manager. He was the longest running Site Manager in the history of FSP, and for good reason! Bobby is a great team leader, he’s able to keep morale high in any circumstance, lends a helping hand to anyone who needs it, and has invaluable knowledge about how to fabricate, install, and deinstall large sculpture – a necessary skill for the job. In 2011 he left Franconia to pursue a Masters of Art at Arizona State University. He has since graduated and continues to teach at ASU. During his winter break, he paid us a quick visit to show us the sculpture he was working on at the time (pictured to the left). This summer, Bobby rejoined the staff of Franconia as the Site Expansion Manager during which time he oversaw all activities related to the development of the park’s new plot of land, shared in the day-to-day responsibilities associated with living at Franconia, and busted a move on the dance floor. 

How did you originally hear about Franconia?

My work-study job, back in undergrad at Alfred University was in the sculpture department, mostly cleaning. One day, one of the faculty brought in a bunch of junk mail, handed me the pile saying “post what’s worthwhile and trash the rest”. (this was before laptops, smartphones and Facebook). That year FSP had printed a poster and sent two copies to sculpture programs all over the country. So I posted one and took the other one home.

What was your role in Franconia’s community as an intern? How did that role change when you came back as Site Manager? When you came back as an Site Expansion Manager?

When I first showBobby4ed up in 2007, it was the first full year at the new site at the corner of Highway 8 & Highway 95. Everything was new, there were no weeds on the pad, no gravel paths, no education shelter, no grass in the yard, the back kitchen wasn’t finished yet, all of the rooms in the house weren’t there either, all of the stones were stored in the front parking lot, the boom truck was red, and the gantries were bare steel. This was before the “sessions” so all of the interns showed up and left when they needed to. Jonas was the manager, Ben Lock was also there that summer, in the office there was only John and Loretta. I mostly remember the dust (it was a really dry year) and the thistles, oh the thistles.bobby3

That year, like every year, we made sculpture – Trever‘s Skin Scape, Theresa’s Pine Cone, Lishan Chang‘s Plastic Maze, James Payne was there, and Lourdes Cue.  When the cement trucks showed up Trever would get us up before dawn, Lishan’s first iteration of the Maze was a big square, we had to wrap it at night (the machine would over heat), and we only slept for 3 hours in the middle of the afternoon. I have no idea how many pours we did for Dr. T that year, but it was a few. We worked when the park needed it and when anyone else needed it. The month before I left I was waking up at 5 am to work on my own sculpture. That summer was one of the best summers of my life, I don’t think I go a day without thinking about. The people that shared that time with me were still around at least once or twice for couple of years after my internship.

Running the park is a very different thing than working as an intern – it’s like saving the world, one problem at a time. I only had five to 15 seconds after opening my eyes in the morning before I would start thinking about the work of the day, thinking about 28 to 48 hours worth of work to doBobby6. Most of the summer there is more work than there are hours in the day. The job is like any other management job: you have to weigh the skill sets available against the priorities of the work. If the skill sets weren’t available were they teachable? The golden rule: don’t delegate a job that takes longer to explain than to do, so the manager is stuck with 1,000 little things to do. To add more stress, no one gets to go home to blow off steam. You have to think about creating and maintaining the culture, every manger had done this in a different way. You make mistakes daily, both pragmatic and social, the inexperience turns into fatigue quite quickly.

But I had great intern crews – ones that not only participated, but learned to anticipate the work, great fellows, and great mentors.

Going back as a Site Expansion Manager, I worked on the new land as much as possible and helped whoever needed it.Bobby5

What are some things about Franconia that keep you coming back year after year?

I think of the Park as the place where I grew up. It’s my home. I like sharing it with people, both when I am there and when I am not.

 How has Franconia influenced your artistic practice?

 Franconia taught me how to graft wings onto a pig.

What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

I have a few projects going on. I’m working on my largest public art project, The Oculus, for a high school in the Phoenix valley. It will be finished next month. I’m working with a group to build a perfomative installation based on Haptic feedback, as well as developing my own weeble wobble’s. And I’m teaching at ASU this coming semester. After that, the future will get here when it gets here.

Dane Rudisill Winkler

The Dance Party Mastermind

Dane1Dane joined the Franconia family in 2012 as an Intern Artist. During that time he made a fantastic sculpture you can still view in the park. He started every dance party by bringing out the infamous costume bag and pumpin’ up the jams! Just like Bobby, he soon became a Site Manager. Afterwards Dane moved to College Park, MD to pursue a Masters of Art at the University of Maryland. While working towards his degree he’s also been a Hamiltonian fellow, Socrates fellow, SAW resident and much more. You can see a review of his most recent exhibition in Sculpture Magazine. This summer he paid us a much anticipated visit as assistant to Open Studio Fellow Foon Sham.

What was your role in Franconia’s community as an intern? How did that role change when you came back as park manager? When you came back as a Fellow’s assistant?

Dane3I was an Intern Artist at Franconia in the summer of 2012, right after I got my BFA from SUNY Plattsburgh where I studied with Franconia Alum Drew Goerlitz and Ali Della Bitta.  Interns at Franconia do ‘park work’ every day of the week for 5 hours, which includes assisting managers on projects, assisting fellowship artists with their sculptures, landscaping, and general maintenance of the park.  Interns are then given time to make a large-scale, outdoor sculpture to be exhibited at the park. They have access to all of Franconia’s heavy-duty equipment, space, and resources.  As an intern, I was appointed to fabrication and construction jobs around the park.  I made a large sculpture called Barn Observatory that still stands at the park today.  Being an intern is a great opportunity for younger artists because new challenges in making work are approached. Making a large scale work that is structurally sound and can withstand the intense Minnesota weather, visitor interaction, and constructive criticism from artists around the world is no easy task.

As manager the roles were switched. I was now delegating work to the interns, appointing and instructing the Fellowship Artists with construction and installation of their works, maintaining the park, and much, much more.  When people ask me about the job, I tell them the description should read “Everything All The Time”.  It was a great experience, and I learned a lot: how to delegate work, how to create an energy for a group of people to get excited about shoveling gravel or planting grass,  and most importantly how to get psyched about creating a large-scale, outdoor sculpture.  It’s one thing to know how to do something, but it’s a whole other thing to try and teach someone how to do the same thing.  Being Site Manager at Franconia was my first experience with that, and I now use these skills every day.

Coming back as an Assistant for Fellowship Artist Foon Sham in June 2015 was great.  I have worked with Foon on several projects now, as he is one of my mentors through the University of Maryland MFA program. We have a really good system down, so we can work really fast and efficiently.  You know – measure, cut, measure, cut, move, assemble, lift, measure, cut.  Foon and I figured out a system and cranked through it everyday, even in the rain.  He has taught me a lot and I’m very grateful for the opportunities he has given me.


What are some things about Franconia that keep you coming back year after year?

Franconia is quite a gem for many, many reasons.  The sense of community and strong culture of the house and the work pad always comes to mind.  People (interns, fellows, even visitors) come from all over the world so the networking aspect is really valuable.  I’ve met a lot of very important colleagues and friends through Franconia over the years that I still keep in touch with on a regular basis.  Franconia is a great place for creative people to interact and make art, not only because of the shared energy and ambition in the air, but also because of the interaction with park visitors.  Artists build side-by-side on the work pad and hundreds of people each day peruse the park.  I have had some great conversations with visitors about what I’m working on.  It’s important, as a maker, to be able to explain your work.  It’s always great to come back and see old friends and make new ones, and also to see how the park has changed.  Sometimes it seems like a week’s worth of work can be done in a day at Franconia, and it always amazes me what a group of skilled people can do.


How has Franconia influenced your artistic practice?

Dane4A lot of the themes and concepts of my work after Franconia have been directly influenced by some of what I mentioned above.  I enjoy exhibiting in a gallery space as well as a public outdoor venue.  I had already been working with some of the values and ideas associated with growing up on a small farm through my sculpture before coming to work at the park.  After a lot of interaction with artists and park visitors, and speaking about profound sculptural things with a blue collar worker from rural Minnesota, I realized my work can maybe appeal to a larger audience of people.  The art gallery-goer or the businessman is going to understand and enjoy (hopefully) the work about a barn for an entirely different reason than the dairy farmer or the welder. I really enjoy that challenge, and hope that my work can exist on that fine and dangerous line between art and utilitarian object.  Being in grad school and exhibiting in Washington, D.C. has also been a good way to work with these ideas. Juxtaposing that urban setting and concepts with the hard poetics and nostalgia of labor and farm life.


Dane2What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

I just had an exhibition at Hillyer Art Space in Washington, D.C. as one of their three June Solos.  The work was inspired by a tarp-covered hay wagon and the intense blue sunlight that shines through – a moment I never forgot from my childhood.  The 24-foot by 12-foot room was covered with a site-specific installation of rough-cut barn-board walls, a dirt floor, and a blue tarp ceiling that held water and sagged into the space.  I just spent some time at Salem Art Works in Salem New York (somewhat of a sister park to Franconia), working for the park and building a steel and wood gong-like structure that can be rung to try and summon the myth of a ghost cow at SAW.  And now I’m gearing up for a solo show at VisArts in Rockville, MD in September and my thesis year of my MFA degree at the University of Maryland.


Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Work Hard, Play Hard, and Be Nice.

We’re sending lots of luck to Bobby as he completes his largest commission to date and to Dane as he wraps up his Masters degree.

Check back soon to hear about our most recent Park Manager Alumni Hugh Condrey Bryant, who just embarked on a new adventure as a graduate student at the University of Maryland. You’ll also hear about our two current Park Managers, Tony Zappa and Paul Howe! Until then, swing through the park to #StartSeeingSculpture.

One comment

  1. […] has had several Park Managers including Bobby and Dane who we recently interviewed in The Boys are Back in Town. More recently we had Hugh Condrey Bryant who came to us as an intern in 2013 after graduating […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: