This hometown girl attended school and graduated in Mariposa with the whole outdoors at her disposal. Afterward, she spread her wings to study at universities on both ends of the state and then toted her camera as she photographed her way across Europe. Following that she got married and started a family. Cara Goger has now returned to her rural roots, replacing Donna Brownell as Mariposa County Arts Council's new executive director.
Having been on staff only a month, she recently told me her greatest challenge at this point is to rebuild the organization after June's Fifth Street fire.
"I'm getting acquainted with the local artists as we introduce ourselves, and am in the process of reconstructing our grant history, contact lists, artist lists, and basically everything," Goger said.
Her office is small and somewhat bare, containing only a simple desk with requisite computer, an old bookshelf and stacks of large boxes containing sound equipment. One or two nondescript prints hang on the walls. An occasional chair and set of end tables were brought from home, while some things were borrowed from the shop downstairs.
"I have the advantage of starting with a clean slate."
In addition to community support, she said she appreciates the Merced Arts Council for its generous help, and for showing artwork by Mariposa artists during this transitional period.
"The two counties overlap in many ways, blurring the county lines, so any collaboration we can form will be a benefit," she continued.
In April she had the opportunity to train with Donna Brownell for two weeks, which she said was immensely helpful.
"Donna did a phenomenal job with arts administration," she says. "I'm hoping to bring growth to what's already been established."
Goger and I talked about the vast assortment of artistic talent tucked along the back roads traversing this mountain region.
"I love the layers of Mariposa," Goger says. "At first glance it looks like any other small town, but I am discovering great depths of artistry within the community."
Her husband, an avid surfer from San Diego, wondered what the draw was for returning home. But after being here awhile, he's beginning to see it, too. Their plans are to settle down and remain in Mariposa as long as they can.
"I'm thrilled to be here," Goger said. "And I'm excited about the potential to effect change in a place I'm intimately acquainted with."
She asks for anyone having a past institutional relationship with the MCACI, and-or knowledge of information regarding the Arts Council's history or about artists featured in the gallery prior to the fire, to please contact her by email at email@example.com, by phone at (209) 966-3155 or to stop by the new office at 5009 Highway 140, on the second level of the Chocolate Soup shop.
The MCACI board received close to 20 applications to fill Brownell's position. After narrowing it down to three, Goger was the unanimous choice. Board members were impressed with the research she had done to learn about all the Arts Council's programs and the county's Economic Vitality Strategy before coming to the interview. In addition, experience as artist and educator, plus her executive and administrative involvement appealed to the board.
Goger hopes to tap into non-traditional groups, such as ESL students, senior citizens and Alzheimer's patients, with the goal of tying them into arts education.
She strongly believes five years of working as a volunteer photography instructor with international refugee youth benefited her as much as it did her students.
The community is invited to a wine reception to welcome the new director, scheduled for this evening in the garden area of Chocolate Soup from 5:30 to 6:30. Following the reception, The Trespassers will perform as part of this first weekend of the Mariposa Evenings' series of free summer concerts, held at
7 p.m. in the Arts Park, located next door to Chocolate Soup. Bring blankets or lawn chairs for seating, and tips for the performers are appreciated. For more information about Mariposa Evenings, visit www.arts-mariposa.org.
Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.