Meet the Change Maker: Q&A with Ashley Occhino, Executive Director of Fall River Arts and Culture Coalition

Mar 31, 2023

What has your career path been?
I went to school for fine arts in textiles. At the time, many mills had closed. My parents were educators, so it seemed natural that I went into teaching art classes. I had an internship in Boston, and then I worked at the Fuller Craft Museum, at the Danforth Art Museum, and at the Worcester Art Museum. Most recently, I was the Executive Director at the New Bedford Art Museum. My work has always been community-focused. Now, I’m the leader of FRACC, where I work to promote arts and culture in Fall River.

Tell me about the Fall River Arts and Culture Coalition (FRACC).
FRACC is a committee of the SouthCoast Chamber, which is our fiscal sponsor.  FRACC actually started out of discontent regarding funding for the arts, and that Fall River was receiving less funds than New Bedford. We started with just a few people as members, and now have grown into a larger membership organization. We have monthly meetings that are open to everyone. FRACC is a resource – an advocate to promote arts and culture in the city. Our goal is to use arts and culture to drive economic development.

What’s an example of how FRACC has worked to promote arts and culture?
I worked closely with the Children’s Museum in Fall River, giving them support: highlighting Canva premium version for nonprofits; working one-on-one with them as part of a hiring committee; and resource locating like non-profit rates for health insurance; giving hands-on support with questions around grants. I provide technical support, and I offer opportunities to come out in the community and gain more visibility.

What are some other projects you are proud of?

  • FRACC – Awarding mini-grants to support the work of artists in the city.
  • Offering workshops to artists to learn how to manage the business side of their work.
  • Creation of a pride crosswalk in downtown Fall River (near city hall)
  • Building excitement around public art – free lunch art days were a way that we found to encourage people to come out and learn about public art, to build excitement around it while it was being created.

What changes do you envision for Fall River in the next five to ten years?
More public art. Infrastructure that supports more dedicated staff for arts organizations. More collaborative-type spaces for art to happen.

What would be the perfect day for someone visiting Fall River for the first time?

*Please note that the businesses I’ve recommended are great supporters of the arts.

What message would you like our readers to walk away with?
Come and visit Fall River if they haven’t. Culinary. Arts. Low to no-cost activities, like the Children’s Museum. It’s a great place!

Fall River Arts & Culture Creative Economy Plan, which is a roadmap for development of arts and culture in the city.




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