By Will Freeney | firstname.lastname@example.org
The building at 1630 Van Ness was a calm, stately, but welcoming edifice on a quiet Sunday afternoon, as I met with General Director, Frank Delgado, while a couple of the board members bustled about in preparation for a scholarship awards event that evening – honoring female artists receiving a scholarship from Arte Americas.
That calm belies the power present inside and out. Flourishing is a fulltime job. Outside there are numerous murals – continuing the muralist legacy of Diego Rivera and the subsequent work of multiple Central California muralists, like Francisco Vargas and his daughter, who painted one of his last designs on the north wall of the Arte Americas building. Maybe you haven’t noticed Arte Americas as you’ve driven past repeatedly on Van Ness at the north end of the Mural District. Its tasteful, low, rectangular sign out front is framed by a profusion of yucca plants. Its west-facing murals at the front of the building are modest mosaics, their visibility from the street blocked by the front walkway’s columns. What you could hardly have escaped noticing is a sizeable two-story mural on the side of the CMAC building across the street – a young man intently reading a book as birds/books/pages trail behind him. That too is a product of an Arte Americas commission. Its dedication ceremony was honored by a poem from Juan Felipe Herrera, former national Poet Laureate, as well as poems from two local high school poets.
Arte Americas is about so much more than just murals, though. A flourishing place for Latino arts is a full spectrum commission for artistic excellence and inclusion. Currently, the month of October brings the Dia de Los Muertos altar exhibits, and each year seems better than the last. This year’s ofrendas honor a wide range of deceased – each of their artist’s choosing – from Corky Gonzales, author of I Am Joaquin to the afore-mentioned Francisco Vargas but also to Maya Angelou, Anthony Bourdain, and Stephen Hawking – and including Judge Armando Rodriguez, who with his wife Betty, was one of the founding forces for Arte Americas. Many of the altars depend on a wall-painted background, but each style is unique, and each respective collection of personal mementos is significant. Come with reverence for art and those honored, and you will walk away rewarded.
In the spirit of Dia de Muertos, there will also be an opportunity for members of the community to participate in a Sugar Skull making workshop with Sugar Skull master, the Patinos of Bakersfield, on Saturday, October 27.
There will also be a fashion show gala in Plaza Paz on Saturday, October 13 – Catrinas y Couture, showcasing the fashions of Eruvey Tapia and featuring songs by Rubi. The reception will begin at 5:30, with the fashion show and program commencing at 7pm.
Also in the Plaza Paz, is Arte Mariachi y Vino on Friday, October 5th. Beginning at 7pm (doors open at 6pm), featuring Mariachi Voces de mi Tierra and Tierra – two distinctive mariachis, direct from Mexico – with included wine tasting.
In the other main room of the Arte Americas building, which often serves as a meeting room, there is another art exhibit, of large-scale representations of Aztec and Mayan art – all done with a wood burner on raw wood. The detail and symmetry are fantastic – right down to the intricate bas-relief geometric patterns of some of the frames.
No trip to Arte Americas would be complete without a visit to the gift shops – offering a constantly changing array of Latino art, artifacts, and abundant information.
Arte Americas has been making its unheralded contribution to the Fresno and Central Valley arts community for 31 years now – led by women as general directors until Frank Delgado’s advent. They grow and thrive because of the harmonious commitment of their board of directors and because of the magnanimous participation they elicit from members of the arts community. That said, it takes money. Various members of the board of directors are good at writing grants, but every member of the community has the opportunity to contribute by attending any of the many events. Net proceeds go back into making Arte Americas that “flourishing place for Latino arts.” In addition to ticket purchases, memberships are available for as little as $30/year. Then you can become a true compadre, a part of this phenomenon that is a most essential part of the Fresno arts community and Fresno as a whole.
Contact Arte America at (559) 266-2623 or arteamericas.org for more information.
Gallery hours are Thursday through Saturday from 11am to 5pm and Sunday from 1pm to 5pm.
Keep up with the latest happenings at Arte at arteamericas.blogspot.com.