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Central California Life Magazine

Fresno Arts Council: Keeping the Arts in Fresno Alive

Dec 06, 2016 04:38PM ● By Melanie Heisinger

Public art with the Fresno Arts Council.

The Fresno Arts Council is all about supporting the local community and the artists within it. Formed in 1979 initially by community members who were passionate about the importance of art, they have grown even larger and more successful. 

Supporting local artists and organizations alike is something that the Fresno Arts Council primarily focuses their time on. They hope to provide the opportunity for the public to access the arts in new and different ways, as well as traditional avenues. Not only that, the work they have been doing not only attracts local artists, but regional artists, as well. 

Fresno is becoming a destination point for all artists, far and wide. 

We wanted to know more about the great things that the Fresno Arts Council is doing within and for the community, so we reached out to Lilia Gonzáles Chávez, their Executive Director, to learn a little bit more. 

Tell us a little about the Fresno Arts Council. When and how did it get started?

The Fresno Arts Council (FAC) was established in 1979 as the Alliance for the Arts, by community members who believed that the arts were important to the over-all wellbeing of Fresno County. We became the Fresno Arts Council when we were designated to serve as the local partner to the California Arts Council by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. We also serve as the City of Fresno’s Arts Agency designated by a Memorandum of Understanding. 

What are your goals for the council and where do you see it heading? What sort of activities will you focus on?

FAC’s mission is to enrich people’s lives through the arts.  We do this by identifying opportunities to support local artists, arts organizations, and community members seeking art experiences. Our programs include, The Fresno Poet Laureate (Check out our article on our current Poet Laureate here!), ArtHopArts in EducationArt in CorrectionsPublic Art, Veterans Art program, Horizon Awards,  Art in City Hall, and Arts Alive in Agriculture. The Water Tower is managed by FAC and serves as a visitor information center with a gift store filled with work my local artists.
We also serve as a resource and referral agency for arts in Fresno; people call to ask about classes, programs, funding and other arts services such as framing or appraisal. Our phone is always ringing!

All of our programs and services provide an opportunity for the public to access the arts in new and different ways, as well as traditional avenues. Attracting a new audience to the arts is a significant part of our work, by educating young people so that they grow to value and support the arts. FAC knows that the arts touch our humanity, feelings of empathy, problem solving, communication and critical thinking -- all are stimulated by the arts and are essential to our overall wellbeing. 

FAC is very concerned about sustaining the wonderful arts programs and institutions that we have in Fresno county.  It was a real tragedy when we lost the Fresno Metropolitan Museum and, as a result, all of our other programs and institutions are at risk too. While the arts community is creative and resilient, without financial support to produce new works, programs and support general operations, they struggle to survive. We have seen several small organizations fold. Without local support we could see more closures.  

The Arts Council is currently working to identify a source of funding that would allow us to again make grants to arts organization and individual artists. These funcds would help us attract other resources that we are challenged to access because of required a local match. It could also provide funding to stabilize program operations, which are the hardest to come by.  

What's something people usually assume about the council? What do people usually assume that's incorrect?

People assume we have money for re-granting, because we used to.  They also assume we are ArtHop. They drop in on first and third Thursday’s and ask if this is ArtHop, we then explain that Arthop is not just one place but many! We provide them with a map of all of the venues and send them hopping. 

What is your personal favorite aspect of the group and the mission?

My favorite aspect of working for the Arts Council is knowing that we are providing an important service to the community that contributes to its economic vitality. The quality of Fresno artists and opportunities to experience art has a regional draw.

People come to Fresno for our art, and that’s a good thing.  

Also, I love watching little children engage in art. They do it with such zeal and excitement, weather dancing, singing, painting or acting, they are engaging in a learning experience and having a ball…nothing is better to see.  

What's one of your most memorable moments while working there?

Walking through the Fresno Christmas Parade with students from Bullard Talent when a sale was made, is one of my most memorable moments. The students created a float on behalf of the Arts Council. Each student had created a work of art in the style of a well known artist, dressed up to look like them, and walked along side of the float. There was a student who had painted a painting in the style of Diego Rivera was approached in the parade by an onlooker. She asked if his work was for sale. He answered that he would have to ask his Mom if he could make a sale. That person followed our float until the end of the parade and with Mom’s okay, she bought the painting. This young man was so proud of making his first sale as an artist, I am sure he has continued to paint. 

Are there any recent or upcoming changes that people should know about in regards to related legislation?

The California Arts Council has received increased funding from the Legislature and is offering 14 unique grant programs more than ever before. Contact the Fresno Arts Council with questions and suggestions for possible projects you would like to fund. We will sit down with you and creatively help figure out how you might meet the requirements and help you apply. 

How can people get involved? 

There is a lot of excitement in the community about the arts and we need to continue to provide high quality programs for our children and families. Now is the time for the public to reach out to their representatives on the Board of Supervisors and the Fresno City Council and let them know that they would like to see a local investment to the arts through the annual budget process.  

The power of “We” is strong, and everyone can help keep the arts alive in Fresno. 

To learn more about the great programs the Fresno Arts Council both supports and provides, feel free to visit their website