McClatchy endowment will pump $1 million into Fresno’s local visual arts scene

You don’t have to look far these days to wallow in bad news for the arts. This afternoon, however, I bring you something bright and cheery:

Pictured above: From “Always Fresh 2018,” a portrait of farmworkers on reclaimed produce boxes by “Boom Oaxaca” featured artist Narsiso Martinez.

The James B. McClatchy Foundation today announced a $1 million “grant-funded collaborative” with three of Fresno’s major arts institutions. The Fresno Art Museum, Arte Americas and Fresno State’s Center for Creativity and the Arts will each get financial help to put on a three separate powerhouse art exhibitions starting in 2021 and extending into 2022.

The three institutions are partnering with the McClatchy Fresno Arts Endowment (MFAE), a permanent endowment linked to the larger McClatchy Foundation to “foster, curate, and support art exhibitions of regional, national, and international significance in the greater Fresno area.” The three exhibitions honor the LGBTQ+ community, Oaxacan immigrants, and the “feminine experience.”

Here are the three exhibitions, with descriptions from the endowment:

“Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall” will be displayed Aug. 19 – Oct. 31, 2021, at Fresno State in a presentation by the Center for Creativity and the Arts. The exhibition commemorates the Stonewall riots of 1969, one of the 20th century’s most culturally significant civil rights events, and will highlight Fresno’s important role with LGBTQ+ civil rights and advocacy movements. Originally organized by the Brooklyn Museum of New York, works from the original exhibition will be coupled with those of west coast artists, all born post-Stonewall, with distinct voices heard from LGBTQ+ communities of color. A speaker series, colloquium, and public arts projects are also being planned.


“Boom Oaxaca,” curated and developed by Arte Américas, is a five-month exhibition that launches Spring 2022. From portraits of farmworkers on reclaimed produce boxes, to street art and giant murals, the works of Narsiso Martinez, Dario Canul, and Cosijoesa Cernas, among others, honor the approximately 50,000 Oaxacan immigrants residing in Central Valley, humanizing their experiences as field laborers, and validating their contributions to California’s rich bounty. The forthcoming exhibition and community programs seek to inspire new audiences and instill cultural pride in the hundreds of Latino students anticipated to visit. The exhibit will open a dialogue on topics that are particularly important during the pandemic, including immigration, border politics, food, labor, and safety.

“A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes” will run July 30, 2022, through January 8, 2023, at the Fresno Art Museum. The exhibition offers a unique look at how fashion has shaped the feminine experience throughout history and across the globe, exploring symbols of womanhood and challenging conventional ideas of beauty. For example, designer Louise Linderoth uses a wheelchair and fosters inclusion for those with disabilities, like herself. Her works feature garments designed from a seated position, giving visibility to different bodies and different postures and allowing the disabled to be represented in the fashion world. A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes is organized and produced by Barrett Barrera Projects and curated by MUSEEA.

“Untitled (Peek)” by Elle Perez, is part of “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall.”

This will be the endowment’s third major round of funding given to Fresno visual arts institutions since its inception in 2010, according to Elizabeth Looney, the endowment’s project coordinator. Previous ventures were The Fresno Green Project (highlighted by environmental artist Patrick Dougherty at Fresno State) in 2012; and the big Diego Rivera collaboration in 2016, which included “Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolas Muray” at the Fresno Art Museum.

Covid has obviously had a profound impact on the local arts scene. Each institution was given the latitude to schedule their exhibitions on their own timeline. Arte Americas ended up pushing back its opening six months from the original plan, and the Fresno Art Museum pushes its opening back an entire year.

This new round of funding is important because it’s more than just three standalone exhibitions, Looney told me. The institutions started collaborating 18 months ago and are exploring ways to join forces to make the city more visible on the state and national levels.

“We really want to have an impact,” Looney said. “That means waking people up to Fresno’s arts scene. All three organizations are looking at this as a way of putting themselves on the map.”

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Susan McClatchy, co-founder of both the endowment and the James B. McClatchy Foundation, said in a statement: “The current pandemic has given us an opportunity to recognize the enduring quality of the arts as a tool to heal, unite, and celebrate diversity in our communities. Our grants to these three remarkable exhibitions will help elevate Fresno as a world-class arts hub by expanding access to newer audiences, curating nationally and globally-renowned exhibitions, and giving visibility to emerging, talented, and culturally relevant artists.”

My take: I can’t tell you how nice it is to deliver some good news through my keyboard for a change. All three of these exhibitions sound superb. They’re cutting-edge in terms of social awareness, prestigious in terms of national scope, and exciting in terms of the collaborative potential. Each talks about the power of culture and the way it can inform, inspire and bring us together. I look forward to writing extensively about each one.

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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