UPDATE: Despite mayor’s veto, Arte Américas will still receive a $7 million state grant

UPDATE 09/02: As predicted by Councilmember Miguel Arias, the Fresno City Council voted to override Mayor Jerry Dyer’s veto of the state budget grants. (As you’ll recall, Dyer wasn’t opposed to the Arte Americas grant but was instead against Planned Parenthood funding.) Brianna Vaccari at The Bee gives an update. That means it’s official: Arte Americas gets its grant.

Original post:

For Arte Américas, first came the shocking, exciting news last week: a $7 million grant from the state. For a scrappy organization with an annual budget that hovers in the $350,000-$500,000 range, an allocation of that size is obviously a game changer.

Pictured above: With a $7 million grant from the state, Arte Americas will be able to spruce up its sign.

Then came the worrying wrinkle: The money, secured by Assemblyman Joaquin Arrambula in an amendment to the state budget act, has to “pass through” the City of Fresno on the way to its recipient. That requires approval by the city council and mayor. Because of the way the legislation was written, the Arte allocation was bundled together with several other local non-profit organizations, including a $1 million grant for Planned Parenthood.

As Bee writers Brianna Vaccari and Tim Sheehan reported over several days, anti-abortion activists objected to the city accepting the Planned Parenthood funds. Mayor Jerry Dyer – who went on record supporting the Arte Américas grant – on Thursday vetoed the package because of the abortion issue.


All of which made people at Arte a little nervous. On Wednesday, Executive Director Ruth Saludes was excited about the money but not counting her pollos before they hatch.

“We don’t know the specific details yet,” she said. “Until it really has been all approved and we get more information, we really can’t say. As far as I can tell right now, it’s been designated, so that’s really good for us.”

But there shouldn’t be any worries. Because the council voted 5-1 to accept the state-budget allocations (Garry Bredefeld was the only no vote, and Mike Karbassi was absent), the mayoral veto can be overridden by a council supermajority. I checked in Friday with council member Miguel Arias, a supporter of the measure, who is confident that’s the case. He posted on Twitter:

In other words, it was an easy political call for Dyer: He goes on record opposing Planned Parenthood and satisfying anti-abortion constituents, but there was no real danger of being responsible for killing $9.5 million in state grants, including one to a beloved city cultural center.

As for the impact on Arte, it can’t be overstated.

“It will be transformational,” Arias told me. “They will be able to go from a long-term that would take 10 or 20 years to be able to do it overnight.”

How will the money be used? It’s still too early to say, but there is a long list of needs, says Arte board president Vivian Velasco Paz.

“We’re so excited,” she told me. “Right now we’re only using about a third of our space. We have great hopes of doing some major renovations and actually having some paid staff and not just relying on volunteers.”

The Arte Américas property is historic. Many decades ago, it was deeded to the city with the stipulation that it be used for a museum space, but the intent of the bequest at first wasn’t honored, Arias says. Instead, the building was remodeled into a bank. Arte Américas came decades later. Many original architectural details still exist, including a beautiful second floor that is a prime candidate for renovation.

In addition to the building itself, Saludes is excited about expanding Arte’s educational mission to schoolchildren. She points out the significant numbers of children who have utilized Arte’s educational programming.

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“We’ve just so enjoyed being able to be supportive for all these youngsters and we’d like to continue doing more work with children in the future and more work in the outlying areas,” Saludes says. “There are so many children who live in outlying areas, in these small cities, who have never experienced going to a gallery or a museum.”

The $7 million grant comes at a high-profile time for Arte. The cultural center recently concluded a six-month run of “Boom Oaxaca,” an original exhibition financed by the McClatchy Fresno Arts Endowment. More than 8,000 people saw the show. Part of it will be moving to an exhibition in March at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago.

There’s also a memorable Dia de Los Muertos exhibition coming soon. “La Añoranza” (“The Longing”), created by resident artists Claudio and Leti Martinez, goes far beyond the typical altars dedicated to individuals. The design includes an indoor “cemetery” that has a focus on the community at large. Volunteers have been showing up every weekend to help create different elements of the exhibition. It runs Oct. 1-Nov. 6.

As for looking into the future: Things are looking bright.

“It couldn’t have been more timely after COVID and all of the difficulties that we’ve been through, just trying to survive,” Saludes says. “It bodes well for the future. It truly, truly is a milestone for Arte Américas. It’s going to be a real changer for the future of our organization.”


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.

Comments (2)

  • Jackie Ryle

    What a wonderful report, Donald. Thank you. So good to read. So happy for Arte Americas!

  • Steph

    Out of 9.5, Artes gets 7.0. PP gets 1 mil.

    Who earns the remainder?

    For an organization operating at around 500K tops a year, this grant is clearly telling them one thing: You’re in the center of the state. The Ag center. More Latinx folks than anywhere else.

    So it’s time to become a beacon of tourist travel from around the state. It won’t be the next MoMa or Getty, but it should be damn well near that.

    The grant has put Artes on a difficult path of expected growth, with grand exhibits, statewide exhibit marketing, and bigger fundraising efforts using some of this money for lobbying.

    Artes has always been the little guy that could; now it’s grow-up time, time to show everyone else how it’s done!

    And I’m 100% confident they can do it! Dream big, Artes – build it and they will come.


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