A salute to this year’s Horizon Award winners

Annual honors are given by the Fresno Arts Council

In acknowledgement of Sunday’s Horizon Awards ceremony, I want to give a shout-out to each and every winner of this prestigious honor from the Fresno Arts Council. I’m familiar with all but two of the winners, and I’ll add a few comments about each of those I know. Feel free to add your own comments about the honorees and how they have impacted the community; this is one of those times when it’s fine to get a little gushy.


Citizen: Howard Watkins. It’d be hard to imagine the Fresno cultural scene without Howard and his ever-present camera on the scene, recording numerous events for posterity. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been corralled by Howard to pose for a giant group photo. His images can be accessed at his large and comprehensive Howard K. Watkins Photographic Archive, where you can view and individually download more than 160,000 historic and current photographs. I know that Howard is usually on the other side of the lens at Horizon Awards ceremonies; who will be there to take his photo?

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Heidi Blickenstaff nabs starring role in ‘Freaky Friday’ Disney movie

Today’s big news for those of us who follow All Things Blickenstaff is exciting: The Fresno favorite is going to be starring in a TV movie version of “Freaky Friday” in the role she originated in the new stage musical.


From the studio:

Actresses Heidi Blickenstaff (“The Little Mermaid” and “Something Rotten!” on Broadway and the stage production of “Freaky Friday”) and Cozi Zuehlsdorff (“Dolphin Tale,” “Liv and Maddie”) will star in an update of the American classic “Freaky Friday, a Disney Channel musical comedy set to begin production this fall for a 2018 debut as part of the Disney Channel Original Movie franchise. The movie is based on Disney Theatrical Productions stage adaptation of the celebrated novel by Mary Rodgers and Disney’s popular feature films of the same name.

Three reasons why this is wonderful:

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May the force not always be with us

Are the new security measures at Saroyan Theatre the new normal? I hope not

The Bee’s Rory Appleton has an interesting piece about something new for audience members at the Saroyan Theatre: bag checks and metal detectors. The practice is part of a larger trend of increased security at the Save Mart Center, Selland Arena and other local venues.

Appleton writes:

A series of unrelated events both in Fresno and abroad have led many of the local venues to tighten up their bag policies. Some also have added metal detectors to their entrance routines. Both are a byproduct of 2017 life, but both have led to long entrance lines for everything from rock concerts and symphony performances to San Joaquin Valley Town Hall events.

My first encounter with the Saroyan’s new security policy was the long line to get into the Fresno Philharmonic’s opening pops concert of the season on Saturday night. When I arrived at about 7:20 p.m., 10 minutes before the concert was to begin, the line to get into the south entrance stretched almost to the parking garage.

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From a spark, the arts get down to business

Innovative partnership between business leaders and schools relies on a pragmatic philosophy: the arts are needed for economic survival

Here’s something to celebrate about Fresno County: Local business leaders and educators are leading the way in terms of supporting arts education in our schools.

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I got to know a lot more about the county’s innovative arts-business coalition and its SPARK! program when writing a freelance story that was posted yesterday on the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation website. The folks at Hewlett are so enamored of this program — which was originally conceived by Bob Bullwinkel at the Fresno County Office of Education and Darius Assemi of Granville Homes — that they awarded two sizable grants, totaling $280,000, to build the SPARK! program’s website and market it.

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Summer Arts drought officially ends

At a swanky party, Fresno arts community turns out to welcome return of a beloved summer institution

Welcome back, Summer Arts.

After five years spent cooling down in the climes of Monterey Bay, the California State University’s acclaimed summer program is back in Fresno. And I can already tell you that in terms of community reception, things are heating up. On Wednesday night a large group of supporters descended upon the Woodward Lake home of Armen and Dan Bacon to celebrate the return of the program (which kicks off June 26 and runs in two sessions through July 23) and raise money for student scholarships.

Summer Arts is an immersive session for students from all over California who get to work with world-class artists. There’s a great payoff for the community, too, in a series of public performance events.

Fresno State hosted Summer Arts for a monumental 13 years before the program scooted off to the coast, and the university was reluctant to see it go. Now that it’s back, I’m excited about covering some of the remarkable artists and students coming to Fresno.

I collected digital autographs of some of the people at the party, including key Summer Arts movers and shakers.

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Welcoming a (really tall) new downtown mural

What’s five stories tall and makes you proud of downtown Fresno?

The answer is a massive mural livening up the historic Fresno Bee building painted by Francisco Letelier and Mauro Carrera. The Arte Américas project will officially be unveiled at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 11, in a program that will include outgoing U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.

Musicians Omar Naré and Patrick Contreras will kick off the program, which also will feature words from supporters of the project and the reading of a poem by a student from a neighborhood school.

Frank Delgado, the executive director of Arte, says:

This is the thirty year anniversary of Arte Américas, and this mural simply emphasizes the impact that our organization has made on the Cultural Arts District and is a testament to the dedication that we have in continuing to make the Valley a flourishing place for Latino art. The best part is that we have plans to continue to install murals in the Downtown Fresno area.

Tiles will be sold to run along the base of the mural as a fundraiser for those murals.

A reception at 11 a.m. will follow at Arte.

Mural artists Francisco Letelier and Mauro Carrera. Photo / Arte Américas

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A blog is born

I’m here and I’m clearly passionate about continuing to cover local arts.

New platform. Newer Donald.

Welcome to The Munro Review, where I cover arts, culture and other interesting stuff in the central San Joaquin Valley. I spent the last 16 years covering local arts and culture for The Fresno Bee. Now I’m ready to take my passion for the arts to the next level.

Based on questions you’ve been asking, here’s a quick rundown to start things off:

Q: What do you plan to cover on The Munro Review?

A: I’m going to offer a curated look at the local scene with a special emphasis on theater, classical music, visual art, dance, the literary arts and anything else that strikes my fancy. I believe that advance stories about upcoming events are an important part of arts coverage because they give audience members added context in terms of relating to and connecting with artistic events. I’ll be continuing to offer a critical voice through reviews, and I will cover local arts news. I’ll throw in coverage of some of my own interests, too, including travel and books, and will likely be unleashing some Fresno-centric commentary from time to time. All this is in the early stages, but I’m excited about the possibilities ahead.

Photo / Craig Kohlruss

Q: Will other writers be contributing?

A: Maybe! I’m starting off as a one-person show, but who knows what the future holds?

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