Juan Felipe Herrera celebrates the end of his term as U.S. poet laureate with a memorable Fresno State concert
The event: Fresno’s Juan Felipe Herrera, the 21st poet laureate of the United States, was back in town Tuesday with the Fresno State Chamber Singers to reprise the closing concert at the Library of Congress that marked the end of his term.
The man of the hour: Herrera has a special knack when dealing with official occasions and the various rituals afforded an artist of his stature. He knows how to never underplay the dignity of a ceremonial moment. He can come across as refreshingly relaxed and informal, but there’s a certain gravitas and authority there, too, a reflection of his ability to get along with the establishment but also give it a bit of a hard time. On this evening at the university’s Concert Hall, he’s dressed in a casual bone-colored sports jacket, bright plaid shirt and a cheerful white hat.
The format: Most poets treat a reading as something to do in a single voice. Herrera wanted a choir. Benjamin Boone and Kenneth Froelich, both Fresno State music composition professors, teamed up with the poet, setting the words to music. Then the university’s Chamber Singers, under the direction of Cari Earnhart, brought the resulting songs to life at the Washington, D.C., concert. “This is a dream that I had as a child,” Herrera tells the audience before the Fresno event begins. “It’s about standing up, facing the people, giving a voice to the people.”
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.
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