Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula poses with an oversized check at a news conference Wednesday at Arte Americas in Downtown Fresno. Photo by Ben Hensley
Written by Gabriel Dillard
Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula, alongside Fresno City Councilmembers Nelson Esparza and Miguel Arias, presented a $7 million check to Arte Americas Wednesday for renovations aimed at broadening the museum’s access to Central Valley residents.
The center is currently the only Latino cultural arts center in the Central San Joaquin Valley, with the closest cultural arts centers located in Stockton and Los Angeles. Most recently, the center hosted the Boom Oaxaca exhibit, focusing on humanizing farmworkers and their labor.
“We need to be able to celebrate that our diversity is our strength, and that by looking into our culture and by understanding how we can express ourselves in art, we can be a stronger community,” Arambula said.
The building has a unique history since its construction in 1910, originally operating as a residence before being purchased by a church, and eventually becoming a bank before finding its current resident, Arte Americas.
Since opening in 1987 originally in the Warnors Theatre, Arte Americas has called 1630 Van Ness Ave. home since 1995. The institution’s focus is Latino arts and culture, attracting tens of thousands of guests to its art exhibitions, events and educational programs.
“We are striving to become a premier cultural center and accredited museum, which would enable us to host more prominent art exhibitions,” said Vivian Velasco Paz, president of the Arte Americas board of directors. “We should be able to host international art exhibitions while, at the same time, continue to feature and elevate our local Latino artists.”
Velasco Paz added that the funds will address several of the center’s most pressing needs, including maintenance to the 111-year-old building. The $7 million will also include upgrading an upstairs classroom for students to visit and learn about cultural art in the Central Valley and beyond.
The funds also provide the center the opportunity to expand educational programs for children, in particular, children located in rural communities and outlying areas.
Councilmember Arias said the funds will strengthen Arte Americas’ operations and plans for the future, adding that the City of Fresno has set aside $400,000 for the center, with Measure P providing additional funds.
Arambula has secured a total of $21.5 million in general fund allocations for a variety of organizations in the 31st Assembly District, he said.
“It takes neighbors standing with neighbors to be able to be proud of our community to make sure we get our fair share,” Arambula said. “It took us banding together and advocating to make sure that we can provide opportunities for future generations.”
Arte Americas is receiving the state funds after the Fresno City Council overrode a veto from Mayor Jerry Dyer last week. The city was designated as a pass-thru entity for the money in a package that also included $1 million for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte and $1.5 million for Neighborhood Industries.
The Planned Parenthood funding generated much debate and controversy, prompting the veto.
Nonprofit Neighborhood Industries plans to put its funding toward the purchase and renovation of its headquarters and thrift shop in the Tower District, as well as expand its job creation programs.