Fresno Art Museum asks Fresno State to explore museum’s future

The Board of Trustees of the Fresno Art Museum has voted to enter into an “exploration” period with California State University, Fresno to allow the university to examine how to support and expand the viability of the Fresno Art Museum.

In a joint press release, the university and museum said that at the request of community members concerned about the future of the Fresno Art Museum, Fresno State recently discussed with museum leaders the possibility that the university investigate how it might play a role in the museum’s future.

At its meeting Monday, Feb. 8, the museum board formally asked the university to undertake a four- to six-week exploration.

Among the possibilities is that the university acquire the collections and assume operations of Fresno Art Museum at its existing location near Clinton Avenue and First Street in east-central Fresno.

“The board voted unanimously to ask Fresno State to consider ways it could help the Fresno Art Museum,” said museum trustees chair Tom Speck. “Through the years, the museum and Fresno State have partnered in numerous ventures, so we’re enthusiastic about exploring the possibilities for the future that would benefit our patrons, the membership of the museum, community neighbors, cultural arts in the region and Fresno State students and faculty.”

Dr. Vida Samiian, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, said, “The Fresno Art Museum is a treasure for Fresno and our entire Valley, and we at Fresno State are very interested in determining how it can be enhanced for the benefit of the community.

“Obviously, since the university faces its own challenges from reduced state funding, we must approach this carefully. We will be very clear on this: This effort will require community members to step forward with financial commitments,” Samiian said.

“If that happens, we’re confident the university and the museum can offer residents of this area the artistic experiences so important to the cultural health of a community.”

Samiian believes there are opportunities to expand arts and cultural education outreach to children and K-12 schools. Such a partnership also would enhance scholarly and artistic interaction for faculty and students at Fresno State, including new coursework in museum and curatorial studies and arts administration.

“All these opportunities can grow and expand with greater operational involvement of the university,” Samiian said.

Fresno State has a long connection with the Fresno Art Museum in enhancing the cultural arts experience of Valley residents.

Faculty in the university’s Department of Art and Design have exhibited at the Fresno Art Museum, donated work to the museum, and served on museum committees. Fresno State graduate students and art majors have worked as interns and docents. The College of Arts and Humanities has hosted the museum’s Artists in Residence program.

The Fresno Art Museum also has been an active participant in California State University Summer Arts programs hosted by Fresno State. Summer Arts mixes instruction and public presentations by acclaimed visual, theater and other artists.

The museum also has been a key player in programs such as last year’s tribute to the origins of the feminist art movement in the United States, which began at Fresno State. The university’s first-in-the-nation feminist art education program was established in 1970 by Judy Chicago, considered one of the most important figures in contemporary art.

Over the years, university faculty and administrators, including Arts and Humanities dean Samiian and her predecessor, Dr. Luis Costa (who died in 2006), have served on the museum’s Board of Trustees.

The Fresno Art Museum was established in 1948, evolving from a group of local artists who formed the Fresno Art League to critique and exhibit their work.

The museum has expanded into a regional museum with a wide-ranging collection of its own, a close connection with the regional art community and a full schedule of exhibitions across a broad spectrum of genres. It has also become a popular venue for art films, lectures, concerts and poetry readings in the museum’s role as a cultural catalyst for the community.

Since 1973, the Fresno Art Museum has been an accredited member of the American Association of Museums.

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