Spend time in Fresno and you’ll quickly discover that this Central Valley city has a homegrown art scene independent of those in California’s larger metropolitan area.
With a history that dates to the late 1940s, the celebrated Fresno Art Museum (FAM) is the city’s most prominent cultural destination. Built in 1960, the museum building has nearly tripled in size over the years, and now serves as the impressive home for a collection that focuses on contemporary American art, modern and folk art from Mexico, and pre-Columbian ceramics—some as old as 2,500 years.
Among the most renowned works in the permanent collection is El dia de las flores, Xochimilco, a 1926 painting by Diego Rivera. Definitely check the schedule for an innovative lineup of special exhibitions. Recent events have included shows about iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (who was married to Rivera), California nature photography, and the works of legendary photographer Ansel Adams.
FAM partners with Arte Américas, another prominent Fresno arts institution. Focused on Latino arts and culture, from the traditional to the avant-garde, Arte Américas’ galleries include one that displays works from FAM’s collection. The center hosts a variety of events, including Nights in the Plaza, a summer concert series held at La Plazita, its landscaped outdoor space. Across the street, in Fresno’s Cultural Arts District, Arte Américas recently unveiled a mural inspired by the works of Rivera and dedicated to Central Valley writers—among them, Fresno native son and Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist William Saroyan.
For another way to experience Fresno’s creative vibe, go to ArtHop, held on the first and third Thursday of every month. The first Thursday event centers on downtown Fresno and the Tower District, where you can meet local artists, listen to live music, and enjoy extended hours at museums and galleries. The third Thursday ArtHop event features venues in outlying parts of the city.