Posted by Kate Borders
How often do we tout the public art that is located around our downtown corridor? I talk about the art regularly and praise the fact that we have such a valuable collection. I have walked around downtown and paused for a moment at the various sculptures and fountains that mark the landscape of Downtown Fresno. In every conversation about the removal of the pedestrian space and the return of vehicular traffic, we make certain to quantify the process with an obligation – a necessity – to retain the art in the very immediate vicinity. Yes, the public art collection is a major part of our daily conversation and our deeply rooted understanding of what is important to downtown now. I would even argue that we, as a community, have heard this so regularly, that we have become numb to the very things that we hold in such high regard.
It happens everywhere. The unique – the remarkable – the outstanding, blend into the background after time wears away the newness and the chatter dies down. I admit that I too had been a passive participant and until recently, I had never really gotten to know the downtown art collection. I had never studied where the light hits the bolts that create the body of Bucephalus. I hadn’t watched closely the flow of the water out of Ellipsoid VI. I wasn’t familiar with the ceramic leaves that adorn the wall across from the Saroyan Theater. But I was as quick as anyone to claim, “There’s a Renoir sitting on the Fulton Mall!” Truthfully, beyond that statement, my actual knowledge of the downtown public art collection was pitiful.
So I decided I should be a tourist/art student in Downtown Fresno and acquaint myself with the riches that are scattered around us. Me, my camera and a handful of Saturday afternoons …over a thousand images later and I feel differently about my relationship with these works. We have a thing now. Whether I adore the piece or find it obtrusive, now I get it. And I feel as though I delved a little deeper …
I would argue that this surface level engagement, while not unusual, is a large part of the problem with our community’s troubled relationship with downtown. Fresno has gotten busy and life is whirling by and the detailed, historic elegance of a static downtown is forgotten and easily passed up for other endeavors. We all need to reacquaint ourselves with what makes our downtown distinctive. We need to stop ignoring the beauty and we need to start recognizing the grandeur. There are places of splendor, buildings of stature, institutions of elegance and whispers of history throughout our downtown. Sure there is dusting, cleaning, and repairs to be done, but like a grand old home, our downtown is quietly and gracefully awaiting our return.