The Fresno Art Museum offers a dynamic experience for appreciating art. The museum welcomes, inspires, and educates a diverse regional audience through significant exhibitions, thought-provoking programs, and meaningful interactions with artists and the creative process.
In the late 1940’s, a group of local artists formed the Fresno Art League to provide a forum to exhibit and critique each other’s work and to share their enthusiasm for art. The League gathered support for their organization from the community and in 1949, the Fresno Arts Center was incorporated. In 1960, after years of planning, the Fresno Arts Center building in Radio Park was dedicated.
The Fresno Arts Center became an active venue for art exhibitions and educational programs including artist talks, workshops, and art classes for children and adults. A mission statement, goals, and objectives were developed. The Arts Center was granted accreditation by the American Association of Museums in 1973, after an extensive study of the Center’s organization, finances, staff expertise, programs, care and storage of the permanent collection, and physical facilities. It has maintained its accreditation continuously since then.
Donated and purchased works of art have increased the size and strength of the Fresno Art Museum's permanent collection over the years. The scope of the collection, which had once included a mummified pigeon from ancient Egypt as well as the work of local artists, was refined over time. It currently has a focus on modern and contemporary works by American artists (painting, sculpture, prints, photographs, and other media). Pre-Columbian works from Mesoamerica and the Andes comprise a significant part of the collection, as do both modern works and folk art of Mexican origin.
In recognition of the growing extent of the permanent collection, the Board of Trustees in 1985 changed the Center’s name to the Fresno Arts Center and Museum. The name was changed to the Fresno Art Museum in 1988, following a suggestion from the American Association of Museums that was made during the reaccreditation process.
The Museum’s exhibitions have included a wide range of visual arts media (painting, sculpture, graphics, photography, and fine crafts such as fiber arts, ceramics, jewelry, glass) by local as well as nationally and internationally known artists. While the Museum is best known for showing modern and contemporary art, exhibitions that reflect the visual arts traditions of the ethnic groups that contribute to the rich diversity of the Central Valley have been part of the exhibition schedule from the early years. Cultural and issue-related exhibitions in a variety of artistic media have been given increased prominence in recent years.
THE FRESNO ART MUSEUM BUILDING
Construction costs for the original Fresno Arts Center facility, built in 1960, were shared by the City of Fresno and the Arts Center ($30,000 each). The Arts Center then deeded the building to the City and entered into a contract to lease it for $1.00 a year. The terms of the contract specify that the City is responsible for the maintenance of the building’s exterior, while the Arts Center (now Fresno Art Museum) is responsible for its interior. Since the 1970’s, the building has undergone a number of major expansions, all of which were funded by generous community donors. In the 40 years between 1960 and 2000, the size of the building grew from its original 10,000 square feet to over 27,000. The additions included a number of exhibition galleries, a kitchen, gift shop, the Bonner Auditorium, the expanded entrance and entry plaza, and the Sculpture Garden. The vaults that house the permanent collection were added to and upgraded, as were the curatorial and preparatory spaces and the administrative offices.
The Women’s Auxiliary of the Fresno Art Museum, founded by the Junior League in the 1960’s as the Women’s Board, has been a significant volunteer organization for the Museum, as well as a source of financial support, throughout its history.
The Council of 100 was originally formed to provide financial and other support for the Museum’s year-long celebration of the work of women artists in 1986/1987. Annually since 1988, the Fresno Art Museum has exhibited the work of the Council’s Distinguished Woman Artist of the Year award winner.
The Fresno Art Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums
(formerly the American Association of Museums).