‘Art does not need to be just on gallery walls.’ Fresno intersection gets new life

Volunteers paint the intersection at N. Van Ness Blvd and Weldon Ave. Saturday, July 6, 2019 in Fresno.
Volunteers paint the intersection at N. Van Ness Blvd and Weldon Ave. Saturday, July 6, 2019 in Fresno. ezamora@fresnobee.com

Style and color has arrived to a crosswalk at a historic Fresno intersection.

Once the paint dries where Echo and Weldon avenues meet, the intersection will offer a reflection of the Fresno High School neighborhood, down to the architecture of the school’s Ed Royce Hall and the Big Red Church up the street.

The work is being made possible through $20,000 in funding — a $10,000 California Arts Council grant matched by another $10,000 from Fresno councilwoman Esmeralda Soria’s office.

Olive and Wishon avenues in the Tower District are next up in the two-part series of street face lifts in the city.

“Art does not need to be just on gallery walls, or museums,” Fresno Arts Council spokeswoman Lisa Herrick said. “It can be on your walking path, you can encounter it every day.”

The idea for crosswalk art was put in front of neighborhood residents starting a few years back, and the original thinkers of the project, including muralist Mauro Carrera and project director Julian Ramos, drafted plans from the responses they got. Residents said they envisioned a few themes that could encompass the project: inclusivity, arts and history.

Artist Mauro Carrera, center, helps volunteers paint the intersection at N. Van Ness Blvd and Weldon Ave. Saturday, July 6, 2019 in Fresno. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

On Saturday morning, the the painters got to work.

Artists sprayed away and stroked their brushes over the street. Nearby residents, who walked their dogs or jogged past the intersection, got an early peek at the new installment in their neighborhood. The intersection was closed for half the day until the project was finished.

There are several motives behind the project. Councilwoman Soria said it’s about economic development. Lilia Chavez, executive director of Fresno Arts Council, said research backs up the safety factor in adding street art to a community.

“When you install art in the crosswalk, drivers drive more carefully,” she said.

For the artists involved, the motive is to enrich the creativity in the region and inspire other artists.

Ramos, who thought of the idea three years ago, said he’d like to see crosswalk art replicated in different parts of the city. Imaginative volunteers are invited to the crosswalk art painting outside the Tower Theater, starting at 6 a.m. on July 13.

“Whatever I can do in the years that I have remaining (as councilwoman), I’m going to continue to be able to support these types of projects,” Soria said.

Soria and Chavez pointed to the Fresno High neighborhood’s creative transformation over the years as an example of the impact of adding character to neighborhoods through art.

“When the arts are present in a community, there’s more activity, there’s more spending,” Chavez said.

Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado is a general assignment reporter at The Fresno Bee. He grew up in Porterville and has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Fresno State. He is a former student editor at the Fresno State and Fresno City College newspapers. His hobbies include reading, sleeping, running and taking care of his dog.