Fresno State art professor dies at 67

Paulette Fleming
Paulette Fleming

Dr. Paulette Fleming, a nationally recognized Fresno State professor of art and design, died Saturday. She was 67.

Dr. Fleming started at Fresno State in 1988 and was the first recipient of the J. Eugene Grigsby Award for meritorious service to art education by the Committee on Multicultural Affairs of the National Art Education Association, the school said.

At the time of her death, she was working on a mural project with children and young adults at the Lafayette Park and Community Center in collaboration with Partners in Arts, the city of Fresno and The Way Ministries.

She was also a member of the Fresno State Black Faculty and Staff Association.

Francine Oputa, president of the association and a close friend of Dr. Fleming, said the Fresno community is “heartbroken at the loss of this drum major for justice.” She added, “Dr. Fleming had a special love for children and youth. She put that love into action in her work with some of Fresno’s most vulnerable children and youth through the use of visual and performing arts.”

She also was co-founder and executive director of the Partners-in-Art youth program, which was selected to be one of 25 university projects nationwide invited to present at the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Fresno State said she received many honors working in education and community involvement.

“We will cherish her memory and will miss her commitment to the university’s students and colleagues,” said Martin Valencia, chair of the art and design department. “The community will miss a great ambassador for the children and social justice.”

Dr. Fleming was the recipient of the Service Award for the College of Arts and Humanities, an NAACP Image Award for Civic Engagement, the California Visual Art Educator of the Year Award for 2008, the Trailblazer Award for Outstanding Community Leadership from the African American Historical and Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley in 2011, and she was recognized as one of Fresno’s Top Ten Professional Women of the Year for 2010.

Dr. Fleming is survived by her daughter, Jamillah Finley of Fresno, and three grandchildren.

Services are pending.