tumblr_ng4zeo3IeF1u59p3po4_r1_500A couple of years ago, Fresno arts types were buzzing about an ambitious plan cooked up at Fresno State to put together a blockbuster exhibition on campus devoted to Diego Rivera, the famed Mexican muralist. The university’s Center for Creativity and the Arts was going to coordinate what was billed as “The Year of Diego Rivera.” The planned centerpiece was going to be an exhibition of approximately 80 of Rivera’s works that would have traveled from the world-famous Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (INBA) in Mexico City.

José Diaz, former acting dean of Fresno State’s College of Art and Humanities, told me this week that INBA was impressed with the project’s vision and wanted to “make their national treasure available to the substantially large population of Mexican immigrants, ex-patriots, and generations of U.S. citizens of Mexican heritage in the San Joaquin Valley.” Such a project aligned with the Mexican president’s public desire to make Mexican artistic and cultural works available to that demographic in the U.S.

Unfortunately, the project fell through because in the end there was no space on the Fresno State campus that could accommodate the strict exhibition standards required by the Mexican government to host the collection.

There could have been other benefits.

“In the long term vision, it had been our hope that if we could retrofit a suitable space on campus to meet INBA’s standards to host the exhibit, we could generate enough public interest to launch a capital campaign to build a world-class museum space on campus,” Diaz said.

So how does the new show of Frida Kahlo photographs at the Fresno Art Museum — which opens Friday — fit into all this?

As I write in my preview for the show in Friday’s 7 section, the Kahlo show was originally meant to be a complement to the Rivera show. The idea was that Fresno could offer a multiple-venue experience for out-of-town visitors. When the Rivera exhibition fell through, the museum decided to go ahead with the Kahlo show.

It’s too bad things didn’t work out as planned, because a big, exclusive Diego Rivera show would have been a real coup for the Fresno arts scene — not to mention a nice economic jolt for the region.

Looking ahead, I’m curious if the university can still figure out a way to build or retrofit a museum-caliber exhibition space on campus. Or would it make more sense for Fresno State and the Fresno Art Museum to combine forces and collaborate on a single impressive facility appropriate for a major California city? We can only dream.

Donald Munro

Donald Munro

Donald Munro is The Bee's arts and culture critic. He currently has the opening song to "Galavant" stuck in his head and doesn't know if he can ever get it out.
Donald Munro

One thought on “As Frida Kahlo show opens, a reminder of what could have been

  • February 2, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    Dear Donald,
    Did Dr. Diaz ever mention that Fresno State had agreed to retrofit the Student Satellite for the exhibition and had knowledge that it might cost 9 million dollars to do it, but if they would have retrofitted another underused space – the Gym, that it would have cost well under 2 million? As well as that Fresno State, Dr. Castro and Dr. Cynthia Matson (ex-right hand of the President), had agreed to go ahead with a survey of the retrofit and hired an Executive Director to lead the project? And, that this Executive Director was able to raise almost one million dollars in three months as a sign that with the enormous support of this exhibition by the public we could have raised another couple of million dollars with no problem? It seems to me that the Executive Director did not have the support of the powers-to-be to make it happen. Perhaps they didn’t think bringing Diego Rivera was really important to the University – much less the community, and that creating an art space to hold a museum and world-class exhibitions, as other CSU do, “is not what Fresno State is in the business of doing.” Shame that Fresno State doesn’t see beyond sports.


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