22 March 2009

Amazing Visions Blog Carnival

Shelly over at This Eclectic Life has a guest blogger today with a writer's prompt. Damien Riley at Riley Central, has challenged us to write about someone you have known whose life was extraordinary. What can we learn from their life and their amazing vision? After you’ve written it, you’re invited to go back to This Eclectic Life and submit your post to the carnival.

Me being me, I have to fudge a little simply because I came across something a few days ago that was such a joy to see about a place I know well that one person's art has changed so much for the better. I don't know artists of the Fresno Mural Project or Reza Assemi and the architects, artists, and builders of the H Street, Iron Bird and Vagabond lofts, but I owe them all a debt of gratitude.

As a child there were times when I freely wandered the streets of Fresno. There were the great theaters left over from the 30s and 40s where for 25 cents each I could spend a summer day in air conditioned comfort. There was courthouse park with its wonderful shade trees, beautiful old building and lovely fountain. There were restaurants of just about any ethnic source that might appeal to you. My favorite was a Greek restaurant where I could get the coiled baklava as a special treat. Along with all that ethnic infusion there was music of just about every imaginable kind, and on the way home there was another special treat, a beautiful mural showing the history of California painted decades before my appearance by some unknown artist working in the depression.

You can imagine my horror when I returned decades later to find a dead space of closed buildings, a modernistic squared off horror in place of the graceful courthouse, the theaters closed, and the streets the residence of homeless, mentally ill, and druggies. The only reason left to go "downtown" was to be on jury duty or to be the person on trial.

Now thanks to the remarkable artists and the lofts that give them and small businesses a home, something wonderful has happened. When combined with the actions of the redevelopment agency and a new AAA ballpark, the downtown of Fresno is coming back to life, and I can't wait to see again, if only to go on the walking art tour and see all the new statuary and murals. It proves what a small group of people can do when they face dirt and ugliness and see color and beauty.


carol g said...

Next time I head south, I will stop in Fresno instead of just passing by on the 99. Kind of reminds me of my old home town in Western Mass.

Travis said...

All I remember about downtown Fresno is that it was a place you didn't want to be if you didn't have to be. I'm glad to hear that people have taken notice and worked to bring it back from that neglect.