Museum caters to younger audiences, displays edgy pieces

Fresno Art Museum director shakes things up

Matt Weir / The Collegian

Museum caters to younger audiences, displays edgy pieces

The Fresno Art Museum’s new executive director Linda Cano looks right at home in the museum galleries she’s spent the last few months presiding over.

“I’ve been involved with the museum for a long time,” said Cano. “I volunteered here in my undergraduate days, and I did a couple of internships here in grad school.”

Since taking her current position with the museum in June, her realization that the central valley’s art scene is dying has played a role in what direction Cano’s staff want to go in.

“We want to take some chances and display art that will attract a younger audience,” said Cano.

Exhibits that appeal to younger viewers, like the CruciFiction display that opened earlier this month, embodies a risky concept brought to life by artist Mark Rodriguez. The exhibit features 17th-century model spikes rammed through books, one of which is what Cano calls a “classic undergraduate art textbook, “Jensen’s History of Art.”

“The piece is supposed to symbolize the demise of the printed word,” Cano said. “In a digital world where people read books on Kindles, we’re literally crucifying fiction.”

Another edgy piece, which features a pile of 250,000 loose keys, is unlike any other display the Fresno Art Museum has ever had. “Every key has a story,” said Cano. “This is the kind of piece people really like. It’s interactive, not just the kind of art that hangs on a wall and you stare at it.”

A unique collection the museum is featuring is an untitled collection by local artist Phil Bower. The collection displays colorful patterns held together by staples. One of the pieces in the collection features rhinestones used as tears under images of eyes.

Though younger ideas are part of the museum’s newest displays, one of the biggest problems facing the museum is a drop in donations. The problems created by a poor economy combined with a belief that San Joaquin Valley’s art is dying caused regular benefactors of the museum to stop donating. Though most valley residents didn’t expect the Fresno Metropolitan Museum to affect the Fresno Art Museum, the closing of one was inextricably linked with the other.

“The Met closing had a huge impact on the amount of people who donated,” said Cano. “It was a big part of the valley’s art scene that died, and after that a lot of people thought, ‘Why should we donate? It’s dying anyway.’”

The pieces exhibited in the Met, despite Cano’s discussions with Met staff, were sold at an auction. “I thought those pieces should stay in the Valley,” said Cano. “That art was an important part of our culture, and it should have stayed here. Now it’s spread far and wide.”

Despite setbacks, the museum has continued to pull through. “A lot of our ideas cater to younger students and families,” said Cano. “We want to engage the community and display art relevant to valley life.”