Aug 08, 2020

Downtown art looks up

Photos By Matt Weir / The Collegian

When students think of downtown Fresno, thoughts of empty lots, condemned buildings, and a tragic reminder of what once was comes to mind. Within the last decade, some have tried to change that image with no success. Recently however, downtown has been under the watchful eye of many due to the lively addition of the Mural District.

The Mural District, the creation of Reza Assemi, lies just south of the Tower District and extends to Broadway Studios. It has been an area of conversation lately not only because of its luxury lofts, but also because its focus on the arts.

From the newly opened Iron Bird Lofts on Divisadero Street, all the way to Broadway Studios on Tuolumne Street, large murals grace the walls of buildings that are newly constructed and those waiting to be revitalized.

Some people have had their eye on the Iron Bird Lofts since the developers unveiled what many did not expect to see: gargoyle sculptures at the corners of the building grasping onto their younglings as they attempt to fly away.

Many locals had different reactions to the sculptures.

“Anytime you do anything in public, there is no way to make everyone happy,” Assemi said.

Assemi said there are plans unveil a larger statue on the side of the Iron Bird Café close to the corner of Divisadero and Fulton Street, Assemi said. However, he preferred not to comment on the statue until its unveiling.

Photos By Matt Weir / The Collegian

The loft showcases murals and sculptures from local artists like Josh Wigger and Francisco Vargas. Their signature styles can be easily identified by those who have seen their previous murals throughout Fresno.

Still, those who choose to live in the lofts tend to find the art appealing. Billy Delara, who currently lives in the Tower District, said she is moving into the H Street Lofts in March.

“There’s nothing else in Fresno like it,” Delara said, speaking of the presentation of the lofts. “It never really bothers me. I was going to protest when the neighborhood wanted to paint over the mural in Tower.”

Delara added that he has seen the gargoyles at the Iron Bird Lofts and appreciated their presence.

“They’re pretty funny,” Delara said. “I tend to like stuff like that.” From what he has heard, it is definitely a statue that is bound to start some controversy.

For some students, the debate over how to present public art has been presented. But for art major Roy Flake the two different sides are clear.

“Street art is one of my favorite types of art. I really appreciate it,” Flake said. “However, there are people trying to keep businesses going. Their concerns are legitimate.”

Flake also said he knows people understand the work and some students would like to be involved with what is going on downtown. “I know the debate is known among students and some may even present it in a similar style,” said Flake.

The Mural District has created some controversy based on what some would consider tasteful and what is considered outlandish based on the surrounding neighborhoods. It has sparked creative conversations between local residents and students alike.

The future of downtown Fresno, according to Assemi, is in the local arts whether people agree with it or not.

“We get a lot of negativity about Fresno in general. If I listen to negativity, I wouldn’t get anything done,” said Assemi.

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