The Fresno Art Museum offers a dynamic experience for appreciating art. The museum welcomes, inspires, and educates a diverse regional audience through significant exhibitions, thought-provoking programs, and meaningful interactions with artists and the creative process.
In the late 1940s, a group of local artists formed the Fresno Art League to provide a facility to exhibit and critique each other’s work and to share their enthusiasm for art. The League gathered support for their organization from the community, and in 1949, the Fresno Arts Center was incorporated. In 1960, after years of planning, the Fresno Arts Center building in Radio Park at First Street and Clinton Avenue was dedicated.
The Fresno Arts Center became an active venue for art exhibitions and educational programs including artist talks, workshops, and art classes for children and adults. A mission statement, goals, and objectives were developed. In 1973 the Arts Center was granted accreditation by the American Association of Museums (now, American Alliance of Museums) after an extensive study of the organization, finances, staff expertise, programs, care and storage of the permanent collection, and physical facilities.
In 1985 the Board of Trustees changed the Center’s name to the Fresno Arts Center and Museum. The name was changed again to the Fresno Art Museum in 1988, following a suggestion from the American Association of Museums that was made during the re-accreditation process. Over the ensuing years, the Museum has continued to maintain its accreditation, most recently being reaccredited in 2016.
The Fresno Art Museum's permanent collection preserves and protects over 3,600 works. The main focus of the permanent collection and exhibitions is on modern and contemporary artworks (painting, sculpture, prints, photographs, and other media) from the 20th and 21st centuries, Mesoamerican works from Mexico and the Andes, and modern and folk art of Mexican origin. The permanent collection includes works by Ansel Adams, Ruth Asawa, Salvador Dali, Maynard Dixon, Patty Handley, August Madrigal, Robin Gay McCline, Robert Ogata, Pablo Picasso, Rolland Pickford, Clement Renzi, Diego Rivera, Norman Rockwell, Varaz Samuelian, Anne Schied, Andy Warhol, and Nancy Youdelman, among others.
The Museum has also hosted exhibitions that have included a wide range of visual arts media from local as well as nationally and internationally known artists that has included painting, sculpture, graphics, photography, fine crafts (fiber arts, ceramics, jewelry, glass), to cultural artifacts, all borrowed from private, corporate, and other museum collections. Since 1988, the Museum has annually honored an internationally recognized women artist with a Distinguished Woman Artist Award and exhibition through its Council of 100.
Art education has long been a very important mission of the Fresno Art Museum. In addition to lectures, trips to other museums, extensive label copy, docent tours, and classes in the visual arts, FAM hosts nearly 8,000 schoolchildren annually for gallery tours and art experiences. The Museum has a partnership with with the Office of the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools through the Kennedy Center's Partners in Education program (since 2020) and the Any Give Child initiative (since 2013.) In support of those programs, an exhibition featuring children's book illustrators has been curated annually since 2013.
While the Museum is best known for showing modern and contemporary art, exhibitions that reflect the visual arts traditions of the ethnic groups that contribute to the rich diversity of the San Joaquin Valley have also been part of the exhibition schedule from the early years. Cultural and issue-related exhibitions in a variety of media have been given prominence in recent years, as have solo exhibitions for local artists of merit, curated in-house by Museum staff.
THE FRESNO ART MUSEUM BUILDING
Construction costs for the original Fresno Arts Center facility, built in 1960, were shared by the City of Fresno and the Arts Center ($30,000 each). The Arts Center then deeded the building to the City and entered into a contract to lease it for $1.00 a year. The terms of the contract specify that the City is responsible for the maintenance of the building’s exterior, while the Arts Center (now Fresno Art Museum) is responsible for its interior. Since the 1970s, the building has undergone a number of major expansions, all of which were funded by generous community donors. In the 40 years between 1960 and 2000, the size of the building grew from its original 10,000 square feet to over 27,000. The additions included a number of exhibition galleries, a kitchen, gift shop, the Bonner Auditorium, the expanded entrance and entry plaza, and the Sculpture Garden. The vaults that house the permanent collection were added to and upgraded, as were the curatorial and preparatory spaces and the administrative offices.
The Council of 100 was originally formed to provide financial and other support for the Museum’s year-long celebration of the work of women artists in 1986/1987. Annually since 1988, the Fresno Art Museum has exhibited the work of the Council’s Distinguished Woman Artist of the Year award winner.
The Women’s Auxiliary of the Fresno Art Museum was disbanded in 2018. Originally founded by the Junior League in the 1960s as the Women’s Board, it was a significant volunteer organization for the Museum and a source of financial support throughout its history.
The Fresno Art Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums
(formerly the American Association of Museums).