by Lorie Lewis Ham
The Fresno area has one of the most thriving arts community I’ve ever seen. One of the groups behind that is the Fresno Arts Council which was established in 1979. We took a moment to chat with Lilia Gonzáles Chávez, Executive of the Fresno Arts Council, about who they are and what they do.
KRL: What is the Fresno Arts Council?
Lilia: The Fresno Arts Council (FAC) is the local partner to the California Arts Council designated by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors to serve in that capacity. We also serve as the City of Fresno’s Arts Council.
KRL: What is its main purpose?
Lilia: Our mission is “to enrich people’s lives through the arts”. We do this by providing programs and services that showcase and strengthen the arts community.
KRL: How did it first come to be and why?
Lilia: The Alliance for the Arts was the predecessor of the Arts Council and was established because there was a growing arts community of artists and organizations emerging in Fresno County. These artists and patrons wanted to find a way to be supportive of one another and identify new resources financial and technical assistance that would help them perfect their art and reach the broader community.
KRL: What is your role and how and when did you first become involved?
Lilia: I am the executive Director of the Arts Council and became involved first as a member of the Board of trustees serving on and off since about 1985. As a performing artists and co-founder and Executive Director of Arte Americas, the Arts have always played an important role in my life.
KRL: Can you tell us all of the various things that the arts council is involved in?
Lilia: The Council is primarily an advocate for the Arts and we function as support to artists and arts organization in multiply ways such as, fiscal receivership for individual artists and arts organizations who have not yet received their Non-Profit status, we actively promote the arts and artists through our online promotion, networking, technical assistance services, Arthop, Dinning with the Artists, Public Art, development of a Mural Policy, and opportunities to show case their work which include exhibitions at Fresno City Hall, the FAC Gallery and the annual Horizon Awards. Consistent with our advocacy we have embarked upon an arts in education program that provides Artist with the opportunity to be trained to go into the class room.
KRL: Why do you feel something such as the arts council is important to not only the community but also to local artists?
Lilia: The arts are a critical part of who we are as people. We need to have artistic outlets; since the beginning of time we have found ways to embellish and enhance things around us and create works of art in all disciplines. Unfortunately in today’s society we get so busy with making a living that we sometimes lose sight of those things make living worthwhile; those things that contribute to a humane society. As the Arts Council we strive to keep art alive, ever present in our community and accessible to all.
KRL: Is everyone involved with this volunteer?
Lilia: We work with many volunteers but we are not an volunteer organization. We have two core staff that ensure programs and services are implemented and delivered.
KRL: How has the council changed since it first began?
Lilia:The purpose of the Council has been constant but the way service is delivered and programs offered have changed. We offer more services to artists now than when we first started.
KRL: Who are some of its group members?
Lilia:Members of the Arts Council include patrons of the arts, students, individual artists and arts organizations.
KRL: Where are you located?
Lilia:We are located at 1245 Van Ness Avenue in downtown Fresno.
KRL: How can people get involved?
Lilia:We invite people to become involved as supporting members, volunteers and sponsors for special programs and events. We also encourage people to visit galleries and participate in local arts offerings.
KRL: What can people do to help in what you do?
Lilia:We like to invite people to come in and meet with us to discuss how they can help. We like to work with individual strength and talents and use the skills people bring to share as effectively as possible. For some that might mean visiting once a week and answering the phone or being on call to help with a large mailing. Yet others may be skilled in grant writing or be available to help with a specific project.