by Justin Kamimoto
If you have ever been to Downtown Fresno, and explored the outskirts near the new federal courthouse, you are bound to have seen the buzz about the Downtown Community Arts Collective (DCAC).
The Downtown Community Arts Collective was founded in May of 2008 by Stephanie Pearl. With two founding members, Andrew Watrous and Aimee Brantley, the mission of incorporating art into young lives came alive.
Let’s take a moment and recognize the DCAC for their influential roles in the community. First up we have Stephanie Pearl, the Executive Director of DCAC who started it all. Andrew Watrous is the Gallery Coordinator, Monica Hemry, the Workshop Coordinator, Jonathan Mathis, Volunteer Coordinator, and Public Relations Specialist/Event Coordinator, Joey Fernandez. Full bios and a viewing of artwork about Pearl, Watrous, and Henry can be found at the DCAC website.
Committed to enriching the San Joaquin Valley community through art, the DCAC partners with local outreach organizations to foster a safe environment for creative expression, collaborative learning and mentoring. DCAC is a fully functional art gallery, featuring local, national and international artists in the main gallery space.
DCAC works directly with other non-profit agencies such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Angels of Grace Foster Family Agency, EAH Housing Project, and the TAY (Transitional Aged Youth) Program. Financially they are funded by grants, private donations and fundraisers.
Currently the DCAC houses four artists-in-residence who maintain studio space as well as mentor at risk youth. They open the studio to the public bi-monthly for workshops to mentor youth through art. Every 1st Thursday of each month, the Downtown Community Arts Collective features what is called an ArtHop. Organized by the Fresno Arts Council, art lovers and enthusiasts from all walks of life flock downtown and the Tower District to meet and greet with artists and enjoy a reception and music. Free to the public, all ages are welcome! (check out KRL’s article on ArtHop)
I recently got to talk with Joey Fernandez about the importance of the Downtown Community Arts Collective and why it is an important asset to have in our community. She reflected back on a time when her daughter, now a teen and Student Liaison of DCAC, discovered her passion for art. “The artists at DCAC give young people a place to excel and grow as individuals without pressure or critique. As a public relations (PR) professional, I felt that my expertise would benefit DCAC. I came on board as their PR Specialist/Event Planner in exchange for [my daughter’s] workshops. As a strong supporter of Downtown Fresno, this was a program that I could really stand behind. As I got more involved I started a creative writing workshop and many of the students attended regularly. I found that I was able to help make a difference in a young persons life and it changed the way I viewed volunteerism.”
You may be asking, Why the Downtown Community Arts Collective? For Fresno, DCAC has been a respite for many youth caught in a system that marginalizes them. In early 2009, Leadership Fresno selected the Downtown Community Arts Collective to be their 2009 class project. DCAC students in conjunction with Fresno Best worked on the Empowering Youth Through Artistic Expression project that engaged at-risk youth and underserved youth in a city wide beautification project. Their final accumulation of work was a mobile artistic showcase in the form of a Fresno Area Transit bus wrap. Wow!
DCAC, like many other organizations, is always in need of supplies and donations! Whether monetary, supplies, or even volunteering, help is always needed to keep this great program alive. As a non-profit they rely on the generosity of friends and community involvement.
Currently, the Downtown Community Arts Collective is seeking assistance for their 3rd annual Art Your Heart Fundraiser which will be held on Saturday, October 1, 2011. Volunteers, silent auction donations, as well as monetary donations are needed to create a successful event! Attendance is anticipated to be up from last years where they had over 350 attendees and raised more than $13,000!