by Tom Sims
A little boy sits reading a book. As he reads birds emerge and take flight into the vastness of an unknown world.
He is unleashing his imaginations, allowing his thoughts to soar, releasing words, ideas, and images into a world of possibilities. His creative mind has met the creative mind of an author, story teller, or poet on the pages of that book in his hand and that meeting has changed the world.
It has changed the world by reshaping his world and he, in turn, will reshape the world around him.
Letelier is a world-renowned and world class muralist who believes with Chilean poet Pablo Neruda that, “Murals are the people’s blackboard.” Francisco Letelier was born in Chile, lived in Washington D.C., passed through the halls of U.C., Berkeley, and settled in Venice, California. He has painted murals on massive structures in major cities.
Every mural tells a story.
This most recent work of art celebrates the poets, authors, and story tellers of the San Joaquin Valley and is painted on the multi-story wall of the old Fresno Bee building that now houses C.M.A.C. (Community Media Access Collaborative). It is sponsored by Arte Américas and is entitled Murmuration. Funded primarily by The McClatchy Fresno Art Endowment (MFAE) and The California Arts Council, the mural was dedicated in mid May with a ceremony attended by outgoing US Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, and Fresno Poet Laureate, Lee Herrick. Musicians Omar Naré and Patrick Contreras serenaded the crowd.
Francisco Letelier began painting his stories on walls and releasing the imaginations of communities over 40 years ago while he was living in Washington, D.C. His father, a well-known diplomat was killed there in a well-publicized car bombing in 1976. The oppressive Pinochet regime of Chile was always suspected, but the dictator was never brought before the bar of justice for that crime. The tragedy was part of the shaping of Letelier, but it did and does not define him.
Of himself, Letelier says:
still, mysteries await
still, the promise
getting up again
for that orphan called future
that wants to have your name.”
(From his Facebook profile)
Assisting Letelier on the project was well known local muralist Mauro Carrera. Carrera developed his skills on the walls of Fresno and refined them through the University of California, Fresno. He was personally selected by Letelier to be his assistant.
Around the city, Mauro is known as both an artist and as a mentor to young artists, inspiring them and teaching them. You can almost see the birds flying from their thoughts as they prepare to soar. He says, “I’d someday like to be known for painting murals that people can understand … sharing what I do with others … especially kids.”
Enlisting Letelier for the project with the aid of Carrera was a major encouragement to the art community that had originally selected local master FranCisco Vargas to lead the brigade. Vargas died in 2015. Frank Delgado, the executive director of Arte Américas, said, “Losing FranCisco was a huge blow to the community and to this project.”
Letelier who had directed the of Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles brought a vision that embraced the artistic and literary heritage and future of the Valley. He chose not to feature any stand-out figures, but to portray a child with all of the explosive and creative notions planted in the mind of a child. Those ideas are released as he is exposed to the words and images that have been planted in the soil of this community.
Letelier and Carrera took two months to complete the project. The result is a magnificent, inspirational visual summons to take up a book, a pad, a pen or a chisel, or any instrument of artistic extension—to appreciate and to create.
The birds fly.
Great notions are lifted to the skies.
Art is born anew.
The San Joaquin Valley is the home of many noted poets and writers. Two U.S. Poet Laureates have recently been recognized from here in addition to numerous writers of renown in children’s literature, the theater, fiction, and journalism. There is now a wall in downtown Fresno that honors them and anticipates the next generation of creators.On May 11, the mural was dedicated. California State University Professor, Dr. Don Simmons said of the day that it was a “lovely morning to dedicate the new mural on the side of the National Register of Historic Places Fresno Bee building. Doubly proud as a board member for Arte Americas, the sponsor and instigator of the mural, and as a Historic Preservation Commissioner, the body that initially approved the designs for the side of this historic building. This is a beautiful, moving addition to downtown and the Cultural Arts District. Bravo to Frank Delgado, Nancy Marquez, and the team of artists, poets, and visionaries. Poetry and art–that’s Fresno downtown!”
That’s downtown. That’s Fresno! That’s art and art is the expression of humanity fully alive!
Find Mauro Carrera on Vimeo.
See the CMAC Video on the project.
See the project itself at—
1555 Van Ness Ave
More on Arte Américas and their thirty year legacy of featuring an eclectic variety of Latino poets, filmmakers, photographers, musicians and artists at their website or at the
Arte Americas Facebook Page.
See a rebroadcast of the dedication ceremonies on Facebook.