by Steven Sanchez
The local ValleyPBS held its first art showcase for ArtHop in its downtown studio with the spotlight on local artist and author, the legendary Larry Hill. Larry has been one of the most important artistic figures in the Central Valley and has helped put the art scene on the map. He displayed twenty-five abstract paintings of his that were aligned up and down the halls and office rooms of the building. People ranging from casual observers to associates, friends, and family attended this gallery which is one out of many for Larry but the first ever for ValleyPBS.
The former Fresno State graduate and Army veteran had ambitions to become an abstract painter while accepting a teaching job in the area. Having drawn and being inspired by classic comic books of yesteryear from his youth, when he pursued his artistic dreams, Fresno had no venues for an artist to showcase their work. He had to claim to be a Southern California painter for his work to be showcased at the Los Angeles Art Institute in 1961. His work went from there to New York and pretty much his legend began there. The Central Valley has always been a beacon of inspiration for the creative as he has authored such titles as Streak Hitter, Saroyan’s Bookie, Til Morning, and Rose Capital of the World. He was even given a supportive endorsement from the local renowned Armenian-American novelist, playwright, and short story writer, and Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award winner, William Saroyan, who left him a note saying his work was “heroic.”
ArtHop occurs every 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month in downtown Fresno and the Tower District. It is put on by the Fresno Arts Council. Museums, studios, galleries, and other venues open their exhibitions free to the public at 5 p.m., and the event ends at 8 p.m. where there’s also food and music. This was the first time that ValleyPBS has been included in the growing event.
Under new leadership by Jenny Toste, who replaced former acting CEO Phyllis Brotherton last December, she believed this was a good way for the organization to get more involved with the community with an event that is gaining in popularity. She would have knowledge of what takes place in the area since she was a reporter for KSEE 24, then a morning anchor on Channel 47, where she spent seven years before leaving to be a social media specialist at Fresno State. With the help of Larry’s grandson and associate Evan, he assisted in the planning stages, the advertising, and putting up Larry’s masterpieces. The event was broadcast live on the channel, and Jenny conducted an interview with the abstract maestro on his work and career.
There was good food around, plenty of socializing, and those in attendance basked in the colorful allure of his paintings. Larry’s view on art is, “I believe that a painting must have an initial dramatic impact, and at second glance, should include tantalizing nuances of drawing and ‘action’ in the paint application.” This is just another chalk up in Larry’s illustrious career, and hopefully ValleyPBS can be a consistent go-to venue for other artists to showcase their work.