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Fresno Selects Napa Artist To Create New Work For Downtown's Mariposa Plaza

May 19, 2017

Downtown Fresno's Mariposa Plaza could soon get a major new piece of public art. The Fresno City Council is set to vote on a proposal Thursday May 25th to award a Napa  artist a $200,000 contract to create a new piece of public art for square at Fulton and Mariposa Streets.

Artist Gordon Huether was chosen by a city-led committee from a five proposals from different artists. It's unknown exactly what sort of work Huether will design for the site. His other works include large pieces at the Salt Lake City Airport, BART stations in the Bay Area and the LBJ Presidential Library.

Mariposa Plaza sits at the center of the former Fulton Mall, and is two blocks west of the state's planned high-speed rail station. If approved, the artwork would be part of a larger plan to redesign and "activate" the plaza, which is not part of the Fulton Street rebuild project.

Mariposa Plaza, prior to construction on the removal of the Fulton Mall
Credit NEA / City of Fresno

While the city has funding to pay for the design and installation of Huether's artwork, including a $150,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, it doesn't yet have the money to fund construction of the redesigned plaza itself. According to a city staff report, this means it's likely Huether's art will need to be installed before the plaza rebuild is complete in order to satisfy the terms of the NEA grant.

It's not publicly known how much it would cost to rebuild the plaza, though the staff report says the city is looking for funding sources. The city has set aside $75,000 in matching funds for the artwork project in its current budget. 

From the National Endowment for the Arts:

The NEA grant will support the Mariposa Plaza Activation Project. Project activities include the redesign of Mariposa Plaza to accommodate performance art, cultural gatherings, and a new interactive sculpture commissioned via a national call for artists. Mariposa Plaza lies in the heart of downtown Fresno and at the center of the six-block Fulton Mall, an historic pedestrian thoroughfare targeted for reinvestment and revitalization through multiple concurrent planning efforts led by the City of Fresno. The project is expected to better integrate the plaza into the robust collection of public art works along Fulton Mall as well as new high-speed rail and bus rapid transit stations being built less than two blocks away.

Nationally renowned urban design firm Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT) will oversee the design and community engagement process in collaboration with local designers at Valley Water Wise and Urban Diversity Design. Other key partners include the Fresno Art Museum, Fresno Arts Council, Downtown Fresno Partnership, Creative Fresno, Univision, Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission and Fresno County Office of Education. Mariposa Plaza sits amidst high-poverty census tracts, and the enhanced public space will serve an estimated 1.5 million passersby and event visitors annually, approximately two-thirds of whom identify as Latino.