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The Beehive Interview: Julia Woli Scott

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Julia Woli Scott has been having a big week. Not only did she and her partner, Christina Rea, help design and open the beautiful new M Street Arts Complex in downtown Fresno, but she co-curated with Rea a new exhibition titled “Spectacle: A Closer Look at Fresno.” To mark the complex’s first ArtHop tonight, I talked with Scott about the M Street complex and the exhibition in today’s Life section. Here’s an extended version of the interview.

Question: We’ve already covered the opening of the M Street Arts Complex in detail, but for those who missed it, could you give a brief recap?

Answer: The M Street Arts Complex is a collaborative project funded and developed by Granville with creative direction from myself and my partner Christina Rea. Our part of the 22,000 square foot warehouse has undergone a 1 million dollar renovation to build rentable space designed for professional artists that offers air conditioning, private parking, wi-fi and security.

During the Grand Opening on Saturday, Fresno State President Joseph Castro and Dr. Vida Samiian, Dean of the college of Arts and Humanities announced that the school intends to have a presence in the not-yet-renovated other half of the building, an expansion of their graduate program.

How did the opening weekend festivities go?

We had a tremendous turn out, I actually had to step outside shortly after people were allowed in the building because I was overwhelmed by the crowd, an estimated 600 through the 3-8 pm event. There was a tangible sense of excitement especially during the evening’s artist reception, with conversation even managing to drown out the rumble of Christopher Lopez’s thunderous sound piece, State of Detachment, 2009.

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Meet the artists of ‘Breakthrough’

Sunday’s Spotlight section puts the spotlight on “Breakthrough,” the terrific new Fresno Art Museum show featuring six vibrant artists with Fresno connections. You can read my centerpiece column about the show here. (Sneak preview: I loved it. My only regret with this column is that I didn’t have enough space to go into as much detail as I would have liked with each of the six individual exhibitions that make up “Breakthrough.” But I’m sure I’ll have more to say in the weeks to come.) Bee photographer Craig Kohlruss and John Alvin collaborated on the image above.

I asked each of the six artists to complete an email interview with me about themselves and their work in the show. We feature interview excerpts in Sunday’s print edition. (Also, don’t forget that we have a nice online photo gallery where you can view examples of each artist’s work.) On the jump you’ll find the extended versions of the interviews.

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Wow, what an opening

You know there’s excitement ahead at a Fresno Art Museum opening when you have to drive WAY down the block to find a parking place. I’d never seen so many people at an opening as for last night’s “Breakthrough.” I heard through the grapevine that as many as 600 people (update: final count was more than 750) crowded in for this exhibition devoted to six promising artists with Fresno connections. And many looked to be in their 20s and 30s, exactly the demographic the museum needs to keep the momentum going.

One of the highlights was Caleb Duarte’s installation piece, a work loaded with meaning. For the show, Duarte recreated a performance art piece he originally made in a small village outside Chiapas, Mexico, that involved the villagers burying him and his partner, Mia, up to the head in a shallow, hand-dug hole in the dirt. For the museum version, Duarte created a 12-by-6 foot slab of “dirt” (made of concrete and soil) that seems to float out from the wall. There’s a hole for a person to stand in the middle of that slab.

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