Fresno airport is installing ‘ iconic’ art to welcome travelers. Here’s who made it
Visitors to Fresno Yosemite International Airport will soon be greeted by a new public art piece designed and created by noted Fresno artist Caleb Duarte.
Duarte’s piece, entitled “You Have Arrived,” is a four-story, vertical mixed-media mural to be installed on the elevator shaft of the airport’s parking structure, directly across the main driveway from the terminal building. It is expected to be in place this spring.
Duarte is an art professor who teaches sculpture at Fresno City College, and in his career “has held numerous solo exhibitions and created iconic public art work across the globe,” said Lilia Gonzales Chavez, executive director of the Fresno Arts Council. Cities where his work has been shown include Mumbai, India; Chiapas, Mexico; Santiago de Cuba, Cuba; Montreal, Canada; Frankfurt, Germany; and Pienza, Italy, Gonzales Chavez said.
Airport officials collaborated with the Fresno Arts Council to coordinate a statewide call for artists and establish a criteria for evaluating proposals. A field of 17 artists submitted proposals; that group was narrowed to three finalists who met with a five-member selection committee. The committee unanimously voted for Duarte last fall.
Duarte’s finalized design for the work was unveiled for the Fresno City Council last week.
The $29 million parking structure opened in the fall of 2021, and represented one of the initial components of an ambitious $236 million airport improvement program that includes improvements to the tarmac adjacent to the terminal and its boarding gates; expansion of the terminal building; the future replacement of existing air traffic control tower; and reconstructing one of the airport’s two runways.
“The airport parking garage has a lot of empty space and we wanted to create something iconic and beautiful to welcome travelers and visitors to the airport,” said Claudia Arguelles-Miller, the airport’s marketing manager. “We wanted something that would represent our diverse culture of the Central Valley and we wanted to be inclusive.”
Using a combination of painted ceramic relief sculpture, mosaic tiles and painted or cemented granite rocks, Duarte’s design depicts a tall figure with arms representing an abstraction of a tree, along with floating abstract patterns symbolizing flight.
“The figure’s hands visually state, ‘I have arrived; I am from here,’” Duarte wrote in his proposal.
“It is a great honor to be selected for the creation of Fresno Yosemite International Airport’s public mural that will represent the cultural vibrancy and resilience of our community,” Duarte said after his selection was announced. “I believe that public art serves us by establishing a collective memory while creating new sites of shared experiences.”
The design of Duarte’s piece is reminiscent of the mural it faces on the exterior of the terminal building, Raymond Rice’s 1962 work entitled “Sky and Ground.” That piece, crafted from Venetian glass, is a 128-foot mural The Fresno Bee once described as “an abstract approach to the aeronautical theme.”
“It was very important that it was compatible with the existing mosaic that it will be facing on the front of the terminal,” Arguelles-Miller said.
Fresno’s airports director, Henry Thompson, said Duarte’s “experience, vision and artistic interpretations that combined Fresno’s culture and history, play to the architectural elements of the garage, and compliment the existing mosaic on the face of the terminal building made him the best choice to create our signature public art piece.”
The original budget for the piece was $35,000, but Thompson said various factors have combined to drive the actual cost to closer to $50,000.