A few notes from Saturday’s opening of the M Street Arts Complex in downtown Fresno:
* The ribbon-cutting ceremony was at 3 p.m. There were plenty of speakers. By my rough count, more than 200 people showed up. The crowd included my newsroom colleague Donald Munro. His A-1 piece in today’s Bee did a great job explaining the Complex’s genesis, purpose and potential.
The key details: Long-vacant 12,000-square-foot building on northwest corner of Tuolumne and M streets turned into art studios/galleries; $2 million invested by Granville Homes; the Assemi family adds another gem to Uptown.
* Julia Woli Scott, a Fresno artist and driving force behind the Complex, on downtown’s accelerating revitalization: “How incredible this town can be.”
* Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro: “Every great city — like Fresno — deserves a vibrant arts community …. Fresno State will be a partner here.”
* Fresno County Board of Supervisors Chairman Henry R. Perea: “What a great day for Fresno and Fresno County …. You build great cities around your culture and your arts …. We’re making a lot of history here.”
Perea praised Marlene Murphey, who headed the City of Fresno’s now-defunct Redevelopment Agency for many years. The RDA provided the cash subsidies and low-interest loans for many of Granville’s residential and commercial projects in and around downtown.
* Jackie Ryle, president of the Fresno Cultural Arts Rotary Club: “That’s where the future is — young people with talent.”
* Granville Homes President Darius Assemi: “This is what happens when you have a collaborative effort …. We want downtown to become the art mecca for central California …. It’s a very proud day for us.”
Echoing a theme from Perea’s remarks, Assemi said plans and ideas are important but the key is action. For anyone sincere about downtown revitalization, Assemi said, there’s only one thing to do with an empty building: “Get it filled up.”
* City Council President Blong Xiong was there, but didn’t speak. No one remotely connected to City Hall spoke.
* The crowd was respectful and appreciative.
* I was almost late to the ceremony. I live near Bullard High School in northwest Fresno. I decided to walk. I realized about a mile south of Manchester Center that I wouldn’t make it in time. I grabbed a ride on FAX Bus No. 30.
The bus was packed. People were standing shoulder-to-shoulder the full length of the aisle. I stood next to a woman in a wheelchair, a few feet from the driver.
An elderly woman got on at the next stop. She had a small, two-wheel shopping cart.
“You’ll have to collapse that,” the driver said. “We’re almost full.”
The elderly woman ripped into the driver.
“I’ve been riding these buses for many years,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve ever been rejected.”
“You’re not being rejected,” the driver said in a soft, calm voice. “We’re almost full. You’ll have to collapse that.”
A young woman with a small child and a large shopping bag was sitting behind the driver. The woman put her child on her lap and scooted over as far as she could to make room for the elderly woman.
The elderly woman took the empty seat. She collapsed her shopping cart with the speed and ease of someone who’s done it a million times.
The elderly woman didn’t say thank you to the young woman. The elderly woman continued her rant for a few seconds.
“I’ve never been rejected before!”
Then the elderly woman shut up. A bus full of Fresnans headed toward downtown rolled on in blessed silence.
I got off the bus a bit south of Belmont and made it in plenty of time to celebrate the latest addition to an arts community charged with recording the essence of life in Fresno.
Good luck to all.