Unmasked, a Portrait Series opening on Arthop (Feb. 7) at Bitwise South Stadium Why Enrique Meza (Meza) and Jake Soberal (Bitwise Industries) are collaborating on an upcoming ArtHop. We started hanging out in 2010. Enrique was shooting commercial real estate for a living and Jake was still in law school. We were both brand new and could never have known that Enrique would found Meza and Jake would join forces with Irma Olguin, Jr., to launch Bitwise Industries. Back then, just as today, almost all of our conversations surrounded all the possibility Fresno has to offer. Fast forward nearly a decade and amazing things are happening in our city. And, those amazing things are being driven by beautiful, diverse, talented, and dedicated people. A few of them grab a lot of headlines, but most don’t get the attention they deserve. Over lunch late last year, we thought it’d be fun to shine some light on the latter group. Unmasked isn’t the strategy for fixing our city or the grand schema for elevating the unsung hero. Unmasked is one, small, beautiful, honest attempt to celebrate heroes in our city. Last fall we asked a broad cross-section of Fresnans to nominate unsung heroes in their lives. The criteria was intentionally broad: We want to know about the people in your life who are doing important, hard, good, and sometimes messy work in Fresno that doesn’t come with a lot of fanfare. And nominations poured in. We learned about faith leaders, artists, non-profit executives, immigrants, the formerly-incarcerated, and educators. To winnow the group down to a final list we assembled a group of advisors to comb through the nominations and select 25. They chose 26 and the list is so, so good. Amparo Cid,Cid & Macedo, Inc. Sam Hansen, Fresno Grizzlies Tamela Ryatt, Sunnyside High School Janene Marsella, Hamilton K-8 School Cherella Nicholson, Saint Rest Community Economic Development Corporation Eddie Valero, Tulare County Armando Valdez, Community Center for the Arts & Technology Chris Sorensen, Chris Sorensen Studios Whitney Bunker, City Without Orphans Erin Goldfarb, Dress for Success Richard Burrell, Live Again Fresno Coke Hallowell, San Joaquin River Parkway & Conservation Trust Lorenzo Rios, Clovis Veterans Memorial District Joe White, Neighborhood Church Kizzy Lopez, Fresno Pacific University Justin Kamimoto, COMMON SPACE Reza Nekumanesh, Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno Mai Thao, Hmong Innovating Politics David Menendian, Clovis High School Javier Guerrero, Fresno Barrios Unidos Elijah John Smith, Break the Barriers Wayne Hurley, D.A.N.C.E. Empowerment Inc. Addie Carr, Neighborhood Industries Anthony Armour, Neighborhood Industries Ryan Townsend, Central Valley Justice Coalition Jessica Pittman, Central Valley Justice Coalition But how did we plan to celebrate this all-star cast? We thought it’d be visually beautiful and uniquely meaningful to present each of these heroes in the sort of portrait typically reserved for conquering generals, world leaders, and business tycoons. Our goal was to present each of these heroes in an authentic and awesome way. What we captured is truly stunning. On February 7, for the ArtHop at Bitwise South Stadium, we’ll be sharing these portraits and the stories of our heroes. The event is open to the public and we hope you’ll join us as you bounce between the many outstanding ArtHop venues in Downtown Fresno. It’s worth noting that this isn’t a “Top 26” list; it’s not intended to rank-order anything. No, the statement we’re making is that these 26 humans are making Fresno better and worth celebrating. We think you’ll agree. See you February 7! Learn more about Unmasked.