Unmasked, a Portrait Series
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!