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Historic Turlock arts center to reopen after long rebuilding

by Modesto Bee

TURLOCK — Backers of the Carnegie Arts Center hope to strike a balance between featuring blockbuster artists and highlighting the local arts scene. The opening exhibit, which the public will get a chance to see Sept. 10, does both.

“Ansel Adams CALIFORNIA” consists of roughly 120 photographs by the late artist, who is best known for his iconic pictures of Yosemite National Park. The exhibit will include some of those images but also will have a distinctly local flavor, said Rebecca Phillips Abbott, executive director and curator at the Carnegie.

“We will have photographs by Ansel Adams of Central California that haven’t been exhibited before or are very rarely seen,” Abbott said. Images include a barn near Fresno and a lettuce field in the Salinas Valley.

Also planned for the reopening are a preview gala reception Sept. 9 and a lecture by the artist’s son, Michael Adams, on Sept. 11.

It’s been a tough road back for the Carnegie, which dates back to 1916 and is one of 2,000 libraries built by industrialist Andrew Carnegie. It was undergoing renovation in 2005 when a fire started by burglars caused massive damage. The city spent nearly$7 million to restore the original building and construct a large addition behind it.

The nonprofit Carnegie Arts Center Foundation will run the facility through a lease with the city.

“We are proud and delighted to begin again with an exhibit that enables us to celebrate California as a whole and central California, in particular, through the eyes of Ansel Adams,” foundation President Patricia O’Donnell said.

The exhibit, curated by Jeanne Falk Adams, daughter-in-law of Ansel Adams, will be up through Jan. 8.

In addition to the Adams exhibit, the Carnegie will open with a display of local works, “Picturing California: Works by Regional Artists.”

“Local artists bring a special sensibility to their works, one that will enrich the experiences of visitors immeasurably,” Abbott said.

The former director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., Abbott said she has been impressed by the caliber of the artistic community in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

“I think it rivals the standards and the quality of any region I’ve been in,” she said.

The Carnegie plans to bring in big-name artists each fall, but in January, it will shift its focus with a distinguished-artist series.

The first artist to be featured will be Yvonne Porcella of Modesto and Arnold. Porcella, who works in mixed media, fiber and quilting, has written books and lectured extensively on art. Her first quilt, which she made in 1982, has been purchased by The Smithsonian museum, Abbott said.

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