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$3,000 awarded in ag-themed art show

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

A sculpture created by local artist Jose Garcia received 2nd place in the Farm and Ranch Friends category during the annual Celebrate Agriculture with the Arts show at Circle Gallery. A crowd gathers during the awards ceremony on Thursday.


“Valley’s Jewels,” a watercolor painting by Chieko Delgado of Sanger, has won Best of Show in Madera County Art’s Council’s 24th annual Celebrate Agriculture with the Arts competition.

More than $3,000 in prize money was awarded to top entrants during a reception and awards ceremony Thursday at the Circle Gallery.

“I didn’t expect any of this, and I didn’t know about this — nothing,” Delgado said. “This morning I got a phone call ... ‘Oh, you won something. Are you coming?’ I’m trying to. ‘We have almonds (for winners) too.’ Oh, this is the almonds that I wanted! … I’m so speechless, so excited, and thank you very much.”

Judge Adam Longatti, a Fresno landscape painter and art teacher, said the judging process was “excruciating” as “there’s really some fantastic work” among the entries, but Delgado’s depiction of grapes on the vine stood out, though not because of the subject.

“It was about the way it was made and I kept coming back to that one,” he said. “That one made it easy (to judge). There’s an efficiency and a confidence to the paint strokes ... That artist did not overthink things and there’s a real fluency to it. And I just kept coming back to it and loving it. I looked at each inch of that painting and I love it even more because it’s perfect. It’s perfect painting.”

Such accolades for a fresh entrant is not new for the competition.

“Seventeen years ago Adam was fresh out of college from New Mexico and entered his first arts competition, which happened to be this one, Celebrate Ag with the Arts,” said Rochelle Noblett, Madera County Arts Council executive director. “He was awarded Best of Show and his piece was purchased by (Bob and Helen Mariscotti of) the Vineyard Restaurant, where it still hangs today. Adam was encouraged by that early win and currently teaches art at Fresno State.”

Other artists who won top honors are Iris Asai of Merced (first place for oil painting “Excaliber”), Madison Austin of Fresno (first for photo “Wines of the Past”), Connie Cassinetto of Sonora (first for photo “Dancing Cherries”), Christopher Viney of Fresno (first for photo “Earth, Wind, Fire, and Not Enough Water”) and Diane Breuer of Fresno (first for pastel “The Weaver”).

Second place winners were sculptor Jose Garcia of Madera, photographer Sarkis Manavazian of Madera, watercolor painter Teresa Sorensen of Clovis, acrylic painter Daniel Van Gerpen of Fresno, and oil painter Dixie Salazar of Fresno.

“The primary mission of this is to promote a broader interest in and understanding of agriculture as an industry, and to promote our professional artists,” Noblett said of the annual show. “Let’s face it, in agriculture there is no lack of beauty.”

Another potential triumph for the arts council is a week away. A final unveiling of architectural drawings for a proposed new arts and civic center in downtown Madera will be 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at Madera South High School’s cafeteria, 705 W. Pecan Ave. Paul Halajian Architects of Clovis will be presenting a vision for the center shaped by community feedback at past meetings.

The Celebrate Agriculture with the Arts exhibition will remain at Circle Gallery, 1635 N. Schnoor Ave., through Oct. 28. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. For information, call 661-7005 or visit


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