Laureate Lab: spaces for creativity — 4 poet laureates at open house

~ By Tom Uribes, reprinted from

For the past year, Fresno State has been hatching a unique project with one of its most famous sons, United States Poet Laureate-emeritus Juan Felipe Herrera – the Laureate Lab Visual Words Studio located in the Henry Madden Library.

Opened in the fall, the Lab has undergone a year of soft launch and is now ready for a formal dedication from noon to 4 p.m. Thursday, May 11, in the Madden Library (Room 1110, first floor, North Wing behind the START Here desk).

During the open house, guests can see projects under way and meet three local poet laureates joining Herrera for the event – new Fresno Poet Laureate Bryan Medina, who was installed in April for a two-year term and is a former student of Herrera; and former Fresno poet laureates Lee Herrick and James Tyner.

Presented by the Madden Library, the Office of the Provost, the College of Arts and Humanities and the Division of Research and Graduate Studies, the Laureate Lab’s official launch will include a public presentation at 2:15 p.m. led by Herrera, Provost Lynnette Zelezny and Dean of Library Services Peter McDonald, who is retiring after this semester.

The Laureate Lab is a concept imagined by Herrera, whose historic two-year term as the nation’s 21st poet laureate and the first Latino closed in April, serves as an experimental space where poetry is taken into new hands-on spaces.

“The work of the Laureate Lab explores words in all dimensions and visual mediums, from painting a poem to capturing video and sound of walks across Fresno neighborhoods,” said Herrera.

The Laureate Lab has been led by J.J. Hernandez, Anthony Cody and the late Mireyda “Mia” Barraza Martinez, all graduate students in the Creative Writing Program of the English Department. On Nov. 20, Ms. Barraza Martinez lost her life in a car crash on Highway 99. Described by Herrera as an aspiring literary talent, she is remembered with a memorial altar on display in the lab that will be open to tributes from guests.

“Mia was a daring writer, thinker, a natural leader and a most serious reader and quick- action investigator of new ideas,” Herrera said. “Charismatic and filled with joy, she reminded us that Fresno, this Valley and its peoples are brimming with heart, heroism and creativity — the spirit that has helped hatch the essence of the Laureate Lab.”

Artistic endeavors in the lab like Mia’s altar have included writing workshops and class discussions, as well as creative spaces for undergraduate and graduate students to work on their own projects.

“The Laureate Lab is a space for those who love to play with new ways of doing sculpture, dance and words, performance and media, painting and materials, construction, posters and collage, and a way to interact with art in new ways,” Herrera said. “The grand hatching this week is a way for the community and the campus to come in and experience the space.”

During the event, Laureate Lab graduate artists will staff stations within the space to allow visitors to drop-in to write, paint, create visual poems, as well as construct their own handmade chapbooks. Visitors who participate in the Lab stations will be entered into a raffle to win prizes. (See a listing of the lab stations at

“The Madden Library was chosen for the location because it serves as the very center of student learning and creativity on campus,” McDonald said. “What better representation of this commitment to our students’ engagement and creative expression than the positioning of the Laureate Lab in the heart of our library on campus?”

This event is free and open to the public. Parking is free with a courtesy day permit by calling Barbara Windmiller at 559.278.7630 or email She may also be contacted for event details or if physical accommodations are needed.

For more information about the lab, contact Herrera or Cody at 559.278.7512 or

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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