Student of Distinction: Erik Escovedo

Erik Escovedo

Graduate, M.A. in Art with an emphasis in Studio Art

With one semester left at Fresno City College, Erik Escovedo had just one more required math course before transferring to Fresno City College. With a somewhat empty semester, he decided to learn more about his ethnic background and enroll in his first American Indian studies course. With that course, the pieces of his life, family history, profession and education suddenly came together and presented a new focus and defined his educational goals.

“Within this class that I had learned about why my family was so distrustful of educational institutions, especially learning about Indian boarding schools, forced assimilation, and loss of identity,” Escovedo said. “With this new understanding, I became inspired to use my background in non-profit work and mentorship to practice community stewardship.”

Continuing this exploration during his time at Fresno State, Escovedo found he could use his art and ethnic studies education to better his community, both inside and outside educational institutions.

Fresh out of high school, at 18 years old, Escovedo landed his first job with the City of Fresno Department of Parks and Recreation as a recreation lead and art teacher. While he sporadically attempted to go to college but he lacked focus and struggled to do well in class.  

“The irony was that I still worked in non-profit organizations mentoring youth, and encouraged them to chase their dreams and do well in school,” he said.

Daring to believe that he belonged at college and intending to become a high school art teacher, Escovedo gave it one more try and enrolled full-time at Fresno City College in the art program. This time he made it work, and he transferred to Fresno State in 2016. Two years later, he received his B.A. in American Indian Culture and Art.

Throughout his education, Escovedo conducted several research projects; been a part of dozens of lectures, presentations, conferences and panels; and been heavily involved in local organizations and committees within educational institutions and the community.

Associate Professor of Art History Dr. Keith Jordan said Escovedo “has a strong grasp of critical social theory and a deep knowledge of history that inform his efforts to develop concept-driven art bridging social commentary and personal experience.”

Art Professor Nick Potter agreed.

“It was clear from the very first paintings I saw of Erik’s in advanced painting in 2017 that he was addressing extremely important subject matter, of race and identity, and that he was challenging the use of romanticized and demonized depictions of his people,” said Potter. “[W]hat really sets him apart from other artists is the strikingly powerful content that he has continued to refine and expand on.”

Through his art, Escovedo has found a way to bring the marginalized narrative of the American Indians into new spaces. With hopes of continuing on to get his Ph.D. in Native American Studies, his education will undoubtedly continue to inspire more powerful images to emerge from his brush and wisdom to come from his podium.

“As a human being, art has saved my life. As a student, art has given me a path to live that life.” ~ Erik Escovedo.


The College of Arts and Humanities Students of Distinction represents the best of their department and will be honored at the Arts in Motion event at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 10 – the culminating event of the Arts in Motion Showcase week. From these students, one undergraduate and one graduate Dean’s Medalist will be selected. The Dean’s Medalists are then eligible to receive the President’s Medal, the university’s highest student honor.

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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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