All-female art fest

Chico Art Center holds its first women-only show

ON THE WALLS<br>Jon Cummins, gallery director of the Chico Art Center, hangs a watercolor by Tracy Johnson Krause on the wall. Johnson Krause’s piece joins hundreds of others for the Contemporary Woman show at the center.

Jon Cummins, gallery director of the Chico Art Center, hangs a watercolor by Tracy Johnson Krause on the wall. Johnson Krause’s piece joins hundreds of others for the Contemporary Woman show at the center.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Chico Art Center

450 Orange St.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 895-8726

Chico has a reputation when it comes to art. So when the Chico Art Center began advertising a women-only exhibition, it came as no surprise that there was a healthy response. But gallery Director Jon Cummins wasn’t prepared for just how healthy that response would be.

“We’ve had people inquiring from as far away as Texas about the show,” Cummins said. “I just love the idea that we have people all around the country who are contacting us about it.”

The Contemporary Woman group show is the brainchild of Cummins, who said he hopes it fills a niche in the area. Teaching at Butte College as well as at the center, he sees artists in every walk of life.

“I’m very aware of the fact that women artists are underrepresented,” he said. “I thought it would be a really good change to have a show that specialized in women’s art.”

The result should be quite a show, with the center receiving more than 200 submissions on Sunday and Monday (May 27-28). The artists came from near and far, even with the requirement that submissions be hand-delivered.

The only rules for entry were that the artist be a female at least 18 years old, and that the piece be visual—2-D or 3-D, though, no videos, films or performances. Residence was of no importance, other than convenience.

“We want to encourage work from out of the area,” he said. “We have our regulars, but we want to expose our community to different ideas and concepts and trends in art.”

MySpace has helped get the word out past the Chico community and Sacramento, where Cummins placed an ad in the Bee.

“It’s a good thing,” Cummins said of Chico Art Center’s MySpace presence. “We have 2,000 friends—most of them are other artists, galleries and centers. It’s really exposed the art center to a younger, emerging audience.”

Contemporary Woman is a juried show, with two local jurors who have years of experience in the Chico art world. The first is Susan Larsen, who was involved during the early days of the art center and also helped found the 1078 Gallery. Samantha Gale, an Arts Commission member, will join her. Their tasks will not be easy.

With 200 submissions to go through, their first item of business will be to narrow down the contenders. Cummins estimates about half that many will be displayed in the show. Then comes the judging. First off, the title of the show must be taken into account.

“We’re talking about present day, in the moment,” Cummins said. “Even older art was contemporary at one time, so it wouldn’t rule out something that was done several decades ago. They’re either going to look at whether the work is contemporary or whether the person who created that art fits the definition of contemporary.”

Tracy Johnson Krause, a Chicoan who teaches in the English Department at Butte College, submitted two pieces—one a watercolor; the other a dry-point etching.

Johnson Krause said she wasn’t really sure what made her pieces fit into the “contemporary woman” category, other than the fact that “I’m a contemporary woman, and this is the latest stuff I’ve been doing.”

Cummins said he left most of the judging details, including whether they will judge alone or as a team, up to Larsen and Gale.

“They’ll have their hands full when they go through all the mediums, styles, techniques and so on,” he said.

There will be three awards, at this time, totaling $500. Cummins hopes to expand the purse with donations. Part of the impetus for the show, of course, was fundraising. The hope is that, all the entry fees, which ranged from $15 for CAC members to $30 for nonmembers, will help the center to fund future exhibitions.

Seeking funds, however, wasn’t the main reason for the Contemporary Woman show.

“It’s about giving them [female artists] more exposure,” he said. “It’s well-deserved and about time.”