Art party

Annies Arts Awards Sierra Nevada Big Room Sun., June 27

The Annies Arts Awards happen only once every two years these days, so it takes a little reacquainting to fully accept the event as a relevant gauge of the best art Chico has to offer.

I got there just as Chico Kodenkan was doing the opening choreographed fighting/dance demo. The Big Room was dark and full, and the evening’s “Asian Influence” theme glowed from the delicately decorated paper lanterns filtering a soft light onto the shiny summer faces of a wide range of the local community, from 94-year-old Paradise wood craftsman William Mortensen, there to receive a lifetime achievement award, to 28-year-old Aye Jay Morano, accepting his visual-arts award (with 11-month-old daughter Greta in his arms) for his Gangsta Rap Coloring Book.

Event organizer and Chico Friends of the Arts honcho Debra Lucero deserves a lot of credit for putting on a fun show. Not only did she successfully whittle the nominations sent in by various artists, writers and arts supporters into a broad cross-section of over 30 award winners in the various disciplines, but the wide range of diverse elements was brought together in a smooth and entertaining production of performances, video montages, homages to our local Asian heritage and, of course, award presentations.

Highlights included sax man Charlie Haynes’ playful and smooth solo performance of “The Days of Wine Roses"; painter Chunhong Chang’s touching tribute to the welcoming nature of the people of Chico in her acceptance speech; and local legend Sal Casa’s humble and inspiring response to learning he was being honored for a lifetime achievement award: “How can that be? I’m just starting to paint.”

I only wish get-togethers like this could happen more often than bi-annually. I could get used to this.