Art Town on the block?

Dave Selkirk, with graffiti rhino.

Dave Selkirk, with graffiti rhino.

Arts town? The city of Chico Arts Commission has been stuck in limbo since the city’s only arts-dedicated staff member, Arts Projects Coordinator Mary Gardner, was laid off during the recent round of budget cuts. The Arts Commission has requested that a decision on its future be put on the agenda at the next City Council meeting (Tuesday, Sept. 17, 6:30 p.m.). Will a minuscule amount of resources be put aside to support a staff person attending meetings to record official minutes (as is required by law) for the commission’s meetings? Will the council scrap the all-volunteer commission, leaving the city with no arts presence to facilitate and advocate for public art, Artoberfest, etc.?

Before they decide anything, I’d like the council to take a minute to read this string of examples (culled from just one week’s worth of arts news) of how vibrant and interconnected the arts are in our community.

This Friday, Sept. 13, the funky Manas Artspace will host the opening of Seeds of Your Intention, another of its themed group shows open to every member of the community who wishes to take part. And, Manas honcho Dave “Dragonboy” Sutherland is a frequent model for the hugely popular Chikoko fashion/art collective, which just held model auditions for its upcoming Nectar event (Oct. 12,
Silver Dollar Fairgrounds).

One of Chikoko’s founders, Muir Hughes, is on the Arts Commission, which works on the city’s behalf with Debra Lucero of Friends of the Arts to put on Artoberfest, the city’s upcoming annual month-long arts celebration during the month of October.

“Nine Eleven,” by Cynthia Schildhauer.

Artoberfest kicked off last weekend with Chico Palio in Bidwell Park, a day-long sneak preview of the month to come, featuring a cross-section of local arts organizations doing their thing, including a group of local graffiti artists who painted large panels on location in preparation for the Train Car Graffiti Project that will be a part of the Art All Aboard exhibit opening at Chico Art Center on Saturday, Sept. 14.

The Train Car project is being curated by local painter Cynthia Schildhauer, who just had three of her paintings accepted into the online Artists Registry at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City (visit to see all the art). The artworks, including those by Schildhauer (a recipient of multiple city of Chico art grants), will go on display in the museum on a rotating basis.

One of the many community arts organizations that have also received city of Chico art grants is the Blue Room Theatre, which will enter its 20th year of black-box theater production with the opening of the two-player dark comedy Gruesome Playground Injuries on Friday, Sept. 13, 7:30 p.m.

Again, that’s just one week. Art runs deep in Chico, and we are all tapped into it. It is an enormous part of what makes us proud of our community, and it contributes greatly to not only our cultural health but also to the health of the economy that’s built up around this vibrant place in which we’ve chosen to live.

Email the council (visit and select “city council”), go the meeting on Tuesday, and tell them to be brave in the face of budget pressures and to take a firm stand in defense of one of the pillars of our way of life in Chico. Tell them to loudly proclaim their support for the arts, to agree that art is essential to the economic and cultural well-being of the community, and to pledge to make a teeny-tiny bit of room in the budget to support this Arts Town and to include the all-volunteer Arts Commission in the discussion.

Next week: A love note to a righteous dude in Arts DEVO’s life.