Saying goodbye to Maria

Maria Phillips

Maria Phillips

Ave Maria The Chico arts community lost one of its great champions over the weekend. On Sunday, Oct. 5, Maria Phillips died from cancer. She was 70 years old. Even though I knew she had been sick, the news still came as a huge shock and I can hardly believe it. I met Maria back when she opened Avenue 9 Gallery in 2004, but I only really got to know her over the past four or five years. Always a seriously committed supporter of local arts, she was the sort of arts personality and spirited community advocate that made my job as arts editor fun. She was also my friend—a beautiful and intelligent woman with whom I always looked forward to speaking, especially since she would as often challenge me as she would embrace me.

Here’s something we wrote about Maria in our 2012 Best of Chico issue, when CN&R editors picked her as “Best art maven who doubles as a community activist”: To those who know her, Maria Phillips is a force of nature, an energetic, upbeat advocate for all things Chico who brings an irrepressible flair to everything she does. Born in Rome, she spent her childhood in Venezuela before moving to this country when she was 11. She retains a bit of an accent, though whether of Italian, Spanish or French is hard to say, since she speaks all three in addition to English. Owner of the vibrant Avenue 9 Gallery, she also had a leading role in creating the Chico Visual Arts Alliance, the monthly ARTabout event and the Chico Art Map. When not promoting art, she’s been a leader of several political causes, including the successful effort to stop the M&T gravel mine west of town. Most recently, she played a key role in the campaign to keep Bidwell Mansion open. For all of these reasons, on Oct. 2 she was honored with a Mayor’s Art Award for 2012.

Add to all that the fact that she spearheaded the effort to produce the annual Art at the Matador spring festival at the Matador Hotel, and that she was herself a wonderful local painter who created colorful, expressive watercolor and mixed-media works. RIP Maria. You will not be forgotten.

Beer and sadness I hate to ever say, “I need a drink,” but when 5 o’clock rolls around … This has been one of those weeks—illness, major surgery, deaths—so many people in my family/friend/Chico sphere in pain. And even though at this time it feels fairly insensitive to talk up this week’s Chico Beer Week festivities, I’d guess that more than one of you reading this could use a beer right about now. So, anyone who wants to share a pint, drop me a line. We’ll go scare up a fancy beer or two and raise a glass to the ones we love. As you may have noticed on the beer week calendar, Chico’s craft-beer purveyors have provided an amazing lineup from which to pick and choose between now and Oct. 18. Cheers!

Jake-splosion! I’d be willing to bet that no locally grown artist has sold more art than printmaker Jake Early. For the last dozen years, his release of prints in his various series of serigraphs, many featuring iconic images from the area around his Chico hometown—Caper Acres, Monkey Face, etc.—would cause lines out the door of Chico Paper Co.

Over the course of the past few weeks, Early has been taking his local nostalgia to the next level with his My Hometown series of public-art installations. All over downtown—along the wall at on the back side of Bat Comics, on the Second Street side of Zucchini & Vine, and on the side of Chico Paper Co. that faces the City Plaza—Early’s works have been going up at rate of one display per week. And this Friday, Oct. 10, starting at 9 a.m., Early will personally install the series finale on the parking-lot side of the Senator Theatre, a huge 20-by-20-feet pattern of 162 prints made up of nine new serigraphs. And that night, Chico Paper Co. will celebrate the feat with a reception, 5-7 p.m., which will include the unveiling of the final image in his five-part Chico Experience series.