Arts Devo

Rest in peace, Sal Casa

Lee Fields at the Big Room.

Lee Fields at the Big Room.

Photo by Jason Cassidy

It rains Lee Fields Even though we’ve already devoted plenty of ink to soul man Lee Fields in these pages in recent weeks, Arts DEVO would be remiss if he didn’t comment on the concert at the Sierra Nevada Big Room on Monday night (Dec. 9). Briefly, I’ll say it was incredibly fun, made so by the equal energies being traded between the audience and the bandleader and his smokin’ crew, The Expressions (especially the effortlessly in-the-pocket bassist Jacob Silver—damn!). Fields was the ringleader; the old-school showman hit the stage in a sparkling red dinner jacket and charmed the crowd with his crooning and joyful energy. Going in, I wasn’t a big fan of the lyrics on Fields’ latest album, It Rains Love, but hearing his simply stated sentiments of love and connection live—where they were greatly elevated by the dynamic players and their bandleader’s emotional commitment—I was won over. A show for the local history books.

Two things: Chico-Con is back. This Saturday (Dec. 14), at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds, the comic convention will feature DC, Marvel and Dark Horse artists, celebrity guests—including WWE wrestler Booker T—a cosplay contest, game demos and, new this year, a Lego display by ChicoLUG, the Chico Lego Users Group. Find Chico-Con on Facebook or visit Collectors Ink (2593 Highway 32) for more info.

And: Since you are probably on Amazon right now, add this to your shopping cart: the Digital Fliers Ominbus by local illustrator, MC, DJ, record nerd and taco critic Aye Jay Morano. It’s 116 pages of Chico-centric art, featuring two years’ worth of local-show fliers (436 in all!) that the artist previously released only in the digital realm. Go analog for a mere $25.

Sal Casa

CN&R file photo

RIP Sal Casa Chico lost one of its icons last week. Painter and teacher Sal Casa died Wednesday, Dec. 4. He was 91.

The beloved local artist, who worked out of a second-floor studio on Third Street and could often be found strolling downtown between there and the Upper Crust Bakery & Cafe, has been a fixture in Chico for more than 50 years. The son of Italian immigrants moved out west from New York in 1957—first to Capay, then Orland and finally Chico. He began teaching art at Chico State in 1968, even as he was working on his master’s degree from the university (which he earned in 1974). His paintings have shown at least once in every gallery of note in Chico, as well as venues all over North America, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Brooklyn Museum, Instituto Allende in Mexico, Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum, at the National and American Watercolor Society annuals and many more.

In addition to his Chico State students, Casa went on to teach artists of all ages at the Chico Art Center—continuing his instruction there all the way up through this past September. The Chico Art Center is planning a retrospective of Casa’s work for early 2020. Visit for updates.

Below is an excerpt about Casa from his obituary (visit to view it in its entirety).

To say he loved art would be to diminish art’s influence on the boy and later the man. Art was part of him, a way of being that informed everything he would become and every choice he would make. He loved other things—baseball, bullfights, opera—that shared an aesthetic, a symmetry and pageantry disrupted by drama that carried through to his approach to the canvas.