Part one (of two) of the year in review

Pravda wins 2008

Pravda wins 2008

The year is ending, part one
We started the year saying goodbye to Chico’s oldest teenager, Incredible Diamonds front man Matt Hogan, and we ended it saying goodbye to community-theater devoté and Rocky Horror Show mainstay Lars Logan. In between, the weather, the fires, the economy and the elections made for a rough 12 months.

But the art was really, really good this year. Maybe that’s in part due to the volatile climate. If so, we’re likely in for something rad in 2009.

Just asking
While worrying about this year-end stuff, I kept coming back to a question: What do other people think about the year in arts? So I asked some local arts movers and makers a couple questions. This week: What were your faves of 2008?

Keitha Corbit (local theater/music/arts junkie): I’d have to say Butte College’s production of Chicago at Paradise Performing Arts Center. I have seen most of those productions in the past few years, my reactions ranging from “bravo” to “meh.” I was knocked out by Chicago. Bravo, standing ovation, jazz-hands for the next two days! The casting was excellent, voices strong, choreography and dancing several notches higher than I’ve ever seen in the area. This would have been an easy production to make look amateurish but the pacing and timing were impeccable. Two cents more: For anyone looking for a fun and easy-to-keep New Year’s resolution, see a local play. Look for: 1) anything Jerry Miller is in or directs; 2) anything starring Betty Burns; 3) anything for which Jeffrey Childs is the musical director.

Erin Wade (artist): Chikoko continues to impress me with their ability to draw huge (by Chico standards) crowds and put on tantalizing events. I’m expecting more exciting things from them in 2009!

Zach Zeller (musician): Every Café Coda show this year has been a blast. The environment is so positive and it feels like a second home. Each show had its own special highlight. It’s such a great place to meet new friends, hear wonderful music and just have a good time.

Jim Dwyer (poet/librarian/rabid arts supporter): David Lindley and Dougie McClain at the El Rey; “Rockabilly” Bill Kirchen and Avett Brothers at the Big Room; Groove Diggers and Ha’Penny Bridge at Left Coast Pizza; Cowboy Junkies and Leo Kottke-Loudon Wainwright III, both at Laxson Auditorium; Das Vibenbass at Café Coda; Gorgeous Armada in Sleigh at the Blue Room; Xmas Xtring Band at Café Flo; and Paul Kamm-Eleanor MacDonald-Nina Gerber at the Birdhouse.

Christine G.K. LaPado (musician/CN&R writer): Three world-class photography shows in late 2008—two by students of the late Ansel Adams: Chico State art professor emeritus Ira Latour and S.F. Fillmore District photog David Johnson. The third was a collection of photos taken by the man himself, Nature & Spirit: The Landscape Photographs of Ansel Adams at Chico State’s University Art Gallery. The Adams show and Latour’s Portraiture and Place at 1078 Gallery both took place during October’s Artoberfest, while Johnson’s retrospective graced Chico State’s Humanities Center Gallery in December.

October’s Glass Fest—featuring glass artists from around the world—was another Artoberfest triumph. I also loved North Carolina digital artist Jeff Murphy’s provocative 1078 show, Convergence , in September, and the University Art Gallery’s November Narrative Shorts International Film & Video Festival .

Aye Jay Morano’s Chico Legends screen print series—including “Duffy’s Tavern,” “Thunderbird Lodge” and the ubiquitous “Taco Truck”—also weighed-in big-time on my list.

And you, Arts DEVO?
The programming for Chico Performances was impressive. The old CRUX and the new TiON rocked my world. The 1078 Gallery, to me, has the potential to be the beating heart of Chico’s art scene (if they can muster and organize a crew of volunteers). Local theater = rad.

I was most personally moved this year by some pretty random experiences: the Tag You’re Knit gorilla-knitting project; Maurice Spencer’s offensive, fearless, personally painful and hilarious faux-Tony Clifton shtick at Nick’s Night Club; Patrick Dougherty’s “The Lookout Tree” sculptures in Redding’s McConnell Arboretum and Gardens; and, most of all, the discovery of a handful of Outsider-ish artists in the area—especially PRAVDA McCroskey and her overflowing home of expressive paintings.

Next week:
Year in review, part two.