Arts immersion

With just five simple steps, you can dive into Chico’s nationally recognized artscape

Chico State’s School of the Arts has featured a production of the musical <span style=Once Upon a Mattress.">

Chico State’s School of the Arts has featured a production of the musical Once Upon a Mattress.

Just because Chico is a fairly small city doesn’t mean its arts terrain can be quickly maneuvered. There’s more here than first meets the eye.

In fact, there’s so much here that author John Villani named Chico as one of the top 10 “small” art towns in his book The 100 Best Art Towns in America.

From the university’s prolific arts programming to the three community theater companies (five, if you count the ones in Oroville and Paradise) to the roughly 30 galleries, cafés and shops with art on the walls, there are more artistic endeavors in Chico than in any California town north of Sacramento.

Here are five suggestions to get you primed. But don’t stop here. There are always new, crazy things being invented by eccentric locals and random students, so keep your eyes and your mind open. Be on the lookout for fliers and posters, and of course, pick up your copy of CN&R every Thursday for the latest happenings.

Pick up Kaleidoscope
Next to the trusty weekly arts resource you’re holding in your hands, Chico State’s Kaleidoscope publication is the most essential arts reading for a Chico newcomer. The comprehensive annual guide of the university’s arts programming comes out at the beginning of the summer and highlights nearly every play, exhibition, speaker and concert presented by the School of the Arts, Chico Performances or the Humanities Center.

The School of the Arts facilitates most every student- or faculty-produced play, recital, concert or exhibition, ranging from the rockin’ funk of the popular gospel choir to the massive year-end musical in Laxson Auditorium. The School of the Arts is where we get to see student artists show off their work.

Chico Performances is the production arm of University Public Events. Run by long-time local promoter Dan DeWayne, the program has introduced Laxson audiences to Peking Acrobats, musicians of Western Africa (Baaba Maal, Tinariwen) and classic American performers such as the Indigo Girls and Gillian Welch. Performances for the 2006-07 season will include Woodstock pioneer Richie Havens and the return of the Peking Acrobats.

Ryan Fiscus’s poster “Ive Got A Fever” got exhibited at Chico Art Center’s Digital Dialogue group show.

The Humanities Center brings together different disciplines, hosting the University Film Series and Humanities Gallery art shows plus academic symposia and guest speakers.

Pick up your copy of Kaleidoscope at the University Box Office at Second and Normal streets, and at high-traffic locations on the Chico State campus.

Take a campus gallery tour
The Chico State campus is home to five art galleries, each with its own perspective and contribution to the university’s arts community.

Humanities Gallery: Usually runs two simultaneous exhibits (Main Gallery and The Hallway) of established local and visiting artists.

University Art Gallery: A “student-centered exhibition space” with shows from national and international artists, plus the annual Masters of Fine Arts exhibits and Juried Student Exhibition in the spring.

Janet Turner Print Museum: In addition to housing 2,000 prints by its famous namesake, the Turner museum showcases themed print exhibits and sponsors the annual Janet Turner National Print Competition and Exhibition.

BFA Gallery: The low-key gallery in the arts building features rotating student works.

<span style="font-style:normal">I Love You, You’re Perfect Now Change</span> got produced at Chico Cabaret.

BMU Art Gallery: Associated Students manage this gallery of original works by students.

Grab a cup of joe
Chico’s downtown coffee shops are some of the most active arts locations in town. Pick a different spot every time you go downtown: Moxie’s, Upper Crust, Grilla Bites, Has Beans, Café Flo—every one of them covers its walls with local art, and every month brings a new show.

Open Studios Tour in the fall
This is where it starts to get serious. Each fall, over 100 local artists open their studios for the Chico Art Center’s annual Open Studios Tour. This is the chance to get to know what art is being made in Chico, and is a great opportunity to meet the people making it.

This year’s tour kicks off Friday, Oct. 6, 7-9 p.m. with a reception at the center, followed by two weekends of open studios and galleries for your touring pleasure, Oct. 7-8 and 14-15.

Theater on Thursdays
Art galleries don’t charge money, but theaters do. And it’s worth it. Chico’s community theaters put on the kind of innovative—and at times expensive—productions you’d expect to only see in bigger, richer cities like Sacramento or San Francisco. The bonus for the starving student is that all three of these little theaters hold discount performances on Thursday nights.

The Blue Room Theatre: Chico’s rebellious theater puts on contemporary and original works as well as select modern or classic works. Recent Blue Room offerings include the popular musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the political The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail. Thursdays, all seats are $6.

Chico Cabaret: Focusing on musicals and comedies, the Cabaret is the Blue Room’s zany cousin. The Cabaret is best known for its annual fall tradition: The Rocky Horror Show. Thursdays, students (and seniors) pay only $10.

Chico Theater Company: The Chico Theater Company has taken over the old Eaton Road Opera House and turned it into a home for the classic Broadway musical. On the schedule for this fall: Blithe Spirit and The Sound of Music. Thursdays, all seats are $15.