Den meeting

The Den Art Collective uses found objects to create fresh, hip, buyer-friendly art

SANTA’S LITTLE HELPERS? Left to right are Alana Karsch, Ajay Reed and Ames Kilpatrick, founders of the Den Art Collective (T-DAC), which is running a holiday art “Gift Shoppe” at 1078 Gallery through Jan. 7.

SANTA’S LITTLE HELPERS? Left to right are Alana Karsch, Ajay Reed and Ames Kilpatrick, founders of the Den Art Collective (T-DAC), which is running a holiday art “Gift Shoppe” at 1078 Gallery through Jan. 7.

Photo By Tom Angel

The Den Art Collective started out on the front lawn of a 14th Street home. Every Saturday, this below-the-radar group of artists and artisans put on a 21st-century yard sale—or (y)art sale, as it was known—that was part show and part sale. This weekly gathering eventually morphed into Den Art (or, as it’s also known, T-DAC), a traveling show that landed first at the Saturday Night Concerts in the Park and then became part of the annual Open Studios showcase, setting up shop at Fulcrum Records.

The 1078 Art Gallery is the current home of T-DAC and its holiday art “Gift Shoppe.” The group’s three cofounders, Ajay Reed, Alana Karsch and Ames Kilpatrick, all agree that the cooperative was born out of a need to create a kind of scene in Chico that accents a harmony of ideas and is, above all, fun.

Traditionally at craft fairs one might find tea cozies, birdhouses and pine-scented sock drawer fresheners, but T-DAC travels in a parallel dimension that includes odd but lovable handmade dolls, entire books turned into origami table top conversation pieces and wall hangings made of old sewing cards. The handmade items utilize everything from bottle caps and Scotch tape to old clippings from children’s books, and these household items are transformed into unique buyable items.

“We use found objects and thrift store bargains,” says Kilpatrick. If there was one word to encompass the wide range of items T-DAC offers, it would be hip.

Reed says that T-DAC started as a series of “trial-and-error experiments” that took place in her den. With a high percentage of members who have young children, T-DAC evolved into a coming together of like-minded souls who were having trouble getting their work seen through the popular avenues that Chico offers, such as COBA and the Farmers’ Market.

“We all were making functional art items, enjoyed sharing our ideas and resources and wanted to create our own way of getting into the minds and hands of the public,” Reed added.

Kirsch, a graduate of Lesley College in Boston, says, “A key to our vision is that our art is accessible and affordable. We have a community vision that includes offering workshops on how to produce and market your art, as well as how to work in the world of fine art.”

They all agree that T-DAC’s numerous influences include the burgeoning alternative art scenes in Oregon and Sacramento, the international portal of as well as key Chico people like the Bring the Noise coalition, Fulcrum Records owner Rene Stephens and one of the greatest supporters of local arts—and Café Flo co-owner—Mary Gardner.

“We’d still be in our living rooms [without them],” said Ames, a Chico State graduate and teacher, adding, “We not only want to create an art community for ourselves that is self sufficient, fueled by our own creativity and products, we aim to share that with all of Chico as well.”

All of T-DAC’S 10 members have ponied up a $20 membership fee, and the group is now looking to expand into a permanent location in 2005. They’ll have the temporary home at the 1078 Gallery through Jan. 7.

“We would love to find an old warehouse that is a sight for sore eyes, fix it up, start a non-profit and become a resource center. Chico is our home,” said Reed.

A collaborative event with one of Chico’s most unusual bands, The Gorgeous Armada, is also on the horizon.

“T-DAC has evolved, learning along the way. We’ve found that others might copy our work, but our vision is unique, and we welcome anyone that might want to join us in our path," Karsch said.