Free expression

Janet Lombardi Blixt

Photo by Rachel Bush

About six months ago, local artist Janet Lombardi Blixt moved her business, Chico Art School, from its old spot on Broadway (above House of Rice) to the corner of East Third and Wall streets, where she currently occupies a small but vibrant gallery space. Every inch of the cottage’s interior is covered in color, from one of Lombardi Blixt’s paintings to bright bouquets of flowers to cups filled with brushes and colored pencils. Lombardi Blixt, who has been named Best Local Artist by CN&R readers seven times, has been able to make a living as an artist for the entirety of her adult life. After spending years doing graphic design work, then creating art for model homes, she turned her focus to teaching. For nearly a decade, Lombardi Blixt has been giving art lessons to children and adults through Chico Art School, where she teaches roughly 12 classes a week and works within six different mediums. Go to for more.

What’s your favorite medium to work in?

My personal interest in art came when I was about age 7, and I started with oil painting and pastels. I’d say that’s where my heart is.

Who are you most influenced by?

There are contemporary artists I follow on Facebook, but from the past it would be Van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne—all of the impressionists. I’m really drawn to their work.

How do you feel about the Chico art scene?

I would love to see it expand more. I’ve been to other small towns where they do monthly art events. We used to do that, but it takes somebody with a lot of energy to spearhead that. I think it would be great if we could take over a vacant building once a month. Maybe get the restaurants on board.

Did business change for you after the Camp Fire?

After the fire, I decided to offer free lessons to the children [who] were displaced. And that was really well-received; a lot of those classes filled and a lot of those students came back for my classes. It was neat to see the kids being able to talk about their experience and get it out on paper. It’s affected everybody. Art is very therapeutic for healing emotions, and I’m happy to help provide that.

You have a sign that says “ish is good” hanging in your gallery. What’s the significance?

It’s inspired by a book called Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds. It tells the story of a kid who throws away his drawings after someone makes fun of them, but his little sister saves all his crumpled work and displays them, because she enjoys them. The drawings aren’t perfect, but they look enough like certain things. One is house-ish, one is tree-ish. Ish becomes a freeing idea, and it’s a philosophy I like to teach here in my lessons.