Inventing a scene

Taking an active view of the Chico art scene with Arts DEVO

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Hello, Arts DEVO here, your friendly weekly arts columnist for the Chico News & Review, and I have something to tell you. After spending a couple of decades hanging out in, playing along with, and writing about the local arts and music scenes, I can say with great confidence that you are now in the kind of place where it is possible for you to actually take part in things.

You say you have an original script set in a future world where robot monkeys police the streets? You can do that. It’s written specifially for shadow-puppet theater? Welcome to your new home. And you can play two chords and know how to make fliers with clever art? You are going to make a lot of friends in Chico.

If it’s interaction and community you’ve been seeking, this is the arts town for you. Chico is big enough to have a college bringing a renewable stream of fresh, creative ideas to town, and still laid-back and affordable enough to make doing and showcasing art accessible to anyone who is willing to work on their own behalf. You might not be able to make much money, but you can get inspired and have tons of fun.

You could hang your art in a local gallery right now. Well, maybe not today, but soon enough. Every month or so, the eclectic group of passionate arts-makers who run the MANAS Artspace on the south side of town host themed open-entry shows in which everyone is invited to take part.

Previous themes have included the Everything Green show (green or green-inspired art), BTW Have You Seen My Keys? (art incorporating keys provided by the gallery) and LP Cookie Camp Mystery Mixer (where an old vinyl album and one fortune-cookie fortune are the starting point). All it takes to get in on the fun is to pony up the $5 or $10 entry fee, pick up whatever props might be part of the theme, and make something in time for the opening. Not only is your art on display at a fun space, but the wild receptions are also a great place to meet local arty types of all stripes.

It’s a great asset to have such a regular, accessible outlet for artists, but MANAS isn’t the only opportunity available. Other local galleries—Chico Art Center, Avenue 9 Gallery—have curated open-entry shows as well as annual all-inclusive art events (Open Studios Tour in the fall and Art Fiesta in the spring, respectively), and the longstanding 1078 Gallery often has open-entry fundraising shows as well as the annual invitational group show for its members (become a member for as little as $65 a year).

If acting is your thing (or you want it to be your thing), there are dozens of community-theater productions a year, and every theater (see sidebar) holds open auditions.

And if you play music, you really could be performing in front of an audience (however small) right now. Seriously, you might be able to get added to a show tonight. If whatever indie, metal, jazz, rock or folk bill scheduled at Café Coda is full, or the punk lineup at Monstros Pizza is already overstocked, or Café Flo can’t add you to the night of folk, give Matt Savage at the new Dex space a call. The busy little downtown venue has something going on most every night of the week, has a nice sound system, and every experience level and style of music is welcome. And you can always jump on stage with a song or a poem at one of the many local open mics at Has Beans (Thursdays, 7 p.m.), Café Flo (Tuesdays, 7 p.m.) and 100th Monkey Books (Wednesdays, 7 p.m.).

For more info on all of the local venues and happenings, see Ken Smith’s story about Chico’s Nightlife on p. 28, and pick up the Chico News & Review every week.

Of course, as much as I personally dig a wild and open range of expression keeping the pulse of the scene quick, it can’t be all experimental art projects and punk bands. There needs to be a foundation of established arts producers and makers to keep venues open and to keep a connection to the culture outside of the island of Chico. My intention here has been to try to inspire newcomers to take part, but I’ve definitely buried many of the local-arts torchbearers—those passionate leaders who keep art alive in Chico—here at the end. Places like the community theaters and galleries mentioned above, the Chico State galleries and the local art dealers—Chico Paper Co., Art Etc., James Snidle Fine Arts, The Vagabond Rose—showing and supporting the artists. And, of course, the big stages at the Sierra Nevada Big Room, Senator and El Rey theaters (via J-Max Productions) and Chico State’s two prolific production departments, the School of the Arts and the incredible Chico Performances, which brings everything from world-renowned West African musicians (Baaba Maal, Angélique Kidjo) to icons of dance, theater and American music (everyone from Paul Taylor Dance Company to Willie Nelson) to our little corner of the world. (See the sidebar for full listings of art and performance venues.)

It’s these organizations that will be the ones showcasing the bulk of the interesting and high-quality art—some traditional, some contemporary—during the upcoming school year, hopefully further inspiring the brand-new crop of active creative types who will be keeping Chico’s scene fresh for years to come.


Arts destinations:


Take a journey to the heart of Chico art-ness at one of the many vibrant art galleries on campus and beyond.

Chico galleries:

1078 Gallery

820 Broadway

All Fired Up Ceramic Studio

830 Broadway

Art, Etc.

122 W. Third St.

Avenue 9 Gallery

180 E. Ninth Ave.

Chico Art Center

450 Orange St.

Chico Museum

141 Salem St.

Chico Paper Co.

345 Broadway

James Snidle Fine Arts

254 E. Fourth St.

MANAS Artspace

1441 Park Ave., Suite C

Sally Dimas Art Gallery

493 East Ave., #1

Vagabond Rose Gallery & Framing

236 Main St.


3rd Floor Gallery

Upstairs in the BMU, Chico State


B-SO Space

Ayres Hall, Chico State

Butte College Art Gallery

Arts Building

Turner Print Museum

Meriam Library, first floor, Chico State

University Art Gallery

Trinity 100 and hallway, Chico State

Live at Chico State:

Live performing arts and music by world-class artists as well as Chico State faculty and student peformers.

Chico Performances


School of the Arts


On the Boards:

From community theaters to the four stages between Chico State and Butte College, there’s always a new production to discover.

Blue Room Theatre

139 W. First St.

Butte College Dramatic Arts

California Regional Theatre

Staged at CUSD Center for the Arts

1475 East Ave.

Chico State Department of Theatre

Chico Theater Co.

166-F Eaton Road

Rogue Theatre

Birdcage Theatre

1740 Bird St.,Oroville

Theatre on the Ridge

3735 Neal Rd.

Kick Up Your Feet:

Chico Creek Dance Center

Classes and performances of modern, hip-hop, ballet and more.


Reel World:

From multiplex to art-house fare.

Cinemark 14

801 East Ave., Suite 2


Pageant Theatre

351 E. Sixth St.