Necessity and artistic ambition come together to form TiON
A few cold drops of rain tapped on my windshield as I followed a quiet line of cars snaking through a sleepy warehouse park in south Chico. It felt kind of like being in a big city, on the way to a secret location where an underground party was happening behind one of the massive roll-up doors.
It was Saturday night, and little signs with “TiON” painted across provided a trail to a row of commercial buildings tucked away off the very southern end of Ivy Street.
It was debut night for TiON, Chico’s newest art space—housed inside the 2,800-square-foot Suite 140—and in the anticipatory moments before the marathon of performers and presentations were set in motion, it was hard not to be impressed with the scale of it all.
You could fit a two-story building inside the TiON warehouse. The place is massive. There’s a large stage set at an angle in one corner, book ended by a video-projection roost atop the bathroom and a higher perch above an office space that is covered with multicolored lights. The largest uninterrupted wall space featured a couple of murals (by Ayrian Dilts and Dean Hernandez), plus a movie theater-sized projection screen. There was a somewhat-delineated corner that appeared to be a temporary art-making space, and at the back of the room, a section of scaffolding doubled as a bunk-bed perch for taking it all in.
On this opening night, there were actually murals on every wall, but one literally stood out above the rest. Growing up to the ceiling from behind the video roost, a giant tree painted by Matt Goulart towered over the room.
Goulart’s mighty tree was the night’s signature artwork, both with its physical presence and with its obvious symbolism that there is something big here growing.
And as painter, comic book author and former CRUX co-director Ty Gorton appeared high above in the colored lights atop the office space, the wheels of the big experiment were set in motion through the words of his call-to-action poem:
“We deluxe bodies can form flux armies against the tide. We deluxe can lock each other into new wombs for birth into new times. … We. Deluxe. Move. On.”
“My personal vision is for the TiON space to be a vehicle for community expression,” says artist/MC (and CN&R designer) Mazi Noble, one of the six founding TiON instigators.
“The core purpose of TiON is to create a self-sustaining, multifaceted creative space that provides enough resources to those involved to allow them to focus on their art full time,” adds fellow founder Gorton.
Those multiple facets include the live events, plus art displays, studios, a design department and filmmaking. The plan for exactly how those purposes will play out together is through an approach that Noble characterized as “a different business model—something that would incorporate every aspect of itself.” So, even though one person might be the guy who books a band, the rest of the group will get together and flesh out the ideas for the event with things like accompanying visuals or other performance possibilities, incorporating as many creative ideas and individuals as possible.
“We kind of brainstorm to see what we can do to push it to the next level,” Noble says.
In addition to Noble and Gorton, the core of TiON features filmmaker Skyler Sabine, printmaker (and mural-maker) Hernandez, electronic musician and painter Dilts and drummer and concert promoter Sean Cummins.
Gorton emphatically points out, though, that there are countless local artists and arts supporters who have been involved in the building of TiON. And when asked what the space’s immediate needs are, Gorton continues the theme: “Collaboration, first and foremost. Pulling together internally and externally to create elevated content.”
The arrival of TiON, of course, coincides with the shutting down of the CRUX Artist Collective space. All of the TiON guys were involved to some degree with CRUX, especially Gorton and Cummins.
For his part, Cummins will be keeping the CRUX name alive as an umbrella under which he’ll continue to book music around town as well as manage planned artist studios inside TiON.
Opening night was more of a continuous dizzying variety show than a cohesive presentation, with live music, followed by experimental film, followed by performance art, spoken word, freestyle rap, and more live music (and there was a taco truck parked out front—perfect rainy night fuel for keeping the party going).
As might be expected, the Chikoko fashion/performance collective was the night’s audience favorite, with its encore performance of the 30-minute musical produced for a recent performance at the Chico Glass Fest. Written by Chikoko member Genevieve Dietz’s husband, Josh, the “fairy tale musical about the origin of glass, dreams and human beings” featured Josh on keyboards as the troupe danced, sang and performed trapeze-like acrobatics in the rafters.
My personal highlights included the films by Sabine and Goat, the impromptu freestyle open-mic instigated by an equipment failure and powered by the funky acoustic guitar of One Up The Acoustic DJ and best of all, the rousing opening performance of Pat Hull and his new full band. Backed by drums, mandolin, stand-up bass, handclaps and Erin Lizardo on keyboards and extra vocals, the big energetic crew created a big happy sound that was like a freakin’ revival. It was wonderful. Plus, the pre-set music video for Hull’s infectious pop ditty “True Love” was hilarious … and infectious.
It was a great introduction to the venue’s “potential"—which was the word of the night. The artists, musicians and even the night’s wandering MC (Magnus Shriner) and his partner, The Dapper, the faux critic (Davis Carlson) were abuzz about the potential of it all as they gawked at the wide openness of this new expansive home for making and enjoying art.