Seeing the big picture

The owner of the new Dovetail Design gallery hopes to help redefine a vibrant local art scene

IMPRESSIVE HANDIWORK <br>Artist Bill McCoy stands inside his studio, Dovetail Design Gallery, which will have its grand opening on Saturday, Sept. 7—an all-day affair open to the public.

Artist Bill McCoy stands inside his studio, Dovetail Design Gallery, which will have its grand opening on Saturday, Sept. 7—an all-day affair open to the public.

Photo by Tom Gascoyne

Bill McCoy, designer, sculptor and owner of the new Dovetail Design gallery in Chico, has an apt description of himself: “I think in big picture.” It is almost an understatement.

He begins talking quietly about small matters, picks up momentum as ideas come into view and works up to sweeping visions of a thriving art scene right here in Chico. This vision of a fine-art mecca in Chico includes a major museum that could serve as a center for arts and humanities for all of Northern California, monthly “first Thursdays,” when art lovers would be shuttled to many art openings in one night, and active partnerships between schools, galleries, artists, the university and city administration.

It is a vision McCoy began shaping soon after he moved to Chico in 2000. With his wife and son, he moved here from Oregon after an extended search, “not for a place to live, but a community to live in.” They found such a place in Chico. From the beginning McCoy had planned to continue his work as a sculptor and furniture designer and perhaps open a storefront to show his creations.

“When I first thought of opening a showroom for my art as well as the work of other artists, I had thought I would feature a lot of Portland-area artists whom I knew and worked with in Oregon. Then I discovered how many first-rate artists there were working in and around Chico.”

McCoy says he met “88 accomplished artists,” most of whom work in Chico but mostly exhibit their artwork elsewhere—San Francisco, Mendocino, New York. He had had no inkling of the talent that lay untapped for creating a vibrant Chico art scene.

McCoy quickly discovered that Chico had three things a city needs for thriving arts and humanities: a vital community of artists, cultural institutions such as the university, and eager art patrons, people who love the arts and wish to support them. Unfortunately, there has been a “disconnect” between these three things in Chico. With the coordination McCoy envisions, these three interests can work together toward common goals.

Opening his own gallery with a roster of 27 local artists is just the first step, but it’s an important one. “There’s no use in having a grand vision if you’re not going to take all the detailed steps necessary to bring it about,” as McCoy says. Included are such respected artists as Ann T. Pierce, Paul DiPasqua, Alan Carrier, Ruth Ormerod, Claudia Steel, Rudy Giscombe, Idie Adams, James and Elizabeth Newman Kuiper, John Staple, Cal Ling and Jerril Dean Green-Kopp.

Dovetail Design, located on quiet, tree-lined Third Avenue just east of the Esplanade in Chico, has an attractive picture-window storefront topped by the gallery’s namesake image: a dove in a circle with prominently fanned tail enclosed within a trapezoid (the shape created when two pieces of wood are joined in a “dovetail” joint). This smart design encapsulates the elegant yet earthy ambience of the gallery within.

McCoy himself has created all of the handsome woodwork, light fixtures, and display cases for the exhibition space, showcasing his abilities as interior designer, woodworker and sculptor. “People are turned off by stark white walls and identical paintings hung in rows,” said McCoy. Instead, Dovetail Design presents a well-appointed interior with clean, bare-wood surfaces, Oriental carpets and light streaming through high windows. It is an ideal place to show off paintings, sculpture, jewelry, furniture, and crafts.

If a dovetail joint combines separate pieces of wood into a single unit, then perhaps this serves as a useful image for Bill McCoy’s big picture: a community where art lovers, artists, galleries, and institutions are joined in a common bond, a new unity with a shared mission. You won’t have to wait to begin to share Bill McCoy’s vision of an exciting Chico Art scene. The gallery opens to the public Saturday, Sept. 7, with an all-day (10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.) grand opening. All are welcome.