A talk with the new art director at the nonprofit 1078 Gallery
The white, high-ceilinged space of the 1078 art gallery is currently a mess.
Boxes of clothes, posters, cleaning and painting supplies lie strewn about the main exhibit room one enters directly off the street at 738 West Fifth St., where the gallery is located smack dab in the middle of fraternity row near the popular student meccas of Riley’s bar and Joe’s Pub.
Visitors often miss the gallery at first, a building whose translucent glass block windows allow no views inside and whose 1078 sign hanging above appears to signal yet another bar or billiard room. On most days, broken beer bottles litter the doorway and sometimes the occasional golf ball blasted from a bored frat boy. Not the best setting for one of Chico’s most challenging nonprofit art galleries.
Inside, leaning against a wall near the door are several large oil portraits—the top one displaying a nude couple in a state of playful, almost curious repose. These happen to belong to the new director of the gallery, a recent graduate and former 1078 intern from Chico State University’s fine arts program—29-year-old Jason Adkins.
The reason for the mess is that Adkins is currently remodeling the space; tonight he and some friends are painting the back room so it can be used for informal exhibits of local art. Also, there is an upcoming fundraising effort being planned and people have begun to drop off furniture and other items to be sold.
Adkins is quickly discovering how much work goes into the job, which he applied for after former director Sean Collins left.
“There’s so much involved in the daily planning—figuring out the artists, slide screening, coming up with themes, planning the openings—there’s a lot more to it than one might think,” he says, surveying the room.
Originally from Hayfork in Trinity County, Adkins grew up in a small town and after high school attended college in Walla Walla, Wash., before taking off to see the world. After brief stints working and studying in Spain, England and New York, he returned to Sacramento and soon visited Chico, where he took a student tour with sculptor/teacher Michael Bishop. Impressed, Adkins decided to finish his bachelor’s degree here and continue painting. He was soon involved in a semester-long internship at the 1078 Gallery under former director Collins.
“One thing that attracted me [applying for the job] is that the gallery has a great exhibition record,” says Adkins, a friendly and casual young man with close-cropped hair and dark eyes. “I think we’re really lucky in Chico to have a nonprofit gallery like this—one more concerned with the integrity of the art than making sales.”
Adkins gets help from a small board of directors as well as interns who help with openings, hangings, takedowns and fliers. Right now, there are about 450 people on the mailing list, which he hopes to increase through better exposure.
Adkins is currently planning several new fundraisers (aside from this year’s 17th annual wine auction) and he has also already begun inquiring among grant writers. Grants are important, he says, because the California Arts Commission prefers a certain ratio of grant money to fundraising. Right now, they get slightly more fund money from the city (around $7,500) than from the state.
Talking to Adkins, one can tell that he is not completely pleased with the physical state of the gallery.
“I would personally like to see the gallery eventually own its own space—there’s a bit more control there,” Adkins muses. “Right now, we don’t have a decent restroom, no handicapped access, no air-conditioning—it’s a pretty bare bones facility.”
Adkins says he has big plans for improving the gallery, but he is beginning to see that it will be a slow process, one that requires re-evaluation each year.
Although local crowds turn up briefly for the art openings—for what has been described more as a social function with wine and cheese—Adkins wants to increase foot traffic and real appreciation for visiting artists and their work.
“Somehow, we have to get more people coming out—however we can to get the name out there. The more exposure the better.”
Directing the gallery pays a small monthly stipend and this is Adkins’ main job, one that he will juggle with the time demands of his own art.
Right now, he seems excited about the possibilities.