Talkin’ the walk

Chico’s Art 1st Saturday guides you through the art scene

ART MADE HERE<br> Julie Shaw (foreground) welcomes aficionados into her underground studio on Wall Street during the Art 1st Saturday event last weekend.

Julie Shaw (foreground) welcomes aficionados into her underground studio on Wall Street during the Art 1st Saturday event last weekend.

Photo By Jason Cassidy

Andy Tomaselli and Nita Torres are the sort of people Chico’s new Art 1st Saturday walks were made for. After bumping into the arts-minded duo at the bustling All Fired Up ceramic studio toward the end of the Jan. 6 edition and hearing their experience of discovery, this writer could see the event’s potential.

With the music of an acoustic-guitar duo in the background and complimentary glasses of wine in hand, Tomaselli and Torres giddily talked about their adventure, beginning with their first visit to the funky home of Crux Artist Collective on Park Avenue followed by a viewing of tattoo art at Gearhead next door. Before making their way to the 1078 Gallery and All Fired Up, they introduced themselves to the art at the new Café Coda on Humboldt (formerly Jedediah’s) and were so impressed by the menu, they stayed for dinner.

That’s a full evening of new art and new food, and they visited only a fraction of the galleries on the map.

The News & Review has been sponsoring the Second Saturday Art Walk in Sacramento for a dozen-plus years, printing a monthly map of galleries in Midtown Sac and the Uptown Arts District. One evening per month, thousands of art lovers flood the galleries to buy the local art (yes, money is exchanged for art) in what has become one of the most popular art happenings in the North State.

Given Chico’s historically energetic arts community and relatively recent distinction of ranking among the top 10 small art towns in the country, a local version seemed long overdue. Art 1st Saturday was born.

Of course, the art walk is one of those things “arty” towns have been doing for a while to unify their communities and hopefully sell a little art along the way. Tacoma, Wash.? Third Thursdays. Hot Springs, Ark.? First Fridays. Scottsdale, Ariz.? That city boasts “America’s original art walk,” the 30-year-old ArtWalk which happens weekly. Every Thursday!

“I think it will be received here quicker than everywhere else,” said CN&R Advertising Manager Alec Binyon, who spearheaded the Chico walk. He expects Art 1st Saturday to take about six months to catch on in a significant way, adding: “Chicoans come out.”

Judging by word of mouth and the personal experiences of the spectators and gallery participants, his timetable is realistic.

On a very frigid evening (in the middle of Chico State’s winter break) during the second edition of the event, traffic was pretty light, but enthusiasm—and great art—filled the warm confines of the galleries.

My party started with the bustling opening of Gary Quiring’s erotic photography exhibit at the James Snidle Fine Arts gallery, and the crowded party with wine and full gourmet spread (baked brie, mmm … ) proved the right way to enjoy some tasteful full-color nudes.

Of course, not every stop was so extravagant. Which is probably good. The most satisfying art walk should include a wide spectrum of experiences. Chico already has an impressive 41 stops on the art walk map (as compared with much-larger Sacramento’s 80), and the inclusion of artist studios as well as established galleries, dealers and cafés—just like during the annual Open Studios Tours in the fall—provides a balance of intimate and formal arts experiences. Either way, you’re going to see something new, something you might not have known existed in Chico.

If you follow local art, you might be hip to the Second Street studios and Mabrie Ormes’ Gallery 222 tucked high above the Naked Lounge, but did you know that on Wall Street, between Third and Fourth, there’s an underground studio? Behind and below an office building, in the mysterious space #16 (it’s not even on the building’s directory), is the private studio of painter and Butte College art instructor Julie Shaw. Her paintings are stacked everywhere—leaned against walls, on tables—so if you missed it this time around, be sure to check it out during next month’s event.