The surprising and the surprised

Exploring the downtown Window Art Walk

“Kansas City,” by Halina Domanski (Chico Paper Co.)

“Kansas City,” by Halina Domanski (Chico Paper Co.)

Photo by Carey Wilson

Window Art Walk
Pick up art-walk programs at Kirk's Jewelry (246 W. Third St.) or other participating businesses.

Last Thursday evening (Oct. 1), I ventured into downtown Chico with a friend to take in some art as 25 local businesses were holding simultaneous receptions for the annual Window Art Walk. Formerly organized by the city’s Arts Commission, this 21st edition of the fall art/business collaboration is a co-presentation of the Downtown Chico Business Association and Ninth Avenue Gallery.

Our first stop was Chico Paper Co., that beacon of art on the corner of Fourth Street and Broadway. Owner Eric Metcalf and his young daughter Kili (pronounced “Kylie”) greeted us at the door and handed us an art-walk program with a map of the event, and invited us to wander through the store looking at the diverse display of cards, frames, prints, and of course original artwork. I was particularly taken by Halina Domanski’s colorful multimedia piece “Kansas City,” just inside the front entrance. (Note: In the case of venues on the map that regularly showcase art, works aren’t limited to storefront windows.) After enjoying a few nibbles from the reception spread and a bit of a chat with Kili, who informed us she “might be running [the place] someday,” we eased out the shop door and into the pleasant early fall evening.

“Kids & Garbage,” by Josh Mills (The Bookstore)

Photo by Carey Wilson

In the nearby Birkenstock store, we enjoyed talking shoe sizes with the owner and viewing Cooie Grey-Lavin’s intricate, mosaic works before moving on to Bootleg, Susan Reed’s vintage clothing and footwear shop on Second Street, to take in the witty tile creations of artist and Rebel Tiles founder Robin Indar.

Around the block, Bookstore co-owner Josh Mills showed us his own good-humored photo series, “Kids and Garbage,” depicting his children standing in front of assorted public trash receptacles. While there we enjoyed a glass of red wine, some potato chips, and chatting with Mills’ partner, Muir Hughes, former Chico Arts Commission head and maker of brilliant, hand-sewn fabric dolls inspired by her children’s art. Hughes suggested we visit the “Poet & Journalkeeping” exhibit at Magna Carta and we’re glad she did. Susan Wooldridge, poet, journal-keeper and archivist of tiny found images was a delight to talk with about the creative process and the value of the spontaneous discovery of images and thoughts.

There were a few glitches in the program provided, as evidenced by Reed’s puzzlement over Bootleg’s inclusion on the map (“Really?”), and there being no reception and no Mike Halldorson prints as listed at the Upper Crust Bakery & Eatery (the counter worker hadn’t been informed about the art walk). But there were still some wonderful discoveries to be made, including the mixed-media paintings and assemblages by Cathy Eide that were up at the Upper Crust, and the interesting range of student works at the Arts for All group show in the vacant space at 215 Main St.

We finished our tour at the student exhibit, much of which addressed issues of social ills such as the obsession with self-image (see Pleasant Valley High School senior Rhiannon Miller’s evocative acrylic of two feet on a scale with measurements of “gross,” “okay,” “beautiful”), but also featured a healthy streak of youthful dark humor running through it.

The downtown “window art” will be up throughout October, and guides can be picked up at participating businesses.