What’s a monCA?

New museum launches with a bang

I dig art museums. I’ve spent days in some and weeks in one, the Prado, when I lived in Madrid for a year. The entry fee was five pesetas. That was eight cents American to see Goya’s caprichos and Velásquez’s Las Meninas, among so many other masterworks.

When I lived in Idaho about 10 years ago, I went often to the Boise Art Museum, an excellent regional facility. Besides exhibits mounted out of its permanent collection, it regularly hosted traveling exhibits, shows by up-and-coming artists, musical events, poetry readings and much more. Boiseans saw the museum as the heart of their cultural life.

So I’m excited that an effort to create a Museum of Northern California Art is under way in Chico and Butte County. What makes it seem especially promising is that it’s starting off with a major acquisition, thanks to Reed Applegate.

He’s a Chico man who for more than 30 years has slowly but steadily been buying works from Northern California artists. He’s a tasteful collector who knows the artists of this region well, and his collection is superb. Last week, in an act of extraordinary generosity, he donated the entire thing, more than 350 works, to the new museum to serve as the foundation for its permanent collection.

On Sunday afternoon (Dec. 11), he was present at an open house that monCA, as the museum is “acronyming” itself, held to show off about 20 pieces from his collection and officially to launch the museum. It was held in the Esplanade law offices of Eric Alan Berg & Associates, who had graciously removed their furniture to make way for the event.

There were quite a few artists present, and they were unanimous in praising Applegate’s eye for excellence. Knowing that the museum had acquired 350 works of similar quality made monCA seem very real. And Applegate was thrilled that his art was going to have a new home.

The organization is fully formed, incorporated as a nonprofit, and has a website (monca.org) and Facebook page. Its directors’ dream is to turn the Veterans Memorial Building across from Chico High School into the museum they envision.

They’re convinced it’s doable and passionate about their purpose. What they need is for the city, the county and the community to get on board. Reed Applegate has done his part. How about the rest of us?

A friend passes on: I got the terrible news this week that Lynn Cuccia Pardini had died Dec. 8, at the age of 57, from a pulmonary embolism. Years ago we worked together, she on the sales side of the CN&R, I among the scribblers. She was a friendly and unpretentious but really classy woman. In 1987, to everyone’s joy, she married Dr. Dan Pardini, a man as wonderful as she, and for many years she managed his practice. In 1995, she and Dan traveled to China to adopt their daughter, Madeleine. They made a beautiful family together. Our hearts go out to Dan and Madeleine and the rest of Lynn’s family.

A funeral Mass will be held Dec. 16 at 11 a.m. at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 416 Chestnut St.