Winning—and painting—big

Roy Steves

Photo by Nicole McGovern

Roy Steves moved to Chico in 2004 and soon after entered his first Chico Open Board Art (COBA) competition. He didn’t win (though he was chosen as a finalist), but that didn’t discourage him, and he entered again. The competition (now defunct) started with a portfolio process with 20 finalists, who then submitted a simple drawing representing what they wanted to paint. Once their ideas were accepted by the board, they got a canvas and started painting. In 2006, Steves’ final painting, of a local landscape, was crowned winner. It can now be seen on the wall of Fire Station 1 at Ninth and Salem streets.

Have you had community response to the mural?

Yes. It’s approachable because on some psychological level I think people really like bicycles. A lot of people stop. We’re on a big street here, so some people just yell out of their window. Most people love it.

Do you know why they chose the fire station as the site?

The site could’ve been anywhere. The painting hasn’t changed, but the site changed. Originally it was thought that it might not be on a public building … that it might be on a private building somewhere downtown. It seems now that I am here there is a strong connection with the firehouse. It’s now the firehouse mural.

What does this piece mean to you?

I painted it two years ago, so there is a bit of distance now. I’m a cyclist and I really enjoy riding my bike around this area and I decided to throw a bike in the foreground. It just really made the whole painting.

Is this a painting of a specific place, or a representation of the area?

It’s a bit of an abstraction, because the background is Upper Park, and the cloud doesn’t necessarily exist. There are crazy cloud formations over the foothills, but this is something out of my head. The bike is actually my bike and the background is of the park, so the combination is somewhat of a fantasy.

How have the firefighters responded to the art?

They’ve been great; really cool. When I started I just wanted to stay out of their hair. I’m on the side of their building, and I do need to use their space to put the scaffold at night, but I didn’t really want to bother them because they have other things to do. They’ve been really nice; they’ll come out and say hello and say, “It looks good!”

How do you think this mural fits into Chico?

Well, you see murals downtown, and they are all great. I would just like to see more and more.

Is this the biggest mural you’ve ever painted?

It’s one of the bigger ones. I’ve done some pretty big murals before. I’ve covered whole restaurants in murals, so that was bigger in size. I’d say this is the biggest in-depth mural. I’m actually trying to paint a painting on the wall.