Notes from the scene

Some new hope and some deep sadness on the Chico arts horizon

Blue Room Theatre (photo by Jason Cassidy)
Jason Cassidy

It has been months since Arts DEVO has had too much to write about in this column. But in this week after the CN&R put out its first print edition in more than three months, I’m overwhelmed with art news bits.

The biggest and most depressing news is, of course, that the Blue Room Theatre announced last week (July 2) that it will vacate its downtown home of more than 26 years. Like all live-performance venues, the theater has been closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and with virtually no income for three-plus months (and little hope for live shows returning any time soon), the theater is unable to afford keeping the space.

In a telephone interview, Steve Swim, the Blue Room’s development director and board vice president said the prospect of potentially having to pay off a year or more worth of back rent, not to mention the monthly expenses (utilities, insurance, etc.) that would continue to pile up as the pandemic persists, made for an untenable situation.

“I know it’s completely heartbreaking to so many in the community [and the] people who put so much of themselves onto the stage,” Swim added.

Heartbreaking is an understatement. It feels almost like a scene-killer. The little black box above the hardware store has hosted more adventurous theater (and for a time, musical) performances than probably any other venue during my 31 years in Chico.

But it should be pointed out that the theater has hit bumps in the road before, and as longtime Blue Roomer Betty Burns spelled out in a recent Facebook post, all hope is not lost:

“I do grieve now for this final bow, but this time my sadness is tinged with hope. A hope that the theater community of Chico will now come together as a whole and help rebuild all that we have lost over the years. Theatre Out of a Suitcase, Shakespeare in the Park, Chico Cabaret, Rogue Theatre, more that I know I am forgetting. We need to stand upon the boards united. Allowing for more voices to be heard. More varied stories to be told. Welcoming more communities into our theater community. The Blue Room won’t truly end unless we let it.”

Swim said that the plan for now is to host a big rummage sale this Saturday (July 11), 9 a.m.-3 p.m., at the theater (physical distancing will be enforced, sign up online to reserve a spot), then put the rest of the gear in storage and continue to post videos of its activities on the Blue Room Patreon page. When the state allows public gatherings again, the theater will “regroup” and produce shows at other venues as it searches for another possible permanent home.

Lockdown art

In last week’s column, I put out a call for the art that y’all have been making during these COVID times, and I’ve received a couple of submissions so far. (The rest of you, show me the stuff! Email: jasonc@newsreview.com.)

“Me and Olive,” by Michael Bone.

The first submission I received was from Michael Bone, the local multi-discipline artist who’s probably best known in Chico for his musical offerings as a solo singer/songwriter as well as a member of jazz crew Bogg and a core instigator in the Uncle Dad’s Art Collective.

During shelter-in-place, Bone has kept insanely busy. He continues to oversee his 1day Song Club songwriting project; he started a podcast; he wrote, recorded and released a new solo album; and he’s cranked out about 100 paintings! See all the things that the Bones—Michael and his wife, Ginger—have been making at bone-made.com.

Longtime CN&R reader Danny Wilson sent in some pages from his Mulling Report, a collection of enhanced images inspired by the dumb and dangerous things our current president does. It probably comes as no surprise that his binder of commentary is nearly three inches thick.

Shelter-in-place piece by Danny Wilson.

Call for virtual art + musician-relief fund

As many might have guessed, Chico Art Center‘s Open Studios Art Tour will move online this year. The main attraction of the annual countywide art walk is getting the chance to visit dozens of studios in person, but October almost certainly will be too soon for rubbing elbows in close quarters, so the organizers are moving the event to the center’s website.

Art fans will still be able to visit studios in person during weekends in October, but only with a reservation. Artists have until July 24 to register to take part. Visit the artist portal for more information.

Meanwhile, tomorrow (July 10) is the final day for local musicians to apply from for relief via the KZFR Cares About Musicians campaign. With help from musicians Nell Robinson and Jim Nunally, the local community radio station is “putting money back into the pockets of our local, performing musicians.” Fill out the online form or email grant@kzfr.org for more info.

Wild art

Chico garage-punk trio Satanic Mountain Witches had to play a show. They had a new tape to release and member Guitar Witch (aka Guitar Hog, aka Johnny Shanker, aka Johnny Meehan) is leaving town soon. Solution? Play several 15-minute physically distant sets in a gravel lot to an audience of no more than six at a time.

Horns up! Masks on! (photo by Ken Smith)

CN&R contributor and connoisseur of industrial park shenanigans Ken Smith made the trek to the far-northwest side of town and said the Witches rocked—in a very efficient and socially responsible way.

Local artist and 1078 Gallery board member Erin Wade has created a template, all you have to do is fill in the date, time and the number of Americans killed by COVID-19 as of that moment. It’s a stark and effective visual for the pandemic’s human toll, especially when happened upon one while on a walk, tacked to a random telephone pole, or while scrolling Wade’s Instagram feed.

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