‘Inside out’

The coronavirus pandemic forced the 1078 Gallery to move the art online and even into the parking lot, and it might emerge stronger for the experience

1078 Gallery board members Sarah Pape and Mat Houghton stand in front of a mural on the front of the building by Serena Richelle, featuring endangered and threatened botanical species endemic to Butte County. (Photo by Jason Cassidy)
Bring back the arts

This feature is a part of the Chico News & Review’s Bring Back the Arts campaign, a weekly interview series featuring the leaders of Butte County arts and music venues discussing their efforts to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Each week, the Q&As are published in the CN&R and broadcast during the Chico News & Review radio show, Thursdays, 5-5:30 p.m., on KZFR, 90.1FM.

The 1078 Gallery’s long history has been marked by plenty of upheaval. Formed in 1981 at 1078 Humboldt Ave., the gallery has moved three times. Between the last two moves, the gallery was homeless for nearly a year. However, after a couple of years of establishing itself in its latest digs at 1710 Park Ave., the 1078 had settled and was looking forward to celebrating 40 years as one of the hubs of the local arts community.

Then, of course, the pandemic forced all arts venues to change plans. Like many galleries, the 1078 went mostly virtual, moving its brand of daring contemporary and experimental art to the internet, with outdoor parking-lot events and sporadic, limited in-person viewing as state mandates fluctuated.

With the state slowly reopening, the 1078 Gallery recently opened In Decline—a magical installation of shadow- and music boxes by Zak Elstein—and it’s the first show in more than a year for which the gallery was able throw an actual opening reception party. It was among the recycled wood and spooky lights and sounds of the exhibit where the CN&R met gallery board members Sarah Pape and Mat Houghton to talk about the past year, and what’s to come now that there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel.

Did you have to have a limited audience inside for the recent reception?

Houghton: Yeah, we decided on what, 15? Thirty is a quarter of our capacity, so we went [half] of that. So, we’re being [cautious].

How did it feel to have a reception again?

Houghton: Wonderful. It was great—largely a younger crowd than I’m used to seeing at a 1078 art reception. People were here to bob their heads and chill. Rami [Rodriguez, aka Tiny Shiv] played music, John [Slater, aka This Valve Controls] played music, we had a food truck in the parking lot. People were stoked.

A piece by Zac Elstein from his May 2021 1078 Gallery exhibit, In Decline. (Photo courtesy of 1078 Gallery)

At the beginning of pandemic shutdowns, when you realized that things wouldn’t be normal for a prolonged period, what was the conversation among the board members?

Pape: We had to think about how we could turn the gallery inside out in a way so that it still invited a public of sorts, but we couldn’t do the things that we’d normally do. Which, I think, actually creates an interesting prompt. We already had ideas around the mural projects [a homeless memorial and one with indigenous/threatened plants species], so the murals went up. Equilateral Coffee has regular hours in our parking lot. It kind of started to become this interesting hub, where the social distancing and the open air was already built into it.

Now, we have Sherri Scott [of GRUB Grown Nursery and Farm] in the back, who is opening her own nursery. So, in a weird way it invited a bunch of collaborations between other Chico organizations or Chico businesses that were looking to also not have to [come up] with an entire monthly rent.

A mural by Siana Sonoquie and Paul Alvarez painted on the side of the 1078 Gallery memorializes many members of Chico’s homeless population who have died in recent years. (Photo by Jason Cassidy)

Not all of your shows were online-only; you had some where a few people were allowed in at time, correct?

Pape: We kept shows on the calendar until we could see what was going to happen in the next few weeks, and some artists really wanted to wait until they could have a full gallery experience. But it invited some really cool opportunities, like Claire Fong’s Imagine Together, which was fully virtual, and created that way, so it could all be displayed through social media and also live on our website as kind of a living exhibition.

Houghton: Tip of the hat to “TOTH” [Fong and Erin Lizardo’s video contribution to the exhibit], by the way.

How have the online offerings been going?

Pape: We have a brand-new social media person, Mattie Hinkley, who is doing a knockout job. I don’t think we could have pulled [any of this] off without her. We are a volunteer organization. It’s a time-consuming thing to create an online presence and do it well and consistently. She already had a vision for what it would look like, and it kind of came at a perfect time where we were trying to help people understand that we’re still doing things, we’re still doing exciting things, there’s still ways to interact with the gallery. Just because our doors weren’t open didn’t mean this wasn’t still a gathering place.

How was the gallery able to survive financially during the pandemic?

Pape: Through the kindness and generosity of our members. We have a pretty robust Rent Club. You know, it’s been a struggle. In the beginning, we really had to think about, “Can we do this? Can we make this happen?” Not that the gallery hasn’t asked that question over the many decades …

Houghton: Every day, every week, every year …

Pape: I think we feel better asking for donations if we have something that we can offer in return, but without a space to invite people into, I think the question is, “What are those people helping to support?” In some ways, it’s the imagined future of the gallery, not the current state of it. It guarantees that there is a place for art going forward. We’ve applied for a couple of grants; we still haven’t heard back. [After our interview, Pape sent a message saying that the gallery received word that it was awarded a California Relief Grant.]

Erin Lizardo and Claire Fong in their fashion/music/dance/video piece, “TOTH (Tip of the Hat),” from the online exhibit, Imagine Together.

Are you starting to make live-performance plans again?

Houghton: I’m being pretty conservative with it. I’m just getting a feel for how things are going, how the summer is shaping up. I’ve kind of put it in my head [that] late-summer, fall would be a nice time—probably just locals-only shows to start. Because who knows when you’re going to be wanting bands coming in from out of town, or if there’s even that interest.

Looking at the broader picture, what do you think the Chico arts scene needs to bounce back?

Pape: For me, I think that we’re always stronger together. So, we can’t be siloed in our own little particular corners anymore. I think we really need to think about who else is interested in doing the kind of work that we’re invested in.

It made us go back to our mission statement and say, “We really want to value inclusivity; we want to be community-based; we want to have openness for ideas that come from outside of the gallery as well. I think it was already something we had hoped for, but the pandemic has really pushed it to become a necessity for all of us to survive. In some ways, we’re coming out stronger for it.

In Decline will be on display the rest of May, and there will be a closing reception next Saturday (May 29), 1-4 pm. For information on how to support the gallery through donations, membership, volunteering or joining the 1078 Rent Club, visit 1078gallery.org

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