Bring back the arts, and the directors, and the punks, and the notebook with the handwritten open-mic poem, and the sound people, and the guest curator, and the guy who sweeps up the broken glass and beer from the dance floor, and the paint-splattered hands, and the guitarist visiting from Mali, and the dancer visiting from Oakland, and the pre-show cocktail, and the all-tube amplifier, and the hula-hooper in the plaza on Friday night, and the fold-up tables at the parking lot pop-up, and the bongos (yeah, even the freakin’ bongos), and the techs in black pulling levers behind the curtain, and the pita chips and hummus at the reception, and the retiree in a Tommy Bahama shirt scootin’ to Big Mo’s shuffle, and the 2 a.m. pizza slice, and all the freaks, and the volunteers at the fundraiser, and the fun-makers, and the arts editor who closes his eyes and floats on his back as the waters of creation pool up around him.
Arts DEVO is dreaming a bit. In many ways, the scene is coming back. The special Bring Back the Arts print edition (on the streets Aug. 5) will be the culmination of a series of CN&R features on the people and venues trying to figure out ways to survive COVID-19 shutdowns and a reopening that’s been complicated by low vaccination rates and more virulent strains of the coronavirus.
I want it as bad as anyone, but if coming back at full strength means more illness and even more time away from the art scene, I’d prefer to mostly live in my head a little longer.
The wizard wins
To a nightmare he woke from his lair in the woods—an army of orcs and their crushing machines …
That’s the opening scene of a fantasy, right? One that begins with a tragedy in which a force in possession of all of the resources overtakes a defenseless population that has nothing?
Nope. That nightmare is real. Those words are from the opening of “Wizard in the Park,” the first single by brand-new, kick-ass Chico four-piece Tite Nauts (featuring Robin and Josh Indar of Severance Package—on vocals and guitar, respectively—and local men-about-bands, bassist Greg Hopkins and drummer Nate Daly). Against an ’80s/fantasy metal backdrop (think Judas Priest-meets-Phantom Blue-meets-Dio), the Nauts have crafted an allegorical reimagining of the actual homeless encampment sweeps in Chico during the coronavirus pandemic—in which the city of Chico, via its police officers and city workers with heavy machinery, dismantled homeless campsites in parks and other green spaces.
Of course, a federal judge has recently ordered the orcs to stand down until such time that the city can provide adequate shelter options for our unhoused neighbors.
In the song, there is a wizard of the park who fights off the invaders, but in real life, the vanquishers are the team at Legal Services of Northern California, the folks behind the Warren v. Chico lawsuit brought on behalf of eight local homeless plaintiffs.
“LSNC was able to summon the legal wizardry to, at least temporarily, stop the city from harassing and traumatizing their most vulnerable citizens,” says the accompanying explainer on the Bandcamp page where Tite Nauts is selling digital downloads of the tune to raise money for the legal-aid organization.
Visit the Shut Up Records page to donate, download and possibly catch a ride on some lightning into a righteous battle: There lies a lesson/ To leave those who suffer alone/ There might be a wizard/ To stand up for those without homes!
What’s in a word?
There is no word for “art” in the Hmong language.
That’s according to the press release from the Museum of Northern California Art (MONCA) for its new group exhibition, No Word for Art: Contemporary Hmong-American Art in Northern California, opening July 29. This makes it difficult for young Hmong artists to talk about art with their elders and keeps many from creative careers, the curators explain. The exhibit asks the question, “As a society, how do we value art?” It explores the complexities of Hmong-American identity from the perspective of the artists of this North State community.
For this project, MONCA was recently awarded a $4,379 Humanities For All Quick Grant by California Humanities, a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment of the Humanities. The Quick Grant program “supports locally initiated public humanities projects that respond to the needs and interests of Californians, encourage[s] greater public participation in humanities programming, particularly by new and/or underserved audiences, and promotes understanding and empathy among all our state’s peoples in order to cultivate a thriving democracy.”
There will be a reception for No Word for Art July 30, 5:30-7:30 p.m., and a grand opening for the exhibit Aug. 1, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. For more info visit monca.org.