Arts DEVO: 2021 DEVO Awards

The 14th edition of Art DEVO’s annual local arts and culture awards ceremony

Jason Cassidy

After a year off, the tradition continues! This is the 14th edition of Art DEVO’s annual local arts and culture awards ceremony. The envelopes, please …

Best at making the best of things:

The virtual presenters. Until COVID-19 vaccines arrived and venues started cautiously opening doors in the spring/summer, local performances were mostly happening online-only. With its advantage in resources, Chico State was able to make the transition more elegantly than most local outlets—especially via North State Symphony with its impressive full slate of fully virtual ’20-’21 productions for Rediscover, its 20th season program; and Chico Performances with Chico Voices Virtual, a well-produced and engaging series of locals-only streaming concerts by the likes of The Yule Logs and Smokey the Groove.

In the next tier down, it was mostly local art galleries and a few inspired individuals keeping the fires burning virtually. Chico Art Center, 1078 Gallery and the Museum of Northern California Art all had robust online offerings, and busy makers like electro-disco-pop duo Astronaut Ice Cream (plus many friends) kept their momentum from 2020 and continued to organize and host livestreamed concerts and variety programs (the Summer’s Eve Show, the Equinox Eve Show, etc).

Best new band:

Blü Egyptian. Personally, I’m no jam fan. Chico sure is, though, and there’s no denying frontman Don Jules and crew are a young, energetic breath of fresh air for the local scene.

Best art show:

No Word for Art at Museum of Northern California Art (July 29-Sept. 26). MONCA handed the curatorial reins for this group show over to those whom the incredible exhibition represented—the Hmong community of Northern California—and the result was a very rich, authentic, interactive experience.

Best artist:

Max Infeld. When a Chicoan has work auctioned off at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s, that artist is the winner. There is no doubt that 2021 was Infeld’s year. Under the moniker of his alter ego Marisol Vengas, three of his contributions to “Curio Cards”—a series of digital non-fungible token (NFT) cards—were sold by others for ridiculous sums (up to half-a-million bucks). And at those auctions, the entire 30-card collection went for $1.2 million and $625,000, respectively.

Best live theater:

Theatre on the Ridge. Not only has the long-running Paradise community theater overcome wildfire, a pandemic and even flooding, but the company has been killing it with a rich and varied schedule of fun/interesting productions (Annapurna, Wild Women of Winedale, etc.) featuring some of the best players in the county. Bravo!

Best live music:

Cracks in the Concrete vinyl release parties (Nov. 5-6). I have been very shy about joining any crowds in the intimate confines of local venues during a pandemic, so I’ve seen exactly zero local indoor concerts this year. However, the consensus from the musicians and revelers who did brave Duffy’s Tavern, Naked Lounge and Argus Bar + Patio for the 12-band, three-show mini-fest celebrating the release of the all-local Cracks In The Concrete compilation album is that the experience was cathartic .

Best local album:

Cracks in the Concrete compilation. (See above.)

Best local songs:

Tequila on the Tennis Court” – Surrogate; “Real Love” – Scout; “Wizard in the Park” – Tite Nauts; “Protest Song” – Severance Package; “Apocalyptico” – West by Swan; “Hurry” – Lagrima.

In memoriam:

Since there was no year-end wrap-up last year, my traditional remembrance for those in the local arts/music/social scene includes a few who passed away in 2020.

Jenise Coon (9/15/20), singer, actress, Chico High choral/drama teacher

Nicole Seredszun (11/29/20), Weekly Synthesis columnist

John McCall (12/20/20), IMPs frontman

John Fuller (1/2/21), Chico Theater Company actor/singer

Gary Kupp (1/18/21), Theatre on the Ridge lighting/sound designer and board member

Burt Levy (1/28/21), percussionist (Eastwind Bellydance, Ancient Echo)

David Sisk, aka Sisko (3/21/21), artist, billboard activist, Chico icon

Jeff “Hobie” Givens (6/9/21), rock ’n’ roll M.F.

Steve Schuman (9/12/21), North Valley Productions owner/concert promoter

Mike Williams (10/10/21), rock/blues guitarist singer (Second Hand Smoke, Bawl ’n’ Chain)

Judy LaRocca (10/18/21), matriarch of LaRocca Vineyards

Dave Mettler (11/23/21), “The Wine Guy” at Safeway

Kelly Meagher (11/25/21), environmental activist, philanthropist, Chico icon, beloved local human of the highest order

Don DiBono (12/7/21), Longtime Chico music impresario, owner/booker for Cabo’s nightclub and Entertainment Services concert productions, booker for Feather Falls Casino, mastermind of the band Decades and No. 1 Beatles fan

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