The pull to create

With two fall events, Chikoko arts/fashion collective shares spotlight with the community

The creative team behind the Chikoko art/fashion collective, (from left) Nel Adams, Muir Hughes and Sara Rose Bonetti. (Photo by Metric Cosmetics)

This story is part of the “Open season for art” feature in the CN&R Fall Arts special issue.

What does gravity feel like? Sound like? Behave like? These are questions that the Chikoko arts collective asks in the promotional materials for Gravity, its fall experimental fashion show.

Given the heavy times we’ve lived through since the last time Chikoko was able to present its popular annual arts extravaganza, the concept of gravity’s pull doesn’t feel as abstract as it might otherwise. By the time Gravity the show kicks off at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds on Oct. 21, it will have been five years since Chikoko’s last big event, with our region navigating multiple catastrophic wildfires, social/political turmoil and a pandemic in the interim.

“We know what we’ve done before but the world feels slightly altered,” said Muir Hughes, who with Nel Adams and Sara Rose Bonetti makes up the three-person Chikoko collective.

Just the fact that Chikoko is back at full power, directing what has historically been the arts party of the year (typically, about 1,000 folks show up, fully decked out and ready to get weird), is reason for hope and a sign that things are getting relatively better.

And both sides of that transition promise to be reflected in the show’s experimental designs.

“Being weighed down versus being light, how much gravity you’re experiencing will shift,” said Hughes in recent interview. Whether literal or abstract, there are many possibilities to explore in that shift. In the show’s two slick teaser videos—created by Metric Cosmetics media production—the aesthetic is Chikoko-in-space, defying gravity in a palette of silvers, greys, blues and lavenders on a desolate looking moonscape.

For the fashion show, there will be about 100 original outfits created by the trio of designers that will be showcased by two dozen models chosen from the community during a recent well-attended audition. Hughes said the they had the difficult task of cutting more than 40 people who tried out to get to the final 24. As for its modeling criteria, Chikoko is unfailingly inclusive, offering a much different take than the historic view of how a runway model should look. People of all walks of life, experience level and body types are selected, many who have never modeled or performed in front of an audience before.

“There’s something about that invitation that allows people to explore that in themselves,” Hughes explained.

While fashion is the impetus—with Chikoko’s original designs, both those worn by the models and additional garments at the onsite store, available for purchase that night—the event is probably best described as an “arts happening.” From parking lot to stage, the immersion is total, with Chicoans of all stripes joining local arts freaks, many in costume, to take in the outdoor courtyard, artist installations, pre-show performances, selfie backdrops and party sustenance (via food and adult-beverage vendors), as well as the on-stage performances that go down in between the runway action.

It’s a huge four-hour-long production that happens with the work of many hands (“The three of us don’t put this on alone,” Hughes points out).

Frankenanimals by Nel Adams and Dragonboy at last year’s Bizarre Bazaar, Chikoko’s annual holiday art/craft market. (Photo by Muir Hughes)

It’s by community for the community, which could also describe the other big Chikoko event of the fall: the Bizarre Bazaar. The two-day arts/artisan faire also takes place at the fairgrounds (Dec. 2-3), and will feature roughly 60 local makers coming together to offer their creations for sale. The annual gathering of local arts folks has become a holiday tradition of its own, celebrating the season with the arts community all in one place.

Chikoko time!

Gravity experimental fashion show
Oct. 21, 6-10pm. Tickets: $40 advance (, The Bookstore); $50 at door.
Silver Dollar Fairgrounds, 2357 Fair St.

Bizarre Bazaar
Dec. 2 & 3, 10am-5pm
Silver Dollar Fairgrounds, 2357 Fair St.

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