The Imaginative, Artistic Members of Chikoko
By Melissa Mendonca
Photo: Ernesto Bonetti
If high standards, witty creativity and locally made are values of your holiday shopping, consider a walk through the doors of the Chico Women’s Club December 15-16 for Chikoko’s eighth annual Bizarre Bazaar.
Here you might find a messenger bag made from fire hose, a cluster of succulents planted within an old schoolbook with a quirky title, or jewelry made from old computer parts or dehydrated fruits and veggies. The usual soaps, perfumes and candles will be available, but it’s guaranteed that there will be something unusual about their design or composition.
It’s a juried show of local artists and craftspeople that Chikoko member Muir Hughes describes as “pushing design or innovations or something that we haven’t seen before.”
It’s the place to shop for anyone who appreciates the unique, regales in the unexpected and wants to support local artists.
“People will plan their shopping for that time of year because it’s really local,” says Muir. “They’re directly purchasing from the artist.”
“A lot of people come, too, just to get inspired,” she adds. “It’s a great supportive environment for artists to inspire one another.”
Chikoko is a fashion and performance collaborative of five Chico-based artists ranging from 29 to 37 years old: Muir Hughes, Nel Adams, Sara Rose Bonetti, Michalyn Renwick and Christina Seashore. Many were trained at circus school. All are serious enough about their art and their community to engage as a business venture which produces creative events throughout the year. They produce their own shows and are available for hire to plan events with artistic vision and creative edge.
Most of the artists have children growing up together watching their moms commit to art and create collaboratively through
“We’re a group of artists who are not only creative but also incredibly serious about our work,” says Muir. “Really, we’re about supporting our vision.”
That vision includes performance, art, fashion, poetry, music and theater. Events range from children’s fashion shows to variety shows for adults that may include an element of burlesque.
An annual adult fashion show, held each October, attracts more than 1,000 audience members to the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds to see the unusual vision of Chikoko’s designers modeled on locals of all shapes, sizes, ages and ethnicities. “It’s really important to us that we’re not like the actual fashion industry,” says Muir. The show transcends the superficiality of modeling. “It can be transformative,” she says.
It’s also an opportunity for audience members to dress up and express themselves through fashion and costume. “It’s really encouraged that people dress however they’d like,” she adds, noting that there aren’t many opportunities otherwise to dress up or outrageously in high costume.
The Bizarre Bazaar opens with the Voom Voom Variety Show on the Friday night before the show opens on Saturday. What started as an event to help recoup costs for the bazaar has become so popular that it’s now integral to the weekend festivities.
“It’s a real mix,” Muir says of the acts that show up. “It’s really community centered.” One may experience poetry, performance art and music, all from local talent. “Some of my favorite local musicians I was exposed to because of the variety show,” she adds.
The bazaar itself has its own elements of performance, from henna painting, to an opportunity to get your shoes shined, to a photo booth, to the chance to see wearable fashion roaming the building on guests and vendors alike. Cocktails are available from the Women’s Club and a chef makes raw food dishes available.
Chikoko continues to evolve from its first event of a scarecrow contest in 2005, back when the women put a bunch of names in a hat and ended up calling themselves the Gorgeous Ventriloquists. Finally landing upon Chikoko as their name, says Muir, is a away to incorporate the essence of Chico without being Chico.
With Chikoko at the helm of the Bizarre Bazaar, holiday shopping becomes an experience in and of itself, as well as a chance to peek into the lives of people dedicating their lives to art with a profound desire to not only share it with the community, but to create community around it. •
Chikoko’s Bizarre Bazaar
Chico Women’s Club • 592 E. 3rd Street
Saturday and Sunday, December 15-16
Voom Voom Variety Show, Friday December 14