Museum of Northern California Art
By Claudia Mosby
Museum MobileDecember 2015
Photos: Paula Schultz
Sometimes an unlikely collaboration results in a creative outcome. Such was the case when former Butte County supervisors Jane Dolan and Maureen Kirk invited Enloe Hospital staffer Trudy Duisenberg to look at an empty building they thought the hospital might want to occupy.
Duisenberg brought along friend Pat Macias, former director of Chico’s 1078 Gallery, who knew art collector Reed Applegate in what turned into sort of a “six degrees of separation” success story. Thus, the Museum of Northern California Art—or “monca”—was born.
Realizing it would take time to raise the needed $500,000 in capital (the nonprofit expects to begin renovations next year), Macias knew monca had to begin “acting like a museum,” so it started the Driving Docents program.
“We bought a used yellow school bus—one of the smaller ones—at a garage sale and now take our program into third-grade classrooms,” she says. Many of the docents are former teachers and the museum-on-wheels is aligning its program with Common Core standards.
“We take in a piece of artwork that we have created a lesson plan around,” says Macias, “talk about the art, the artist, and teach kids the difference between a museum and a gallery.”
A recent lesson, “From Realism to Abstraction,” featured the work of blind artist Richard Hornaday. Docents used related vocabulary (line, shape, color, etc.) during the lesson and then had students work in teams; one blindfolded student created art within a mat area from supplies chosen by a second student before the two switched roles.
“We then had students describe their artwork using two of the words discussed during the lesson,” says Macias. “Students just love it.” Monca operates a second program for high school students called “Lunch with an Artist.”
“We ask each high school to choose two art students in the fall and in the spring,” adds Macias. “We take them to the studio where they get to work with the artist, enjoy a catered lunch and leave with a sketchpad and quality markers.” Instituted when monca received a grant through the City of Chico, Macias hopes to secure funding to continue the program.
The organization also hosts “pop-up museums,” occupying empty retail space to create month-long exhibits. The inaugural event was all about the permanent collection. “We've held pop-ups on Veterans, Art & Technology and more recently on Engaging Challenged Communities, which was all about how the museum will address autism, blindness and mental challenges,” Macias says. “We see ourselves as being inclusive for the whole community, a place we want everyone to be able to access.”
Built in 1927, the building needs some upgrades, including an ADA-compliant access ramp that Macias estimates will cost $150,000. “We are not doing major things,” she says. “We love the inside—it’s beautiful. The foyer is all Terrazzo marble and has a vaulted ceiling. We will redo the floors but mostly it just needs some loving care.”
The permanent collection will come from Applegate’s private supply, artwork from Northern California artists like Robert Arneson, Nathan Oliveira, Roy DeForest, Wayne Tiebaud, Jenny Robinson and Janet Turner, two- and three-dimensional works that he has been amassing since the 1960s. Mediums include printmaking, photography, drawing and ceramics.