monca celebrates reopening


Sophia Pearson

Maria Alquilar’s collection is made of of various pieces that reflect a surreal and alternate reality. Photo by Sophia Pearson

The Museum of Northern California Art reopened on March 12. This grand reopening marks almost a year to the day when the museum had to shut down for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The museum quickly adapted to the loss of in-person events by hosting a range of virtual events. The events were regularly made available through the museum’s website. These online experiences varied from exhibition walk throughs, workshops and conference calls where audience members could ask the artists questions. 

Pat Macias, monca’s Executive Director, describes this as the year that forced her to slow down in a lot of ways but also as the year that has made her appreciate the small things about her job like the simple conversations of visitors. 

“I was watching a family earlier, a mother, a son and daughter talking about a painting and that’s what I love,” said Macias. “I just love that.”

Don Bravo, a Vietnam veteran, created this metal sculpture from pieces of recycled metal, including scraps from the remains of the Honey Run Bridge. Photo by Sophia Pearson

On its reopening day monca attracted nearly 40 visitors which partly had to do with the museum’s inability to host more than around 50 people at one time. Nonetheless, it seemed to be a successful day for monca with the help of donations and revenue from membership fees. The museum is solely run by volunteers, which Macias thinks is part of the reason monca was able to stay afloat during the pandemic. 

Macias explained, “If we had employees and if we had to pay exorbitant rent, then we would have been hurting really bad right now.”  

“We can make it for a while,” Macias continued. “I don’t think we could make it forever.” 

During the time of reopening the museum housed two exhibits. The first exhibit, titled “Dream State,” consists of contributions by artists who created pieces to reflect the theme of “In dreams, anything is possible.”

The museum is also the new home to a portion of work from the late Maria Alquilar. The exhibition debuts pieces from Alquilar’s “Surreal Vision Series.” Alquilar’s work has been displayed in a number of museums across the country including the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. 

The detail of Alquilar’s work can be seen in a close-up photo of her piece, “Part I: Hell (Inferno).” Photo by Sophia Pearson

Perhaps the best thing about these two exhibits is the natural ability to intertwine with each other. Like “Dream State” pieces from Alquilar’s collection are mostly composed of large brightly colored acrylic paintings that depict scenes filled with mythical creatures and characters. 

“People were excited to see both [exhibits]” Macias added. “Number one excited by seeing the Maria [Alquilar] one, in person, because the detail and materials are just amazing.”.

“Dream State” and Maria Alquilar’s collection has since been replaced but for those still interested a link to a virtual tour of both exhibits is still available. Because of the museum’s two month exhibit turnover, April 1 wasl the start of a new exhibition titled “Veteran Voices: Communication through the Language of Art.”

This exhibition displays over 30 pieces of artwork from about 15 veterans who also call themselves artists. It seems only right for monca to pay respect to veterans, given the museum resides in Chico’s Veterans Memorial Hall. 

Macias isn’t the only one excited to have the museum open. Fellow monca volunteer, Kathy Foertsch, has been working with monca for three years. Foertsch was attracted to the museum because of the importance she felt monca played in the community.

The “Veteran Voices: Communicating Through the Language of Art” exhibit will be on display from April 1 to May 30. Photo by Sophia Pearson

“What’s a world without art but a box with no color, no shape, no emotion,” said Foertsch. “Museums keep history tangible, alive. Where would we be if we could not see the art of centuries past?”.   

The voices of veterans from different military branches radiate from the individual pieces that vary anywhere from scultures and abstract paintings, to massive quilted tapestries. The exhibit also included memorabilia, like jewelry and sentimental articles from soldiers’ uniforms. 

For Macias this exhibit holds a personal element from her father, an artist, who served in World War II. During his service for the United States Army, Donald Emerick Kemeny collected silver coins which he crafted into a necklace for Macias’ mother. 

Foertsch also recognized the importance and impact of the current exhibit that honors our veterans. After all, exhibits like this are the reason why Foertsch got started volunteering at monca.

“Art expresses the artist’s inner feelings. Only veterans can exhibit their art in this show, it can be pretty emotional.” 

The exhibit will be on display until May 30. The exhibit will also be coupled with a virtual event called Artists’ Conversation that will be held April 25 from 3-5 p.m. Information about the exhibit and all things monca are available through their website

Sophia Pearson can be reached at [email protected] or @sophia__pearson on Twitter.

Online tags: art, exhibits, monca