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Pop-up museum displays Northern California art

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The Chico Art Gallery presents Reed Applegate's private art collection.Photo credit: Grant Mahan

At the intersection of 4th and Orange streets, just beyond the threshold of the train tracks, lies a mustard yellow train depot full of imagination. Chico Art Center awaits up the wooden ramp, parallel to Empire Coffee.

Operated by about 30 volunteers, the art center is a gallery, classroom and gift shop. Scarves, hats, T-shirts and prints fill the foyer, calling to come home as a souvenir.

A pastel man with white hair and thick glasses is to the left, with eyes beckoning passersby to enter the gallery. A sign above his head reads, “From the Depot to the Veterans Memorial Building.”

This exhibit is just one of the “pop-up museums” in the Chico area featuring Reed Applegate’s collection.

Applegate, a Chico local, has collected art in California from San Jose to the Oregon border, said Erin Wells, a volunteer for the Chico Arts Center.

Applegate gifted his art to the Museum of Northern California Art, Wells said.

Applegate donated his collection of more than 400 artworks to the museum, which is projected to open in three years in the Chico Veterans Memorial Hall located on the Esplanade.

“It’s in sad condition,” Wells said.

Pop-up museums and events will appear in the Chico area over the next three years until enough donations have been collected to renovate the veterans building and transform it into the museum, Wells said. About half a million dollars is needed to get the building up to standards.

The current pop-up exhibit will occupy the center until March 14.

“This is just a blink,” Wells said.

Photos of the historic Veterans Memorial Hall hang on the wall panels to inspire viewers to donate. The hall used to host special events, Wells said.

“My son performed a wedding there,” she said. “It has great big ballrooms.”

The building looks elegant in the photographs — a place just waiting for art lovers to come view the work of Northern Californian artists.

The artwork in Applegate’s collection vary from acrylic paintings to serigraph prints to a cellphone photo. Some of the artists sound familiar, like Janet Turner, who has the Janet Turner Print Museum named after her.

These pop-up museums will feature portions of Applegate’s collection to stir up interest and generate donations until the Veterans Memorial Hall is ready to transform into the museum.

The Chico Art Center is more than just a gallery. Local artists work with the the art center to teach classes that are open to the public.

“Come in on Monday morning and there’ll be a model here,” Wells said. “Maybe clothed, maybe not.”

Two classrooms to the right of the foyer are filled with tables and chairs for art classes varying from painting to pottery to a children’s cartooning class. The classes are popular, especially with a $15 monthly fee.

Decorative masks. some of which were made by students 20 years ago, line the walls of the first classroom.

“Hispanic boys wouldn’t take them home because it wasn’t macho,” Wells said. “They have a lot of good energy.”

The second classroom is filled with tables and chairs facing a green felt-covered platform for live models and still life setups. A tree made from paper stands in the corner with origami birds hanging from its paper vines.

The Chico Art Center offers much to explore — a break from reality to those studying in Empire Coffee, or an escape from campus during breaks on school days.

Emma Wood-Wright can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.

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