The Creative Spirit Chico As an Art Town An Interview with John Villani

The Creative Spirit~Chico As an Art Town

John Villani

john VillaniChico is No. 10 in the new book by John Villani, The. What does this mean to Chico and the surrounding areas? Obviously it means a lot of attention and increased revenues for local business owners, but it means much more than that to the future of our community. Maintaining a healthy attitude and a creative spirit are instrumental in dealing with the complexities of a growing population because we, along with the rest of the world, are heading into unknown territories in dealing with the environment, urban rush, over-crowded and under-budgeted schools, violence, drugs, globalization, and the list goes on.

For those of you that are asking the question, “What does creativity have to do with solutions to these type problems?”, it’s simply this; if we keep relying on our old ways of doing things we are destined to keep creating the same world we’ve been living in (we all know the definition of insanity by now). However, by being more creative, living in the moment, and embracing change, we can create a new world to live in. How? By opening up to new ideas and exploring those ideas courageously.

Any scientist will tell you, the equations, the research data and results are all but a footnote in any great discovery which came in an epiphany moment when the thinking mind was quiet and the creative mind was present and spoke softly. All great discoveries and advancements throughout history have come in this way.

We would like to give a special thanks to Debra Lucero and others at Friends of the Arts, Butte County, for their early efforts in making a lot of this possible. This is our “window of opportunity” and it’s definitely our time. Thanks also to Lyon Books and the Dovetail Gallery in Chico for a lovely book signing and the space for this interview.

LG: What is it about Chico that makes it the number 10 best art town in America?

JV: Well, Chico has a wonderful combination of assets; it has an available, affordable, accessible infrastructure. It has the kind of studio space, the kind of creative environment, the kind of industrial warehouse loft-type spaces that artists need to work in and to create the objects that express who they are and what their viewpoints of the world are. The other thing it has that is really wonderful is it has an existing creative community. It has a wonderful group of artists who are associated with the university; it has others who are not university people but came here because of the university, because of the lifestyle here, because of its climate, because of its accessible position, geographic location in relation to the Bay Area, so it has a creative community that is growing. It has a number of artists who are established, who are midcareer artists. Maybe they sell their work or perform their pieces outside of Chico. But it has this wonderful historic downtown and warehouse space, the kind of environment that artists need to express themselves as artists.

LG: What do you mean when you say, “Chico’s appeal as an arts town is broad-based?”

JV: By broad-based, what I’m getting at there is that there’s a strong sense of community connection in Chico to its creative consciousness. That there’s a sense of pride here, a sense of momentum, as sense of can-do-it-iveness (is that a word?), anyway, that thing that really underlies the social fabric of Chico. Whatever that mindset is, it supports the arts, it supports creativity, it supports alternatives. This is a tolerant community, this is a creative community, and this is a very positive community. And when I say broad-based, I’m getting at the mindset, the consciousness of Chico, for in terms of what it perceives as what’s possible. Many towns are kind of locked in, they’re locked down, they’ve been defined, and the experience of being there is rather limited and rather stifling. In Chico the exact opposite takes place. There’s a sense that the sky’s the limit, that the best days in Chico are still to come, and that the community is evolving, it’s developing into a better place to live in, its quality of life is improving.

Rahasya: I totally agree. We’ve loved this town from the moment we arrived.

Dhara: What you said About our town was very beautiful.

JV: Thank you. I’m very perceptive that way; I just keep my ear to the ground, I just absorb the vibe. I really listen for what exists between the words, between the recognizable parts of day-to-day life. And I try to tune in; I try just to be sensitive to the elements of the experience of where I am. That then, in my estimate, will define a place more accurately than just the buildings or the verbiage or the communications that I find in the tourism office. I look for something extra and I’m finding that in Chico.

LG: What part does creativity play in the direction of a community’s growth?

JV: Creativity underlies the quality of life for many of the people that live in these towns and for many of the people that visit them. Creativity is what they’re looking for. There’s that sense of being able to participate in the expression of a community, of being able to lock into the consciousness of a community, and of orienting one’s life to take advantage of the expression being made by the other residents of this place. So creativity will influence the quality of life of the people who live there and it will influence the attractiveness of the town for folks who are maybe considering moving here or relocating here or starting a business here.

LG: Since we are also a holistic health magazine, how do you feel that creativity plays out in the health of a community and of an individual as well?

JV: Very simply, that if there’s not a creative spirit involved in a community’s growth, it makes it difficult to adapt to the challenges that come up in these changing times. Chico is poised for great things but greatness comes only through conscious interaction and effort. Creativity has been known for a long time to be an important contributor to a person’s mental, spiritual, and physical health.