Dayton Claudio in 1995 created Salem Street Art Wall, Chico’s initial public art. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Art is everywhere. I had no idea.

It took a free walking tour led by volunteers with the Chico Arts & Culture Foundation for me to see what is all around the downtown area.

Sure, I had seen some of it—but not most of it.

What was so astonishing was the variety of art—murals, sculptures, luminary benches and so much more.

Our Hands welcomes people to Chico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

“Trees, homes, people, creeks. You see that as themes throughout the public art here,” our guide said.

In other words, artists are incorporating aspects of the natural environment into their art.

We started at the Our Hands sculpture near City Hall. “This sculpture, created by artist Donna Billick was installed in Chico in 2000. It is constructed of a steel armature covered with a terrazzo composed of granite and marble chips mixed with cement. Each hand measures 6-feet high and features images of Chico embedded in the surface,” the foundation’s website says.

These hands are intended to be a gateway to the city, to be a welcoming gesture. And they are.

Walking down East Fourth Street we pause to look at the Town Hall mural that is on the side of the Crazy Horse bar a block or so away. It would be easy to miss it had it not been pointed out. It’s what town hall looked like in 1872.

One of several murals on buildings in the downtown area. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

“Innovations in mural paint has changed, it’s more vibrant and lasting,” the tour guide said.

On the Diamond Hotel is The Ascent; a relief made of mosaic glass. It looks like it should be in a gallery, and not on the side of a building.

Chico has several “luminary benches” that are dedicated to people who have a connection to the city. Names I was surprised to learn about include architect Julia Morgan, who designed the president’s house at Chico State; and Jackson Pollock who lived here as a kid.

I’ll be on the lookout for a future tour of just the benches.

This bench honors the Chinese workers’ contributions to Chico, in particular the bench tells the story of the murders at the Lemm Ranch in 1877. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Chico’s first public art project was the Salem Street Art Wall by Dayton Claudio. While the guide says it tells the timeline of the city, that was hard for me to see. It’s made of fiberglass, which was hard to know without touching it.

A fun fact was looking up at Collier Hardware and realizing the windows on the top floor are not really windows. They were painted on the building; even a cat is in one of the “windows.” Casually looking up at the store on Broadway Street they seem so real.

More than 5,000 tiles created by local schoolchildren adorn the Diamond Alley Arches. (Image: Kathryn Reed)



  • More info is online.
  • Tours are the first Saturday of the month, April-October. Meet at the Our Hands sculpture near City Hall, 411 Main St., at 10 a.m.
  • Tours last a little more than an hour.
  • The walk is a mile or so.


Pin It on Pinterest