A seedy apartment building transformed into an avant-garde art museum. An $8 million “Piglet” sculpture took its place next to a $558 million arena. A rap megastar melted down in front of thousands of fans.
2016 was both a wild and wonderful year for arts and culture in Sacramento, with a series of well-supported events generating a sense of creative momentum in the city.
“This year there were certainly a lot more high-profile things happening,” said Liv Moe, executive director of downtown’s Verge Center for the Arts. “People are hungry to do stuff that’s here and outside the mainstream, and they’ll support it if it’s made available. It takes all these different pieces to make the art community a really thriving thing.”
From new museums to the heaviest of metal music, 2016 was one colorful, hyped-up and often noisy ride.
Here’s a rewind through eight moments that helped to define Sacramento’s arts and culture in 2016.
Sacramento checks into the Art Hotel
The idea was as novel as it was successful: Transform a dilapidated downtown apartment building into a hub of local artistry before its date with a wrecking ball. The result was more than 60 artists – poets, painters, musicians and more – who used their creative energies to turn once sad old rooms and other spaces within the building into a makeshift, temporary museum during the first weeks of February. And Sacramento responded, with lines stretching down the block creating a sense of artistic camaraderie and support not always seen in Sacramento.
Mozzy breaks into the big time
Hailing from the streets of Oak Park, the rapper known as Mozzy in early 2016 emerged as one of the hottest names in the hip-hop game. Along with influencing the rap lexicon with his homegrown slang – “bladadah,” “tap inwardly,” “slither up activities” – Mozzy released a string of albums and collaborations that broke though to the mainstream, receiving effusive praise from Rolling Stone, Vice and Complex Magazine. Few rappers bridge nihilistic street tales with a sense of self-awareness like this Oak Park native does, and 2017 is shaping up to be especially smoothie for Mozzy.
Sac Mural Festival decorates the city
The ethos for this new local festival was in line with a classic Black Flag song: “Spray paint the walls!” In late August, central Sacramento doubled as a giant canvas for local artists and outsiders alike. Drab downtown and midtown walls were transformed into expressions of street art through the debut of the Sacramento Mural Festival, which included a dozen artists at more than 10 locations. Many of these works are expected to be permanent fixtures of Sacramento’s cityscape, resulting in a kind of makeshift urban gallery.
Golden 1 scores with public art
It’s safe to say there are more than a few locals who feel pretty meh about the $8 million, multicolored Jeff Koons sculpture in the newly minted Golden 1 Center plaza. But love Koons’ “Coloring Book” or hate it, public art has rarely been such a hot topic in Sacramento – and 2016 created plenty of conversation via the Sacramento Kings’ new home. In addition to the Koons sculpture, which was inspired by a child coloring an image of Piglet, the arena’s public art offerings included a poignant, dart-themed series of pieces by Gale Hart and works by Bryan Valenzuela and Bill Fontana. And more is coming, including a mural inside the arena via the Royal Chicano Air Force.
Kanye cuts it short in Sacramento
No single arts or pop culture event in Sacramento – not even Paul McCartney’s inaugural Golden 1 Center concerts in early October – created as many headlines as Kanye West’s bailing on Sacramento just 30 minutes into his Nov. 19 gig at the downtown arena. Video of the fiasco, including West’s 15-minute disjointed and paranoid rant, went viral, with Sacramento getting name-checked in outlets ranging from The Washington Post to TMZ.com. West ultimately was hospitalized for sleep deprivation and scrapped the remainder of his Saint Pablo Tour, an inventive show with West performing on a “floating stage” that hovered above concertgoers. Count West’s show among the most bizarre concerts that Sacramento has ever witnessed – well, at least for the 30 minutes it actually happened.
A picnic turns into performance art
Every city with world-class aspirations needs places where socialites can see and be seen. And no event encapsulated that notion better than Sacramento’s edition of Le Diner en Blanc, an exclusive pop-up picnic in which invitees were required to wear all white and adhere to two pages of rules covering proper attire, must-bring items and more. Wearing a shade of eggshell threatened your future status at this invite-only event, which was held Oct. 8 in Golden 1 Center’s plaza. By many accounts, the 1,000 who attended the event (most were one degree of social separation from organizers Bobbin Mulvaney, arts entrepreneur Tre Borden, the Unseen Heroes events crew) had a blast dining at their white tables and dancing to hip-hop tunes in their powder-sugar attire.
Aftershock rocks Discovery Park
While Sacramento’s Diner en Blanc took tres chic to new levels in 2016, this town still loves two things: black T-shirts and heavy metal. A combined crowd of 46,000 descended on Discovery Park on Oct. 22-23 for Monster Energy Aftershock, a gathering of the hesher nation near the Sacramento River that included such preeminent hard-rock acts as Tool, Slayer and Avenged Sevenfold. Aftershock now ranks as Sacramento’s largest annual concert festival, with more than half of ticket holders coming from outside California. Few cultural happenings move the needle like massive guitar rock in Sacramento.
The Shrem Museum debuts in Davis
Never have toilets been quite so celebrated. A display of ceramic toilets by the late, great sculptor Robert Arneson was at the center of the grand opening ceremonies for UC Davis’ Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, a $30 million facility that debuted in November. The new museum honors the work that sprung from UC Davis’ acclaimed art faculty, such as Arneson and Wayne Thiebaud, and furthers the university’s progressive, often funky artistic spirit. The museum was packed with visitors in its opening weekend, and with its free admission, the Shrem has established itself among the most accessible and provocative of all arts centers in the Greater Sacramento region.