Broken Dreamers

By Tim Foster


It’s the best single word to describe Inferno of the Innocents, the exhibit of work by Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein that opened at the Crocker on January 29th Read more »

Editor’s Letter

I got up early on January 3, 2009.  I had some magazine work to do and I rushed off in the morning to meet someone about an article, or take an Out and About photo, or… or something. I don’t actually remember.

What I do remember is that I rushed out of the house, right past a string of slightly deflated helium-filled balloons that had gotten tangled in the jasmine bush in our front yard and which were now bobbing near the sidewalk.  Whatever I was doing that morning was important enough that I ignored the balloons, figuring I’d clean them up when I got back later.  By the time I got back, the balloons were gone.

Lucky for me, Liv had found them.  Lucky, because attached to those balloons was a plastic bag containing a one hundred dollar bill.

Along with the money was a short note:

“I have been very lucky this year, and I am thankful.  I have a healthy family, a job and my needs are covered.  I hope whoever finds this needs it more than I do.  Happy New Year!  Good Luck!”

We did need it.  Running MidMo through the bucking bronco that was 2008 had depleted our checking and savings accounts, and only a judicious balancing of credit card payments kept the wheels spinning that year.  $100 could not have come at a better time.

There was also an email address, and though we initially felt awkward about writing, we did eventually write to thank our benefactor(s?) for their generosity.  We never heard back.  I thought about those balloons a lot over the following year.  What was the person –or family- like who sent them?  Were they still OK?  What if the balloons had landed in a field or a river, and had been lost or destroyed?

What if?

The act was still the same. The balloons reminded me that the act of giving is much more important than what happens afterward. The balloons reminded me to think about others, and to share with others, and most importantly, not to put too much value on what, after all, is only money.

Yes, money is important, but other things, like friends, and family, and living your life, are more important.  Whatever it was that sent me rushing out of the house that morning seemed very important at the time; now I can’t even remember what it was.   There’s a lesson there.

Last year, Liv and I decided to make ‘The Balloons’ an annual New Years Day tradition. At the end of December we picked up a couple of helium-filled balloons at the Safeway on 19th Street and let them sit on the ceiling as 2010 approached.  New Year’s Eve came and went.  On New Year’s night we each wrote a ‘good luck’ note for the finder on a ziplock bag.  We couldn’t afford $100, but we put what we could in our bags, hole-punched the corners and tied each bag to the ribbon attached to a balloon.

They sank to the floor.  We learned a valuable lesson: helium balloons can lose their buoyancy fairly quickly.  They had been much more buoyant when we had bought them.  We tied the two balloons together with just one of the bags; the balloons lazily floated toward the ceiling.

Just before midnight we went out to our back porch for the launch.   We followed the second hand on my watch, and released the ribbon at exactly 12 O’Clock. The balloons climbed slowly into the sky, silently carrying their payload of good fortune.  They drifted west, over our house, over the trees and soon disappeared in the darkness.

We’ll be setting our balloons aloft again this year.  This time we know to buy the balloons the same day so they actually go up instead of down, and finding a bit of cash to go in the bags will be a bit easier than it was last year.  Some of our friends have said that they too are going to add The Balloons to their family’s New Years Day festivities.

I like the idea.  I like that for one day a year we stop worrying about money and think instead of how to send it away to someone we don’t even know.  It’s not like sending help to Haiti, or donating at church or giving to the panhandler on the street.  The Balloons are simply a celebration of the act of giving away.

The Balloons don’t really make any sense.  They don’t really do any good.  But I don’t care.  I like them anyway.


Psych Out

By Tim Foster

The Central Valley Turns On: Psychedelic Poster Art, 1965-1975, the new exhibit at the California History Museum spans the heyday of the rock era, and consists of over 80 artifacts, ranging from handbills and posters to vintage musical equipment Read more »

River City Write

Compiled by William Burg, James Cameron, Tim Foster, Becky Grunewald, Guphy Gustafson, Niki Kangas and Liv Moe

While William T. Vollmann is probably the most respected author to ever intentionally settle down in Sacramento, the River City has had its fair share of bright literary lights over the years Read more »

Art Picks, May 2010

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Art Ellis Supply

By Jackson Griffith photos by Scott Duncan

“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home,” a sign over the door tells you as you’re leaving Art Ellis Supply, a comfortably funky purveyor of artist’s and bookbinder’s materials that has been a fixture on J Street in Midtown Sacramento since 1948. It’s something Sharon Tanovitz, half of the husband-and-wife team that has owned the shop since 1976, found somewhere and decided to share. The source? “Anonymous,” she says. “The other one I’ve always wanted to do was: ‘Remember – everyone was a beginner once.'” Read more »

Editor’s Letter

I like letters.

Putting together each issue of Midtown is a little bit like building a bike while riding it at the same time: you just keep moving and figure you’re doing good if the wheels don’t fall off. Read more »

The Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society

by Tim Foster Photos by Jesse Vasquez

For one weekend each year, a panoply of the beautiful and bizarre overtakes the Shepard Garden and Art Center in McKinley Park. Spikes and leathery skin mingle with delicate flowers and flowing hair; bold, colorful stripes stand out against desiccated, parchment-like hides; sawtoothed ridges rise from fleshy limbs. Brought by careful guardians, these odd specimens will nearly overtake the Center and attached courtyard, creating a riot of biodiversity that could never take place in nature. The Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society is in the house. Read more »

Art Picks, April 2010

Owen Smith
Nelson Gallery

Through May 23

One day in the not-too-distant future, the ceilings of my house will collapse, and they’ll find my body crushed under crumbling issues of Popular Science, comic books, pulp magazines, Sunday newspaper sections, paperback books and the other four or five tons of useless ephemera that I have stashed in my attic retreat.  Though I know that this hoarding is a sick and unhealthy obsession, I can’t bring myself to get rid of it. Any of it. Each time I start to go through the piles, I rediscover the incredible illustrations that sucked me in in the first place. The covers of even the lowliest of the dreck (maybe especially the lowliest) are jaw-dropping eyecandy- a hallmark of the depression-era magazine stand.  Maybe I’m kidding myself, but I suspect that bay area artist Owen Smith might suffer from this same compulsion.  Certainly he has done his share of ‘research’ when it comes to the pulp magazines and paperback covers of the first half of the twentieth century.  Mix in a bit of WPA mural and a dash of Socialist Realism and you come up with the hearty stew that Smith has made a career of.  One of the artists most successful at blending the line between commercial and fine art today, Smith makes a living by both teaching (at Oakland’s College of Arts and Crafts), and illustration. His show at the Nelson is largely made up of original drawings, with digital versions of his paintings on hand.  Artist Nayland Blake has a concurrent solo show titled Project Room in the other half of the gallery.

Art Building, Room 124, UC Davis
Mon – Thurs 11AM – 5PM, Sat – Sun 2 – 5PM

Jiayi Young and Shih-Wen Young

Axis Gallery
April 3 – 25
Reception: April 8, 6-8PM
Reception: April 10, 6-9PM

American River College Art Professor Jiayi Young and her husband and ‘artistic partner’ Shih-Wen Young present an exhibit inspired by the mathematical calculation Pi, and the concept of the symbol that denotes this never-ending number.  Jiayi Young, an artist who is also an Atomic Physicist, is ideally suited to lead the exploration of this concept. Young began her art career as a Chinese traditional painter, but has since moved in a multi-disciplinary direction and is now the Chair of ARC’s New Media Art. Her piece, Las Vegas, China which showed at CCAS in 2005 garnered strong reviews, including a warm write up from the Bee’s Victoria Dalkey.  The Youngs have shown extensively, including multiple exhibits in China, and a glance at their website, gives interesting overviews of some of their recent work.  Pi consists of 2D and time-based 3D pieces as well as an installation where viewers are invited to play with the endless digits of Pi. Circling the Square, a time-based piece, will start at 6PM on the two reception days (and at noon the rest of the time). The piece evolves the fastest in the first 15 minutes so be sure to stop by early if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck.
1517 19th Street, Sa – Sun, Noon – 5PM

Slow Art Day
Crocker Art Museum
April 17, starting at 11AM

First came the Slow Food movement, then the Slow Bicycling movement (see our Tweed Ride story), and now, the Slow Art movement. The Crocker will be one of more than 40 sites worldwide to host Slow Art Day, an event that encourages visitors to slow down and spend quality time looking at a single artwork.  Slow Art Day’s founder Phil Terry kept is simple: “visit a museum, see a few pieces of art for 10 minutes or more, and have lunch to talk about it afterwards.”  Not a bad plan. The session at the Crocker will focus on three pieces from the permanent collection: Stephen Kaltenbach’s Portrait of My Father, Mildred Howard’s Public Eye, Private Me, and Thomas Hill’s Great Canyon of the Sierras, Yosemite. Sounds pretty simple to us.  The Slow Art session is free with Museum admission but reservations are required.  Call (916) 808-5499 or email

216 O Street, Sacramento

Art Picks, February 2010

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