Features

"By Any Means Necessary, I Will Keep Being an Artist."

Painter. Bluesman. Filmmaker. Educator. After retiring in 2012 from UC Davis, where he was an art professor for 43 years—and on the eve of a solo show at the Manetti Shrem Museum—Mike Henderson reflects on shining shoes as a young man in Missouri, seeing his soul in Van Gogh's Potato Eaters, believing he had lost decades' worth of paintings in a fire, and securing his place in one of the greatest university art departments ever assembled.

Forever (530)

Davis native Hasan Minhaj wears his hometown pride on his sleeve—or sometimes on his sleeveless Kings jersey signed by ’90s-era point guard Bobby Hurley, which he proudly keeps in his New York office. The former Daily Show correspondent and Patriot Act host also filmed his first Netflix comedy special, Homecoming King, here at the Mondavi Center in 2017, and steadfastly refuses to part with his 530 Davis area code number. With his new one-man show, The King’s Jester, now streaming on Netflix, he talks to Sactown about honing his comedy chops at Laughs Unlimited and Punch Line, loving the new vibe of midtown Sacramento, feeling the lingering pain of the Kings’ crushing Western Conference Finals loss 20 years ago, and bringing that “I gotta make up for 2002” energy to NYC.

Magic Mountain

On a clear day, find your way above the tree canopy in Sacramento, look southwest, and there you’ll spot it—the soaring 3,849-foot peak at the center of Mount Diablo State Park. The summit—reachable by foot, bike or car—rises over a thousand feet higher than the world’s tallest building, and from it, you can see 40 of our state’s 58 counties. At Mount Diablo, you can also hike up to 150 miles of trails, camp in the ultimate “room” with a view, and literally lunch above the clouds. So go west, young men and women, and experience California from a whole new point of view.

The Long Way Home

Earlier this year, Land Park journalist Martin Kuz spent five weeks in Ukraine, both as a reporter covering Russia’s invasion of his late father’s homeland and as a son hoping to better understand the forces that shaped his father’s life. He returned to Sacramento—home to the largest concentration of Ukrainian immigrants in the United States—with a profound new understanding of his complex heritage forged by war and loss. In this essay, Kuz chronicles his journey at the intersection of global history and personal identity.

A Viral Sensation

When Dr. Richard Corsi floated an idea on Twitter for a highly effective, inexpensive, DIY air purifier to help lower the risk of Covid, his light-bulb moment went viral in the best possible way. Now many of America’s top scientists—and even the White House—are touting the invention, and people all over the planet are thinking inside the box.

Word Play

How do you put the fun in fundamental? One Sacramento youth literacy group, 916 Ink, believes the answer lies in turning the traditional rules of reading and writing upside down. That means prioritizing story over structure, publication over perfection, and joy over judgment. And realizing that every flame of creativity starts with a spark.

Thiebaud: A Celebration

Five months after Wayne Thiebaud passed away on Christmas Day at the age of 101, the Crocker Art Museum is remounting its Covid-curtailed 2020 retrospective of the artist’s career—this time with more than a dozen additional works. The museum’s chief curator Scott A. Shields gives us a tour of 10 of the 117 pieces in the exhibition, which opens May 29, and lends his perspective on Sacramento’s “patron saint of painters.”

The Shops Around the Corner

Talk about a Hollywood ending. Over two decades since Meg Ryan’s sweet little children’s bookshop lost the battle to Tom Hanks’ big bad Fox Books, it looks like indie bookstores around the country (and around town) may have won the retail war. With April 30 marking Independent Bookstore Day this year, we’re spotlighting a dozen of our favorite local literary nooks in the Sacramento region. Trust us, this story is a real page-turner.

A Life of Crime (the Perfectly Legal Kind)

John Lescroart became an “overnight” success at 45, and the Davis author has since published 19 New York Times best-selling legal thrillers, with his 30th novel due out in late March. Meet the man with his ink-stained finger on the pulse of American crime stories.

Double Vision

With their new Sacramento-centric HGTV home design series, premiering March 12, Land Park’s Kele Dobrinski and Christina Valencia are helping couples find their aesthetic middle ground. And when they’re not swatch-buckling on a national television show, the husband-and-wife duo are helping redefine and reinvigorate both the private and public spaces where locals want to spend their time—from a jazzy new patio for an East Sacramento restaurant to a complete rebranding strategy for Broadway’s Tower District. Their story-driven work has led to the cornerstone of their design philosophy: making memories.

A Star Is Born

Nearly 15 years in the making, the SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity is ready to open a portal to both the past and the future on the banks of the Sacramento River, pairing a historic 1912 power station with Northern California’s most advanced planetarium. Its mission: Reinvigorate the waterfront, position our region as a tech and health sciences powerhouse, and ultimately inspire generations of kids from all walks of life to dig deeper, reach further, dream bigger and discover for themselves that the sky’s the limit.

The New Golden Age

By weekday, they’re construction workers, utility mechanics and registered nurses. But on weekends, they abandon their respective vocations and venture far up into the storied Sierra foothills and far back in time—circa 1849—dodging rattlesnakes, poison oak and the stink-eyed gazes of seasoned treasure hunters as they transform into passionate modern-day prospectors. And they’re not alone. The global pandemic drove gold prices to record highs this past year and left many with a lot more time on their hands—and knees—searching for the precious yellow metal that’s so deeply entwined with our region’s historical DNA. Yep, there’s still gold up in them thar hills, and the rush to find it is on (again).

Getting Back on Track

Five years ago, Sacramento Regional Transit was on the verge of derailing. Riders felt unsafe, staff morale was low, and the agency was flat broke. Then Henry Li stepped in. He cut costs, launched innovative programs targeting climate change, equity and customer service, and built a $30 million reserve—leading him to be named, effectively, America’s public transit CEO of the year in 2019. But when Covid hit, ridership plunged, a key funding mechanism was pulled from the ballot, and now the future of commuting is a looming question mark. Whether you ride public transit or not, his decisions will affect your commute, the air you breathe and, in many ways big and small, the future of Sacramento. Henry Li is now arriving.

Perfect Picnics

We’ve filled our wicker baskets with the best takeout en route to eight sonnet-worthy spots across the region for your alfresco dining pleasure. Whether you’re unpacking a gourmet BLT on toasted artisan bread while gazing upon a sweeping view of Gold Country or digging into a bucket of crispy fried chicken while smelling the roses at McKinley Park, we prove that life in the wake of a pandemic can be a picnic after all. (Just don’t forget the sunscreen.)

Nut Tree Forever

If you lived in Northern California any time from the ’50s to the ’90s, your memories likely contain vivid flickers of Vacaville’s Nut Tree—the roadside oasis that lured generations of kids and adults alike. Was it an amusement park so wondrous that even Walt Disney himself visited? Or was it California’s original farm-to-fork capital? Or a modern art and design mecca that was first to bring mid-century Eames furniture to the NorCal masses? It was all of that and more. It was also, as it happens, the creative vision of a group of Sacramento artists, designers, architects and, yes, candymakers. And now, in 2021, it’s turning 100. Let’s all jump on that miniature train—you know the one—and take a ride back in time for a Kodachrome encounter.

Field of Dreams

On the first day of spring, Ruhstaller Farm—our region’s only brewery designed in the spiritual mold of a soil-to-sip winery—officially opened, with a hop yard surrounding towering twin kilns inspired by 19th-century California pioneers and 20th-century Parisian postmodernism. The Farm, with its mission to produce beer defined by the Sacramento Valley’s rich agricultural heritage, is the fruition of a decade-long vision for J-E Paino—brewer, farmer, storyteller and a tenacious optimist who runs decidedly against the grain.

The Heart of a Giant

When it comes to baseball, Dusty Baker plays to win. He's also living proof that the most important stats aren't measured in hits and runs, but in heart and soul.

Once Upon a Time in Mezcalifornia

For centuries, mezcal—the ancient intoxicant steeped in Mexican tradition—has sprouted almost exclusively from the vast agave farms south of our border. But one Yolo County hobbyist farmer believes that climate change, of all things, has the potential to spur a California version of the storied spirit to take root right here. And despite extraordinary odds, he might just get his day in the sun.

SF Giants Assistant Coach Alyssa Nakken

On the evening of July 20, San Francisco Giants assistant coach Alyssa Nakken coolly jogged out to first base in an exhibition game against the Oakland A’s. There were no fans in the stands to cheer her, but the world was watching as she became the first woman to coach on the field in a Major League Baseball matchup. The historic moment was the second, in fact, for the former Sacramento State softball star, who was anointed as the first full-time female coach in the major leagues in January. Here, the Woodland native talks about breaking down barriers, coaching in the age of the coronavirus, and trading the turf for the surf in her off time.