Eugene Art Talk

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A new juried art show being planned this summer to replace the defunct Mayor’s Art Show

Art lovers at last summer's Mayor's Art Show at the Jacobs Gallery.

Art fans at last summer’s Mayor’s Art Show at the Jacobs Gallery.

When the Jacobs Gallery died last month, it took with it the popular Mayor’s Art Show that was held there every summer, packing the Hult Center full of art lovers.

Now Eugene gallerist Karin Clarke has stepped up with a substitute.

Clarke is planning a juried Eugene Biennial during August at her downtown gallery, she said last night. While the structure is similar to the Mayor’s Show of the past, it has the interesting twist that artists will be invited to submit up to two works for consideration (the Mayor’s Show allowed only one per artist).

“Lane County artists 18 years and older will be invited to submit one or two recent works of art in any medium to be considered for this inaugural Eugene Biennial at Karin Clarke Gallery,” Clarke emailed.

Jurors will be Clarke, Eugene art collector Roger Saydack and Eugene painter Jon Jay Cruson.

Clarke said her gallery, at 760 Willamette Street, will be able to exhibit about 40 works in the biennial, which will open August 3 and run through August 27. A reception and award ceremony will be held during the First Friday Art Walk on August 5 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

“This exhibit will showcases artistic excellence by visual artists of our area,” she said. “There will be a small entry fee to be submitted with digital images, and more information will be available in the coming weeks.”

Further details have yet to be worked out.

“Please do not contact the gallery with inquiries at this time,” she said. “Information will be posted on our website and Facebook page by mid-March.”

The gallery is currently showing plein-air watercolors by Humberto Gonzalez.


Only the city can save the Jacobs Gallery — and the Mayor’s Art Show

No more Mayor's Art Show?

No more Mayor’s Art Show? Opening night last August.

So now what?

That’s the bitter question that’s floated around the Eugene arts world since the word came down last month that the best non-profit art gallery in town, and the closest thing the city has to a municipal visual art space, would soon be shuttered for lack of money — probably killing off the Mayor’s Art Show in the process.

The exhausted board of the Jacobs Gallery, which has been run for many years as an independent non-profit inside the city-owned Hult Center for the Performing Arts, announced they would be calling it quits January 31. In an email sent out to gallery supporters on November 5, the board and staff cited diminishing support for visual art.

“Sadly there has been a sea change in the ways in which art, purely for art’s sake, is valued.” the email said.

That missing support can be directly measured in dollars and cents from the city of Eugene. The city used to provide a $30,000 annual subsidy to the Jacobs, in addition to free rent. That money has disappeared.

The Jacobs has been the closest thing Eugene has to a municipal art gallery – an institution we sorely lack.

Under the guidance, most recently, of artistic director Beverly Soasey, the Jacobs has mounted a steady series of polished shows by interesting local artists. (Yes, I am among the artists who have shown there: I had an exhibit of my photography there this past spring. But I said kind things in print about the Jacobs long before my show there was even an idea.)

The city, meanwhile, is acting like this is some external disaster, completely out of the city’s control, that just happened to befall the Jacobs. Not our fault, they say.

“We are saddened by the news that the Jacobs Gallery will be closing its doors on January 31,” says a Facebook post from the city’s Cultural Services Division, which oversees the Hult Center. “The Gallery has long been a significant organization showcasing visual arts in our community. While Eugene is losing an important gallery, we are not losing our commitment to investing in the evolution and promotion of visual arts. Cultural Services looks forward to facilitating a community-wide conversation with artists and organizations that may be interested in utilizing this dynamic space.”

It’s a little hard to buy this line about commitment to the visual arts from the people who cut $30,000 from the Jacobs budget.

One question that pops to mind is this: What happens now to the annual Mayor’s Art Show?

That’s an institution that’s even older than the Jacobs, but that has been housed there for as long as the gallery has existed.

In its heyday, the Mayor’s Art Show – a juried exhibit open to all artists, 18 and over, in the county – exemplified the best of Eugene. Anyone could enter, and did. The show’s packed opening reception was on opening night of the (also now-defunct) Eugene Celebration. And, to add to the fun, the Salon des Refuses opened on the same night and showed all the works rejected by the official show. With more artists exhibiting there, the Salon reception was an even bigger party.

Then reality set in. The Salon worked because jurying for the Mayor’s Show was done with the actual art works brought in and arranged on tables . On judgment day, the rejected artists would pick up their works and then be encouraged to walk them over to the Salon. Reality meant saving money by jurying from digital images instead of in person. Without easy access to the works, the Salon was canceled. Soon after, the Eugene Celebration went under, and the Mayor’s Show became an isolated event.

So how to save the Jacobs and the Mayor’s Art Show? I’m on the board of director of the Lane Arts Council, which seems like the appropriate organization to take on running the Jacobs and the show. But as I’ve talked about the idea with fellow board members, with board members of the Jacobs, and even with the mayor herself, I’ve begun to doubt that Lane Arts could do anything to save the gallery that its board hasn’t already tried.

The problem is that city subsidy. With it, the gallery worked; without it, the gallery is gone.

Meanwhile, the city wants your ideas on what to do with the space the gallery now occupies. Cultural Services will be holding a meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 13, in the Atrium Building lobby, 99 West 10th Avenue, “to learn more about the Jacobs Gallery space and share ideas for its transformation.”

Or you can just email them:

The Eugene Mayor’s Show is tired. Let’s start a Eugene Biennial.

Marjorie Taylor's hearts dress was a big hit.

Marjorie Taylor’s hearts dress was a big hit at the opening reception of the Mayor’s Art Show.

It’s time for something new on the Eugene art scene: Our own biennale.

Viewing this year’s Eugene Mayor’s Art Show for perhaps the sixth time, in search of a coherent way to write about this annual celebration of local art yet again, I finally had to admit I was stumped. If there is an overarching theme in the works, it isn’t interesting enough to ignite my imagination.

There is some fine art to be seen. Kathy Caprario’s sprawling wall piece commands attention, as does Karin Clarke’s moving monoprint of a little boy. Marjorie Taylor’s queen of hearts dress, though we’ve seen it before, offers perfect whimsy. Gotta love that big painting of two tourists by Kris Hurwit. In fact, most of the works that were juried in (by painter Jeffery Bird, Schniter Museum director Jill Hartz, and print collectorDavid Hilton) are fine and engaging.

But on the whole, while viewing the show I feel like I’m in a commercial gallery that lacks a vision of what its art is about.

I’ve been a fan of the Mayor’s Art Show more or less forever. It’s a wonderfully democratic institution, in that anyone from Lane County can enter work, and anyone often does.

But there has been something absent from the show in recent years – a sense of energy, of pizazz, of drive. What’s been really lacking, I think, is the idea that the show matters very much.

What went wrong?

A couple of different things. One is the change in the jurying process that took place a few years ago. Before that, the show – almost uniquely in the country – required artists to deliver the actual works they wanted to enter to the Hult Center. The jury then looked at real art works – paintings, sculptures, jewelry, weird installations – in making its decisions.

That is no longer the case. Now the jury looks at digital images projected on a screen. This shift in the jurying process inevitably favors some works over others. Colorful, punchy, crisp images come across well when projected on a monitor. Small, subtle pieces that depend on nuance and texture don’t. One result, I believe, is that the Mayor’s Art Show in recent years has tended to be more decorative than in the past.

There are other factors, as well. Years ago, two artists in town – Jerry Ross and Steve LaRiccia – started what they called the Salon des Refuses. Named after the French salon that first showed paintings by the Impressionists who couldn’t get their work exhibited by the official academy, the Eugene Salon was open to – and only to – art that had been rejected by the official mayor’s show.

The conceit that, somehow, the Salon des Refuses was showing edgy, great work that was too controversial to make it into the sacred Hult Center was delicious, if a little hopeful. But the Salon was great fun, and its opening reception, always on the same night the Mayor’s Art Show opened, was often the better party.

With the end of live jurying at the mayor’s show, the Salon came to an end as well. With live jurying, rejected art was easy to capture. On judgment day the Hult Center had a steady procession of people carrying their rejected works out the door. Ross and LaRiccia needed only to stand there and invite them to keep walking with their art to the salon down the street.

But it’s more than the change in jurying. The number of established local artists who enter the mayor’s show has been on the decline. That means that the show no longer offers a look at the best of Eugene. Instead, it’s just another resume-building open juried show, of which there are hundreds in the country. This one just happens to be local.

What if we did something else to spotlight local art? How about a well curated invitational show that exhibits the best art that Lane County has to offer? How about a biennial?

We could even call it the Eugene Biennale.  We are, after all, the World’s Greatest City and all that.

In the past – from 1949 until 2006 – the Portland Art Museum held an Oregon Biennial. Trouble was, for whatever reason the curators rarely ventured out past the Portland city limits, at least in recent years, so the show, populated almost entirely by Portland artists, should have been called the Portland Biennial. (And now, run by Disjecta since 2010, it is – the Portland2016 Biennial will open in July.)

The curator of a Eugene biennial or biennale – perhaps we could call it the “Eugenale” – could pick a smaller number of top Lane County artists, maybe half a dozen or even fewer. Such a show could focus attention on their work in the larger context of life in Lane County. It could include careful examinations of the artists’ work and careers.

The exhibit would not replace but would complement the Mayor’s show, offering a look at the very best work in town from professional, accomplished artists here in the World’s Greatest City of the Arts and Outdoors.

Whatever we might call it, Eugene needs a show such as this. All that is lacking, of course, is money and time – the same things art always needs.

A few scenes from tonight’s Mayor’s Art Show opening in Eugene

Marjorie Taylor's hearts dress was a big hit.

Marjorie Taylor’s hearts dress was a big hit.

Scultor Jud Turner gave a great welcoming address -- even though his work wasn't accepted into the show this year.

Sculptor Jud Turner gave a great welcoming address — even though his work wasn’t accepted into the show this year.

Juror J.S. Bird gave his award to this oil painting, 'Harlequin Dreams,' by Joseph Liberman.

Juror J.S. Bird gave his award to this oil painting, ‘Harlequin Dreams,’ by Joseph Lieberman.

Winners from Eugene’s Mayor’s Art Show on Friday

Mayor Kitty Piercy opened the Eugene Mayor's Art Show Friday night.

Mayor Kitty Piercy opened the Eugene Mayor’s Art Show Friday night.

The Eugene Mayor’s Art Show opened Friday with a modest crowd — only about 150 showed up for the opening reception at the Jacobs Gallery, meaning you could actually move around the room and see the art.

Best of Show went to Bren Kleinfelder’s assemblage 67890.

I was one of three jurors this year, so obviously the choices were all excellent! Tina Rinaldi, Ann Bumb Hamilton and I chose 54 pieces from 197 submitted.

Here is a list of awards presented at a ceremony in Studio One before the showed officially opened:

  • Mayor’s Choice Award: to Hive No. 1, by Justin Stuck
  • Artistic Director’s Award: to Two-point Archtop Mandolin, by Christopher Fralick
  • US Bank Sponsor Award: to Strange Attractor – Riverway, by Niraja Cheryl Lorenz
  • Juror’s Award from Ann Bumb Hamilton: to 1/16th Indian, by Michael Whitenack
  • Juror’s Award from Bob Keefer: to The Hermit, by Jeremy Spafford
  • Juror’s Award from Tina Rinaldi: to Resonance, by Lynn Ihsen Peterson
  • Best of Show: to 67890, by Bren Kleinfelder

Best bets this weekend: The Mayor’s Art Show, Noah Strycker at White Lotus


Mixed media painting by Katy Keuter.

The 2014 Eugene Mayor’s Art Show opens with a reception at 5 p.m. Friday in The Studio at the Hult Center, Seventh Avenue and Willamette Street. Expect speeches by the likes of Mayor Kitty Piercy, a huge supporter of the arts, and lots of people crammed into the Jacobs Gallery when the doors officially open at 5:30 p.m. to check out 54 art works selected by the MAS jury from 197 pieces submitted by Lane County artists. Music by Mood Area 52. Free.

Full disclosure: I was one of the three jurors who picked this show, so you can expect it to be totally brilliant 😉 The other two were arts administrator Tina Rinaldi and artist Ann Bumb Hamilton. The exhibit runs through Oct. 4.

And, speaking of things in which I have an interest, nature writer Noah Strycker will show slides and talk about his new book, The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human, at 2 p.m. Saturday at White Lotus Gallery, 767 Willamette Street. The book has gotten hugely favorable reviews in publications such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Newsweek.

The gallery is showing “Kacho-ga: Japanese Prints and Paintings of the Natural World,” which contains a lot of bird images, though Sept. 20. Free.

And, yes, he’s my son.





















I’ve been going to the Mayor’s Art Show in Eugene for at least the past 20 years — always as a reporter and an art lover.

This time I’m viewing the show from a different lens entirely — that of a juror. I was one of three jurors this year — the others were Tina Rinaldi, former executive director of the Jacobs Gallery, and Ann Bumb Hamilton, an artist and art techer — who spent most of a recent Monday sitting down and going through slides from 198 Lane County artists who wanted to be in the show.

TarotFirst off, that number is down — a lot. In past years, if I remember correctly, there were more like 500 entries.

It’s not that there are any fewer artists in Lane County. What happened was, the gallery started charging an entry fee to submit work. In the old days, you could enter a work for free. Then WHEN, a $5 fee was charged. This year the fee has climbed to $20, reflecting the loss of a long-time corporate sponsor that in the past kicked in $6,000 to finance the exhibit.

The other big change in recent years, of course, has been the shift from jurying actual works of art — you used to haul your painting or sculpture or art motorcycle — down to the Hult Center so the jury could see for themselves. Now, like just about every other art show in the universe, it’s all done by looking at digital images. That’s OK. I won’t whine too much about this inevitable and, almost certainly, permanent change in the nature of the show.

As a result, the three of us hunched together and went through more than 200 images on a single computer screen. We were given a CD with all the images in advance, so we had all sorted through the pile at least once before.

I have to say, for once I wasn’t shocked by the bad quality of too many of the images that were submitted. For the most part, artists have either figured out how to use a camera or found someone who already knows.




Who’s in this year at the Eugene Mayor’s Art Show

I spent most of Monday this week with two other jurors — arts administrator Tina Rinaldi and artist Ann Bumb Hamilton — selecting art for this year’s Mayor’s Art Show. I’ll be writing more about the jurying process in a couple weeks, but for now here’s the official list of 54 artists we chose out of 197 submissions.
The show opens at 5:30 p.m. Friday Aug. 22, at the Hult Center’s Jacobs Gallery. The reception kicks off with music by Mood Area 52 at 5 p.m. in The Studio, next door to the Jacobs.
Stephanie Ames
James Bailey
Germaine Bennett
Maria Berg
Victoria Biedron
D. Brent Burkett
Melody Carr
James Cloutier
Bob Crow
Esteban Davis
Christina Dougherty
Tallmadge Doyle
Amrita Dutia
Suma Elan
Dee Etzwiler
AJ Fisher
Christopher Fralick
Dana Furgerson
Tim Neun
Walt O’Brien
Lynn Ihsen Peterson
Fran Ross
Jerry Ross
Bob Sanov
Kit Sibert
Melissa Sikes
Kate Smith
Jeremy Spafford
Kenneth Standhardt
Justin Stuck
Marijo Taylor
Kathy Tiger
Jud Turner
Kerry Wade
Michael Whitenack
Paul Yost
Marina Hajeck
Jan Halvorsen
Patsy Hand
Deborah Hebert
Meg Herran
Janet Hiller
Glenn Hitt
Sharon Kaplan
Kathleen Keuter
Bren Kleinfelder
Lynda Lanker
Yunie LeNoue
Niraja Cheryl Lorenz
Rogene Manas
Shaun McGrath
Anna Mueller
Judith Nakhnikian
Judy Ann Ness

Eugene’s arts year in quick review

Bary Shaw and Rebecca Nachison in Shrimp & Gritts: She’s Gone at OCT

Happy almost New Year! Seems like a great time to look back at what was good and what was not so good in the local arts world in 2016. I didn’t get to everything, so I’m certain I missed some real gems, but here are my picks for the best I saw and heard all year long, and a few notes about the bad out there.

The Good

Shrimp & Gritts: She’s Gone at Oregon Contemporary Theatre. Eugene playwright Paul Calindrino created a sweetly sardonic reflection on contemporary love, and it was expertly performed last summer under Brian Haimbach’s direction. Bary Shaw and Rebecca Nachison were amazing in the lead roles. Best local play of the year.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Lane County is enjoying an incredible renaissance in theater, and it’s being led by OCT.

Timothy McIntosh and Martha Benson as Hamlet and Ophelia at Cottage Theatre

Hamlet at Cottage Theatre.  Did I mention great theater is being performed around the county? Even in Cottage Grove? Under Tony Rust’s direction, Timothy Mcintosh, as Hamlet, made the indecisive prince entrancingly believable in this smart, watchable production.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change at Actors Cabaret of Eugene. ACE specializes in fun, diverting musicals, and I Love You, You’re Perfect was perfectly staged in this show directed by Joe Zingo. I think I could have stayed in my seat and watched it a second time.

Quality of Life at Very Little Theatre. Storm Kennedy led a very strong cast in this searing drama of love, age, and death, directed expertly by Carol Horne Dennis.

Karla Bonoff at the Shedd

Karla Bonoff at the Shedd. The Shedd Institute continues its mission of bringing unusually interesting talent to town — sometimes people you’ve heard of, and sometimes not. Bonoff has long been one of those under-the-radar singer songwriters known mostly to a few fans and to the better known singers (Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Wynona Judd) who performed her work. Her show here in April was gorgeous.

Eugene Onegin by Eugene Opera. As perfect a performance as I could imagine enjoying. Sometimes it’s hard to believe we have an opera company at all in a town the size of Eugene — much less such a good one.

The Eugene Biennial. After the non-profit Jacobs Gallery closed at the beginning of the year, the annual Mayor’s Art Show was left without a home, and quietly died, too. Gallerist Karin Clarke stepped up with the idea of a juried Eugene Biennial at her downtown gallery, keeping the all-comers show alive, and even expanding its reach to all the counties abutting Lane County. Good job.

Aliens, Monsters and Madmen at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

Aliens, Monsters and Madmen at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. You’ve got to love it when the bad habits of your youth — comic books and Mad magazine, for example — become high art in your old age. This was one of the few arts shows in town I went to see twice, spending a long time in the gallery during each visit.

Stephen Hough with Eugene Symphony. The concert pianist’s performance of Beethoven’s third piano concerto was magnificent. Hough, recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, redeemed the whole idea of piano concertos with his playing. To add to the fun, we got to hear the orchestra play work by several high school students.


The Eugene Review. Dark clouds sometimes have silver linings, and The Register-Guard’s steady firing of arts and entertainment writers finally produced a local arts website that’s got solid talent behind it, including Randi Bjornstad, Serena Markstrom and Suzi Steffen. The Eugene Review, which kicked off late in the year after Bjornstad got the axe, is a lot newsier and has a greater range of voices than Eugene Art Talk.


Out of town


Yeomen of the Guard at OSF

The Winter’s Tale and Hamlet and Yeomen of the Guard at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. OK, I could practically have listed every one of the eleven plays OSF did this past year. But Winter’s Tale was beautiful, Hamlet was crazy with heavy metal rock and roll, and Yeomen of the Guard let me — and perhaps fifty other audience members — wander around stage right during the show.

Russell Childers at Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Childers’ haunting, evocative sculpture had never been the subject of a retrospective. The Hallie Ford, which is the best museum of Oregon art, stepped up this past year and remedied that problem with an excellent show of work by the late artist, who was institutionalized for much of his life.


Wendy Red Star’s Apsa’alooke Feminist 3 at PAM

Contemporary Native Photographers and the Edward Curtis Legacy at Portland Art Museum. A well thought out and compelling show, put together by the museum, of work by Native American photographers reacting to Edward Curtis.


The bad

Art censorship at the UO. No, they didn’t go after figure drawing this year.  The project I have in mind is the blackface appearance by UO law professor Nancy Shurtz at a private Halloween party in her own house. Not art you say? Come on. She was dressed in costume, portraying a current book, Damon Tweedy’s memoir, “Black Man in a White Coat,” about discrimination people of color face in the medical profession. Sounds like art to me.  For this, her job is threatened and she is widely vilified as a clueless racist. Bad taste, maybe. Clueless, perhaps. But no one has disputed Shurtz’ claim that she did it to provoke a discussion of racism in the professions. The university administration’s inept handling has drawn national publicity.

R-G housecleaning.  Randi Bjornstad, a former colleague and current friend, was dismissed by her bosses on Chad Drive for her work as a union president in behalf of former entertainment writer Serena Markstrom, who was also fired by the paper. See a trend here?


The Jacobs Gallery. It’s been almost a year since the private non-profit Jacobs closed, its budget ground down by cuts in city financial support. The city bobbled the whole thing even more with a disastrous public meeting that shed little or no light on what the future might bring. Today, almost a year after the gallery went under, a sign over the gallery’s former front door still says “Jacobs Gallery,” and the defunct gallery’s hours are still posted on a sign outside the Hult Center. In the real world this kind of thing might indicate ambivalence. When is the city ever going to make up its mind about support of the visual arts?


People we’ll miss:

There were too many deaths in the arts world here locally in 2016, just as there were around the country. Here are some of the locals whose deaths touched me.


Mark Clarke in his home studio in 2008.

Mark Clarke. One of the best painters in the state, and one of the sweetest people you could ever know. Clarke was the father of gallerist Karin Clarke and husband of painter Margaret Coe.

Richard Haugland. A deep-pocket patron of the arts, he funded — among many other things — Eugene Ballet’s brand-new production of “The Snow Queen,” which is to debut in 2017.

Rick Bartow. An amazing artist with an amazing personal story, Bartow died this past spring just a year after the Schnitzer Museum mounted a big exhibition of his work.

John Evans. The former executive director (though he had other titles) of the Oregon Bach Festival, which he ran from 2007 until his resignation in 2014, the former BBC producer could be prickly at times, but attracted a lot of donor money to OBF.

Don Hunter. A geek’s geek, Hunter — an avid collector of sounds — founded the University of Oregon’s audio-visual department in 1947 and ran it for 30 more years. “I especially loved sounds that were disappearing,” he once told me.



Actually, Jerry, Eugene needs even more elite art — not less

Last year's final Mayor's Art Show at the Jacobs Gallery.

Last year’s final Mayor’s Art Show at the Jacobs Gallery.

In a cranky letter to the editor published earlier this week in The Register-Guard, painter Jerry Ross complains about the Eugene Biennial exhibition being shown this month at the Karin Clarke Gallery downtown.

The new Biennial, which opened to a packed reception on First Friday, was created by Karin Clarke to replace the Mayor’s Art Show. That long-favorite event died when its host, the non-profit Jacobs Gallery, having lost a city subsidy, closed its doors earlier this year.

The new Biennial, Ross seems to say, is just one more symptom of the crushing repression of good art by the “snob elite” that control art in Eugene. “I don’t expect the Clarke Biennale to be anything other than a boring assemblage of art objects sans the energy and iconoclasm of our city,” he wrote.

Oh, would that the snob elite had such power, Jerry. Then we’d have dozens of great commercial art galleries downtown (instead of two). And we’d have a municipal visual arts center, with a gallery and museum, alongside the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.

I like Ross. I’ve known him a long time. One of his paintings I bought years ago is hanging on my wall at home. He is one of the founders of the Salon des Refusés, a slightly tongue-in-cheek alternative exhibition that ran for years alongside the official Mayor’s Art Show. The only qualification for admission was, your work had to have been rejected by the mayor’s show jury.

Back in the days when there were hundreds of entries in the mayor’s show each year (that was in the days of no or low application fees), that meant the Salon exhibited hundreds of rejected works when the two shows opened, and held their receptions, on the Thursday night of Eugene Celebration weekend.

And, yes, the Salon threw a bigger party. After all, it had a lot more artists, and their friends, to highlight.

The end of the Salon came when the Mayor’s show went from jurying actual physical works of art, delivered to the Hult Center by hopeful artists, to jurying by looking at digital images. It was no longer simple to grab rejected artists as they picked up their works on judgment day, so Steve LaRiccia, director of the New Zone Gallery, which hosted the Salon, changed over to an all-comers show that ran at the same time as the Mayor’s show. That was nicely inclusive, but lacked the pizazz of an exhibition made up entirely of rejects.

Ross likes to imagine that there actually is an arts elite running Eugene, one that’s determined to hold back the throbbing masses of dangerously interesting and subversive art and make sure that no one gets to see it.

That’s a lovely idea, and I wish that it were so. But over the years of covering the two competing/complementary art shows, I was rarely struck by any work in the Salon that seemed to have been excluded because of some interesting or provocative message. I always enjoyed the Salon, as it gave a clearer picture of the broad swath of art being produced around Lane County. But I liked seeing what the official Mayor’s Show jury did with all that raw material over at the Jacobs.

The city seems to be pulling back from community art, on a number of levels, high or low. The Eugene Celebration, which was privatized several years ago, went on to fail. The Jacobs, as noted, has shut down – though months later, no one has gotten around to removing any of the signs outside the Hult Center inviting people to see a now non-existent art gallery. To its credit, the city threw some financial support to Clarke’s biennial, sponsoring an award, but that’s a small fraction of what it used to provide to the Jacobs.

As a businesswoman, Clarke did a bold thing when she decided to hold a juried show – her first since starting the gallery in 2002. She has rent and bills to pay, and it’s yet to be seen what kind of sales this show will generate.

Meanwhile, if anyone in town thinks the “snob elite” has too firm a grip on the arts world here, let them step up and produce their own art exhibit, juried or otherwise. I’ll be first in line to go see it.

Vacation’s over, bears and all, and it’s back to the arts scene for me


OK, I’m back from summer vacation, a couple weeks of backpacking at Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. I’m tan, rested, and ready to plunge back into the local arts scene, so long as there are no bears involved.

Meanwhile, there’s been news in the local arts world:

As of this morning, Eugene Ballet co-founder Riley Grannan has made it official, and public, at last: He is indeed retiring after 38 years running the company. He and Toni Pimble, who remains as artistic director, founded EBC here in 1978; it’s the only dance company in the state to have won a governor’s award for the arts.

Riley’s not what you’d call replaceable, but Josh Neckels, most recently production manager of the ballet, will take over as executive director.

Meanwhile, Karin Clarke is about to open her gallery’s inaugural Eugene Biennial exhibition, with work from artists from around southwest Oregon. The show fills the void left when the city cut funding to the non-profit Jacobs Gallery and the Mayor’s Art Show collapsed. The Biennial opens August 3 at the gallery, 760 Willamette Street, and runs through August 27. A reception and award ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday, August 5. (And, yes, I have a piece in the show.)

Finally, I returned from backpacking to find an interesting email in my inbox from an anonymous out-of-town musician who played in Matthew Halls’ historically informed performance of Bach’s B Minor Mass that opened the Oregon Bach Festival on June 24.

My review picked on the fact that HIP music may not belong in the spacious but acoustically dead Silva Concert Hall. “It’s OK for big, loud, unsubtle sound,” I wrote of the Silva, which was designed to use 1970s-vintage electronic enhancement that is now usually turned off.  “But it struggles to present anything very quiet. And it turns out that a HIP version of the B Minor Mass has a lot of subtle going on.”

The musician’s email is worth quoting at some length:

I have to say that at least some of us knew going in that it was going to be about as you described it, and I can tell you honestly that we were putting out 150 percent in a fervent attempt to overcome the sonic black hole that seems to be the predominant characteristic of Silva Hall, all of whose worst properties seem to be emphasized by doing historical performances there.

… It’s sad because this B Minor was a beautiful performance if you happened to be sitting where I was on the stage. This was my third B Minor this season, and was by far the best.

… Seems that there must be a decent size church with good acoustics somewhere in Eugene. Since historical performance is going to be integral to the festival for a while, at least, I hope that a good solution can be found for the larger projects. I’m all for amplification if we have to continue to do them at Silva, and frankly I was surprised that they weren’t adding a bit of ambience for the B Minor.

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