Bob Keefer on art and music around Eugene, Oregon

Category: Art (Page 1 of 9)

Maybe we could build the Guggenheim/Eugene here….

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. A Eugene version could complement the shiny new federal courthouse.

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. A Eugene version could complement the shiny new federal courthouse.

Word from Finland this week is that city leaders in Helsinki nixed construction of a new satellite Guggenheim museum there, citing the fact that the project was going to cost them $100 million or so.

It would have joined distant campuses in Bilbao and Venice. But no more.

The canceled project is a major opportunity for the people of Eugene. After all,  in this part of the world we have a history of taking on major construction projects that go nowhere. We’re about to close the brand-new psychiatric hospital in Junction City that just opened a year and a half ago at a cost of $130 million.

Eugene’s new city hall –which has cost, what $5.7 million so far? — doesn’t even have a plan yet, just a big empty gravel pad and a lot of confused ideas. Oh, yeah, and a budget that’s a third of the way to that $100 million figure.

And don’t get me started on the University of Oregon, which just threw $11 million down a rat hole in hopes of winning a couple more football games next year.

Obviously, money is no object around here (unless it’s a mere $30k a year to support the Jacobs Gallery). So why not spend our next boondoggle on a lush visual art center with international cachet?

The Guggenheim Eugene would definitely put us on the map. People would probably even get off I-5 to see it.

I’m going to email the Guggenheim people and invite them for a visit.

A letter from the ranch in Wyoming: A month-long residency at Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts

Near Medicine Bow Peak.

Near Medicine Bow Peak.

Every day, for the last three weeks, I’ve gotten up at dawn, eaten a quick breakfast, packed a small lunch, and headed out for eight to ten miles of hiking and photographing in the high sagebrush country of southern Wyoming. Then I come back, settle in to a private studio for the afternoon, and work until dinner on hand-coloring photos, painting them at an easel for the first time in my life instead of on a drafting table.

All this time I’ve been holed up at a luxury dude ranch in southern Wyoming with five other artists – all more accomplished than I, by far – at the posh Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts.

Part of Brush Creek Ranch, a 15,000-acre, $1,000-$1,500 a night resort that caters to some fraction of the one percent, the art foundation has been in existence for five years. The ranch is where Girls star Allison Williams was married last year to much notice in the celebrity press.

Like other arts residencies around the country and the world, Brush Creek Foundation offers a quiet place to live and work, in extraordinary surroundings, for perhaps 50 artists each year. For free. Did I say for free? Artists and art lovers tend to complain about a lack of support for the arts in the U.S. Well, this is support.

At work in my studio.

At work in my studio.

When I arrived three weeks ago, I was picked up in Laramie – the closest commercial airport – and shuttled some 70 miles across southern Wyoming’s mountain and sagebrush country to my own little piece of Paradise: a small hotel style bedroom in a log building next to a second log building where I’ve got my private art studio, complete with high ceilings, a sink, a big wooden easel, desk, tables and basic supplies. And a great view of the rimrock outside.

I’ve never worked in a studio this spacious or elegant. Best of all, like all four visual art studios here, it comes with a Barcalounger, perfect for afternoon or evening naps and other deep inspired contemplation.

The only question I’ve got is, why have I never done this kind of thing before?

The other five artists here with me for the month are all easterners, oddly enough: Three New Yorkers, a Bostonian and a French Canadian.

New York performance artist Pat Oleszko on Open Studios day.

New York performance artist Pat Oleszko on Open Studios day.

Among us we are two photographers, two orchestral composers, a novelist and a performance artist who was once arrested in Rome for impersonating the Pope (as part of an art project, natch).

Four of us are in our 60s. Two are, ahem, younger. We get along amazingly well, considering we eat every dinner and many lunches together, and we see few other people day to day. The other artists tell stories about residencies wrecked by the occasional misfit. None of that has happened here. It’s a serious, good-humored group of actual adults. We’ve gotten together once to watch a presidential debate, and a few of us took a high-altitude hike near Medicine Bow Peak the other day. One resident, photographer and ceramicist Warren Mather, rented a car for the month, and has been generous with rides to town.

The weather has been spectacular. We got four inches of snow one day early on, but it all melted off in a couple more days, leaving us to enjoy sunny warm afternoons and cool evenings, sometimes spent around a fire pit well stocked with cut and split logs.

But mostly we work. Brush Creek offers what is called a “no expectations” residency, which means just that. No obligation on our part to do anything in particular at all. You can work, you can hike, you can take naps. You can present your work to the other artists (which we have all done) or not. No one judges.



And you can just breathe the clean Wyoming air each morning and think, “What did I ever do to deserve this?”

The biggest artistic challenge I’ve faced is this: Since I decided to fly here, rather than drive 1,100 miles and back in uncertain weather, I don’t have my computer printer. So each day I shoot and edit photos, but can’t print them; instead I work on a stack of old black and white photographs I shipped to myself ahead of time via UPS. So I’m photographing Wyoming and painting Oregon each day. I’ll live, somehow.

No one seems to take days off. What would be the point?

Dinners and lunches have been catered by a Peruvian chef named Monika, whose husband Alejandro also works in the main lodge kitchen. Our meals have been opulent, night after night, almost to a fault. Monika and Alejandro finished their contract for the season the other night, so we celebrated with a full-on prime rib dinner with the works, leaving everyone stunned and satiated.

Pre-dinner cocktail hour by the firepit.

Pre-dinner cocktail hour by the firepit.

The first resident to present his work to us was Jerome Kitzke, a New York composer who has performed all over the world. Tall, rangy and gray haired, with a long pony tail, he spends his days holed up in a cabin here called The Schoolhouse, which I guess used to be one; now it’s restored, looks a bit like a church inside, and sports one of the best 9-foot Steinway grand pianos I’ve heard played. (The other music studio has a Bösendorfer.)

One evening early on, Jerome invited us to the The Schoolhouse to hear him play a piano setting he wrote perhaps 15 years ago to Allen Ginsberg’s 1953 poem “The Green Automobile.” The poem is perfect for here, about an imagined road trip taken from New York to the West by Ginsberg to see Neal Cassady.

With a week to go before returning to Oregon, I find myself picking up the pace of photography, painting and just plain thinking. It’s hard in real life to find time like this to work on anything, and I don’t plan to lose a moment.

An abandoned cabin up a sagebrush draw on the ranch.

An abandoned cabin up a sagebrush draw on the ranch.

Brian Lanker photojournalism at Karin Clarke Gallery

Muhammad Ali, 1984

Muhammad Ali, 1984

If you missed the big exhibition of Brian Lanker photographs earlier this year at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art — I did, too — Karin Clarke Gallery is giving you a second chance.

Clarke has mounted a show of 15 of the late photographer’s journalistic photos that were on display in the JSMA’s exhibition From the Heart.

Lanker, of course, was photo editor at The Register-Guard back in the day — far enough back, in fact, that he and I never met on the job there, though I got to know him as a photographer in town when I began covering the arts here. It’s hard for me to separate Lanker’s work, which is splendid, from his outsized personality, which could be both charming and trying.

He was one of a number of disciples of Rich Clarkson at the Topeka Capital-Journal. Other photographers Clarkson brought along there include Chris Johns, who would go on to become chief content officer for National Geographic; David Alan Harvey, of Magnum and Nat Geo; Susan Biddle, a White House photographer and staff photographer at the Washington Post; and Susan Ford, daughter of President Gerald Ford.

Lanker won a Pulitzer Prize for photography while still at the Capital-Journal for a series of photos he did on childbirth. Soon after, he came to Eugene to run the photo department in the days when newspapering was flush with money, and The Register-Guard decided it would be interesting to bring in a nationally recognized photographer to redesign the paper from bottom to top.

With his characteristic bluster and charm, Lanker did just that, and the RG quickly became know around the country for its extraordinary, at the time, use of color photography. Under Lanker’s guidance, photos ran big on the page — sometimes causing more-traditional word-oriented editors to complain that the tail had begun to wag the dog — and photographers came to be recognized in the newsroom as journalists in their own right, rather than mere adjuncts to reporters.

After leaving the RG, Lanker shot for numerous national publications, including Life and Sports Illustrated, while still living in Eugene with his wife, painter Lynda Lanker.

This small show at the Clarke gallery has some of Lanker’s best work over the years, most of it familiar. He got access to such celebrities as Muhammad Ali and Willie Nelson, James Beard and Mick Jagger. In Eugene, he photographed Ken Kesey and Steve Prefontaine.

Horse Logger, 1975

Horse Logger, 1975

My favorite work in the show is his older black and white images, such as this anonymous horse logger he shot in the Oregon woods.

The exhibit runs through September 24. A reception will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 10.

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.

Russell Childers’ haunted carvings at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem

'The Wee Mother and Boy.' 1971, wood, 12” x 7.5” x 5”, private collection. Photo/Willamette University.

‘The Wee Mother and Boy.’ 1971, wood, 12” x 7.5” x 5”, private collection. Photo/Willamette University.

Up the freeway in Salem, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art on Saturday opens a retrospective of the work of outsider artist Russell Childers (1916-1998), whose haunted wood carvings gave him a passport to escape decades of unwarranted isolation in Oregon’s state institution for the disabled.

Childers – his name rhymes with “builders” – was 9 years old and living in eastern Oregon in 1926 when he was taken away from his mother and committed to the State Institution for the Feeble-Minded, later known as Fairview Hospital and Training Center. It would be four decades before he was released.

I met Childers in 1992 – he was 76 – and interviewed him for The Register-Guard. A small man, hunched over his workbench, he proudly showed me carving knives from a hand-crafted tool chest he used as he worked on a small carving of a buffalo. Childers was striking in his simplicity and strength of vision, and I found a big part of me envying his focus. He had been given hearing aids and speech therapy when he was released from Fairview in 1965 – he spent the rest of his life in an assisted-living facility, doing his carving at the Willamette Valley Rehabilitation Center in Lebanon – and could hold a conversation, though his voice was was sometimes very difficult for me to understand.

By the time I met him, Childers had been discovered by the academic art world, primarily by University of Oregon sculptor Jan Zach and by art consultants Michael Whitenack and Tommy Griffin. They arranged a small exhibition of Childers’ strange and beautiful carvings that traveled around the West. His work has been shown even in Japan.

His best work is profoundly affecting. Starting at the time of his release from Fairview in 1965, Childers turned from crafting modest but quite ordinary carvings of animals to a series of autobiographical pieces showing, for example, his mother delivering him to the hospital in 1926.

The 1971 carving shown above, “The Wee Mother and Boy,” is a good example. Childers depicts himself in the clothing of early 20th century America, right down to the big heavy laced shoes of the day. In this and similar carvings, in fact, Childers puts a lot of emphasis on details of the shoes; this may be, says Hallie Ford curator Jonathan Bucci, who created the exhibition, because his shoes were taken away from him when he entered Fairview for security reasons.

Bucci explains that he had heard about Childers and his work for several years. “It was like a thread,” he says of researching the artist and putting the show together. “I kept pulling at it and kept reeling it in.”

Little documentation exists to explain why Childers was committed in the first place. A county judge wrote that the boy suffered from “fits,” suggesting epilepsy; he was also called “incorrigible.” In retrospect it seems today he was simply deaf and possibly autistic.

Over the decades he spent at Fairview, Childers began making wood carvings, which he sometimes sold to ward attendants for a dollar or less. Years later he explained that he had been inspired by seeing a magazine article – probably Life magazine – about a wood carver in the 1940s.

'Boy with Shoes,' 1968-1970, wood, 6” x 8.5” x 5.375”. Photo/Willamette University.

The Hallie Ford exhibition contains about two dozen of Childers’ carvings of the roughly 50 that Bucci was able to locate. Some of them seem clearly inspired by photographs he might have seen in magazines such as Life: Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima, for example, or a life-sized portrait bust he made of John Kennedy.

But others are more enigmatic. My two favorite works by Childers are both in the show. One, titled “The Long Wool Stocking Days,” shows a line of naked boys walking from left to right, each boy with his hand on the shoulder of the boy in front of him. Childers explained when I met him that this was how the boys at Fairview were required to line up for the showers.

The other isn’t autobiographical at all; Bucci calls it one of the few metaphorical pieces Childers did.

In “Man Climbing a Ladder,” a man wearing a trenchcoat and hat starts up a ladder that seems to have been carved out of a growing tree; at the top, a large cat is perched. The piece seems to have no particular reference other than Childers’ imagination.

“There was definitely a progression as he learned to carve,” Bucci says. “And there is a haunting sadness – and a hopefulness, as well.”

Childers' tool chestAs I visited the exhibition, that sadness was focused on Childers’ painted tool chest, which I had seen him use almost a quarter century ago. It has his name carved into a drawer front, along with other names – Nathan Doe and Donald Caseday. These were men who helped him build the tool chest, Childers told me the day I met him.

In the current exhibition Childers’ wooden chest sits at the door to the museum’s small study gallery, which houses most of the show. It’s protected from prying fingers by plexiglass panels, and it still contains his tools.

Russell Childers: Oregon Outsider” runs through October 23 at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, on the campus of Willamette University in Salem. See more information here.



‘Boy with Shoes,’ 1968-1970, wood, 6” x 8.5” x 5.375”. Photo/Willamette University.

The 28th annual PhotoZone juried show at Emerald Art Center

Emerald Art Center PhotoZone show.

One of the first things that might strike you on touring the PhotoZone Gallery’s 28th Annual Juried Show Exhibition, as I did on Friday, is the large number of black and white prints done in the Ansel Adams/Edward Weston classic landscape mode. In fact, I made a quick count. Of the 48 images still in the show — a couple have apparently been taken away by buyers — no fewer than 15 could easily pass for having been done in the early 20th century.

Photography, of course, isn’t the only artistic medium whose practitioners celebrate and replicate the past. Go to any community art center exhibition and you’ll find would-be Impressionists, Abstract Expressionists and Pop artists by the score. But photography seems to disproportionately attract people who are fond of long-established technique and vision to the exclusion of much else. Those 15 or so photos were, of course, well done, but generally lacked much acknowledgement of the fact that the calendar says 2016, not 1940.

That’s not to say there aren’t also some photos in this show with a contemporary vision. The best example, I thought, was — to my surprise, as I rarely agree with exhibition jurors — awarded Best of Show. That’s Lynn Dean’s striking color photo “Vietnam War Memorial.”

The photograph is so quietly excellent, that, to be honest, it took me a moment to grasp its subtle charms. The Washington Monument neatly divides the upper half of this vertical composition into two not-quite symmetrical sides. The color image is nearly all monochromatic, from the black polished rock of the face of Maya Lin’s much-photographed memorial to the pale gray sky above. But cut across all this gray is a sudden slash of green and yellow lawn. The effect is immensely appealing; the photograph stands nicely on its own without relying on the sentiment around a war memorial for its effect.

Another photo that caught my eye was a small study of two nudes by Paula Goodbar, who is, coincidentally, the executive director the Emerald Art Center. “Running Up That Hill” shows the torso and upper thighs of a couple, facing apart, bound together by a pink sash (and, perhaps, by their relationship). It’s a small, understated, and well done image.

Finally, Doug Martin’s “Rain Gutter Guards on Red Table” seems barely able to qualify as photography, at least at first glance, though I imagine the striking composition does. The image looks like a geometric array of 24 odd shellfish, but I’ll take the title’s word for it that no shellfish were harmed in the making. The picture is odd and appealing.

Finally, one more count. Digital has taken over even at PhotoZone. Of the 48 photos on the wall, 46 were made on digital cameras and printed as inkjet prints. One was scanned from a film slide and printed on an inkjet printer. And there is exactly one old-fashioned darkroom-vintage silver gelatin print made from a film image: Daniel Schlender’s “Silver City School.” The images in this show may not be entirely contemporary, but the medium certainly is.

The show runs through Friday, so you’ve got this week to go see it. More info here.




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.

The Eugene Biennial opens August 3 at Karin Clarke Gallery. (And I’m in it.)

East of Steens 2016.8: 22x30 hand colored black and white photograph

East of Steens 2016.8 : 22×30 hand colored black and white photograph

Thirty-three works* by thirty-one artists have been selected out of 240 submitted by regional artists for the first Eugene Biennial juried show, which opens August 3 and runs through August 27 at the Karin Clarke Gallery, 760 Willamette Street.

And, yes, one of the chosen pieces is by me — this hand colored landscape photograph from eastern Oregon’s Harney County.

The Biennial was conceived to take the place of the now-defunct annual Mayor’s Art Show, which had been run for years by the now-defunct Jacobs Gallery. The non-profit Jacobs closed earlier this year after losing its annual subsidy from the city.

I entered the Mayor’s Art Show exactly once, many years ago, with a terrible pastel painting I made from a photograph. In those days, the Mayor’s Show required artists to submit the actual work for jurying, which meant that on the day the winners were announced, the losers, including me, had to show up at the Hult Center and pick up their rejected work. This was a bracingly humbling experience for a beginner, let’s just say, and yet I’ve always thought it was a good idea even though the practice of jurying actual art works inevitably gave way to the ease and practicality of jurying from digital images.

Clarke’s new show was juried — from digital images — by a panel that included her, art collector Roger Saydack and painter Jon Jay Cruson.

The artists accepted into the show, according to the gallery website, are Alexander Krajkowski, Beverly Soasey, Bob Keefer, Carol Arian, Dale Karstetter, Edward Teague, Germaine Bennett, Heather L Halpern, Ivan Leontyuk, Janine Etherington, Jody Sibert, Joel Haffner, John Holdway, Judith M. Sander, Judy Ness, Julie Reisner, Karen Russo, Lynda Lanker, Margaret Leutzinger, Martha Snyder, Mavelle Featherstone, Michael Whitenack, Mona Goguen, Rebecca Mannheimer, Sarah Ciampa, Sarah Peterman, Satoko Motouji, Stephanie Ames, Suma Elan, Susan Jane Applegate and Zoe Cohen.

  • An earlier version of this story said 31 works would be in the show.

Pictures at an exhibition: Aliens, Monsters, and Madmen opens at the JSMA


I always loved comic books as a kid. This engaging new exhibit at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art goes a long way toward explaining why.

Opening for Aliens, Monsters and Madmen, exhibition of classic comic book art, at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

The only magazine my parents ever forbade me to read as a child was Mad. (The prohibition, I’m happy to say, didn’t work.)


What would an opening be without snacks?


The museum has mounted the show with a touch of P.T Barnum.


Some of the art work in these panels looks a lot like Old Master prints.


The exhibit runs through July 10.

A new visual art exhibit opens quietly in the old Jacobs space

Architecture Jacobs Gallery

Symphony-goers attending last night’s concert at the Hult Center were surprised — or at least I was — to find an architectural exhibit in the space formerly known as the Jacobs Gallery, downstairs from the Hult lobby.

“The Mounds at the Hult,” as the exhibit is named, illustrates a design study undertaken as a private pro bono project for the city by University of Oregon architecture professor Philip Speranza.

Basically, he said in a phone call this morning, he was examining the use of that slightly awkward, concrete public space that separates the Hult Center from the Hilton hotel and convention center next door.

“We’re trying to improve the quality of the space,” he said — especially the recessed area right outside the door leading into The Studio. I called it a “hole.” More diplomatically, Speranza said, “It has issues.”

His design study now on view in the former Jacobs space is beautiful and intriguing and just a bit opaque to those of us not versed in the jargon of architecture.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Mounds at the Hult is an urban design study using new technology during the design process and interaction design for the built project to connect people in public space around Downtown Eugene Arts and Culture. The exhibit features participatory design work and iterative design studies. The work displayed in the exhibit intends to make public the design process and encourage participation through visitors reacting to design ideas, relocating cultural activities in the plaza and proposing new activities. Drawings, analytical diagrams, stakeholder quotes and design renderings are intended to best begin the design process for a space that supports evening movies, sitting, eating, playing, meeting, resting and other activities Downtown.

I like, though, that the city is looking at improving the downtown experience — and I like that the gallery formerly known as the Jacobs has another visual exhibit in it, even though it doesn’t seem to have been widely publicized.

The Mounds at the Hult will be on display through May 19 during Hult box office hours, which are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, and one hour before Hult performances.


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