Eugene, Oregon’s plan for building an enduring public art collection thatinspires the community, enhances its livability, appeals to visitors, andbecomes a growing source of community pride
In Eugene, Oregon, Barney & Worth Inc and the District Arts and Culture Council joined a community-wide process with many Eugene citizens in January 2010 to develop a public arts program. And shared the creativity and vision of future Eugene art. Eugene made a bold statement to be “the greatest art and outdoor city in the world”.
In 2009, assisted by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Eugene began work on a plan tore view, reshape and redirect the public art program. The project was directed by the Eugene Public Art Committee and a 14-member Steering Committee. More than 400community members participated in the planning, sharing their vision and creative ideas on ways to move public art forward.
So how does Eugene’s public art program compare to peer communities’ standard practices and best practices? At 28 years, Eugene’s public art program is among the more mature programs in the United States. The nation’s earliest programs are nearing 40 years old. Portland’s program will celebrate its 30th birthday in 2010, Eugene’s program in 2011. Like most peer public art programs, Eugene’s program is operated by city government. The size of Eugene’s public art collection (198 artworks) is above average – but much smaller than other mature programs. Over the years, Eugene has collected around six or seven pieces of art per year. Eugene also has fewer than the average number of artists represented.
To date, Eugene’s stature as an emerging arts and culture center rests largely on the foundation of the performing arts. The Hult Center is Eugene’s hub for the performing arts, with the 2,500-seat Silva Concert Hall, 500-seat Soreng Theater and 225-seat Studio. The facility opened in September 1982 and was an immediate success, selling one million tickets over its first four years of operation.
A survey released in November 2009 by the National Endowment for the Arts found that more Oregonians attend opera, jazz and classical music concerts, per capita, than in any other state. One in six Oregon adults (490,000) attended a classical music concert during one recent year (May 2007 to May 2008). Oregon also ranks #1 in attendance at art museums and craft festivals, and is second overall in per capita attendance at combined performing arts events. The reputation and reality of Eugene’s success in performing and literary arts presents an opportunity to experience public art – in the Hult Center, Jacobs Gallery and adjoining hotel / conference center, and airport gallery (currently located in a secured terminal,but scheduled to be relocated to a public space as part of airport renovation)
The City of Eugene’s goal for its public art program is to “foster arts and the development of artists and provide experiences which enrich and better the social and physical environment.” In creating the Public Art Plan, arts community leaders and citizens were invited to revisit this goal and express their personal vision for ways that public art can ―enrich and better the social and physical environment.‖
Community members who contributed to the plan envision Eugene having more public art, of higher quality, and reaching all parts of the city. Key elements of this vision include:
Art integrated into urban design: shaping and contributing to the design of buildings (public and private), public spaces, landscape, and everyday functional objects (from lighting fixtures to bicycle racks to manhole covers).
Large scale pieces: a few larger works placed at prominent locations strategically chosen to reinforce the community’s creative identity, and so that visitors and residents alike will be sure to take notice. Information: a map and brochure, interpretive signage, history, website and photo images, walking tours and podcasts, information on artists, lecture series, and other educational materials to inform and activate the community and ―tell the story.
Sites Everywhere! Seriously, where SHOULDN‟T public art go? (Yes, in the downtown; yes, in the neighborhoods; yes, in the LTD stops; yes, on the UO campus; yes, everywhere).Along with the downtown, I like seeing public art at the airport, the Hult, and all other major areas where people congregate.
City gateways to suggest to visitors that Eugene is a creative city with respect for art. Leave that up to the Public Art Committee. Vision A destination for both artists and visitors who include in their reasons for planning trips. Enough statues of Rosa Parks, Eugene Skinner, Ken Kesey, etc! More art would make me feel the phrase “Greatest city of the arts and outdoors” was justified.
I‟m not interested in art in front of (or in) places you can only go to in a car. Accessible art for all! Like many mid-sized cities, Eugene has a dead or dying downtown. Unlike many, Eugene has not thus far seen the value in turning downtown into a cultural (and education) center. Art must be as conspicuous as restaurants. I am very tired of sculptures of clothed persons sitting on a bench. Art should be uplifting and imaginative.
The more art, the better! Art can only help to verify and beautify the community. It can also help spark community wide discussions, and stimulate thought and expression inresidents and visitors. The art in Eugene really needs to diversify. We have the same three artists doing all the visible public art. Lots more art, focused on the downtown Art and Entertainment District. It‟s not the „60s anymore. Keep the flavor but be sure to transition to the new century. Art that inspires creativity and civic pride, a sense of Eugene as a welcoming community. Art is food for the soul. I want visitors to leave feeling well fed and residents to know they never have to go hungry.