Eugene's Dying Art Scene

Written by: Erika Fortner 

As someone who attended one of the top 5 Art Schools in the world, I find myself with a heap of debt and minimal job opportunities for a creative person like myself, in Eugene, OR. Sure, I have my shop open, but as any new business, our issue is informing the town that we exists and that they should stop by.

olivia shapely artwalk january eugene first firday keven craft rituals

olivia shapely artwalk first firday keven craft rituals eugene oregon gallery

(Olivia Shapely on exhibition through the First Friday, Jan 8th 2016 Artwalk in Eugene, OR)

When I arrived here in August, most of my art was and still is in storage in the Mid West. One can't image the cost of lugging large scale paintings around the world and only selling some here and there. I just read that one of the quality galleries in Eugene, will be closing (aka defunded by the city) early next year. This is the Jacobs Gallery located in the downstairs of the Hullt Center. They are not the only gallery, but they are one of the few places I could show my work.

What has this done to my ability to show quality fine art in a respected gallery? Its pretty much made it impossible to even consider a show. No one in this town knows who I am and I don't really feel like playing politics of who is who... and why I'm one of the bigger deals here in Eugene. I shouldn't have to explain to people what the last 12 years of my life was like and which museum I was working with for which big artist. That world doesn't even exist here. Eugene is in a bubble. The people that collect the art don't know quality art. The people that showcase the art don't have a large range of quality to pick from. I don't feel the need to explain that most of my art won't even fit onto the small wall sections available in a group show. The local people don't seem to be buying the work. Artists are overpricing their work because they are not selling, and they do not have the professional artist experience required to be pricing their work according. Can you blame them? The only option for larger sales is Portland, Seattle, or San Francisco. 

Sure, I got offered a chance to show at a local coffee shop. Its a cute place, but I haven't shown in a coffee shop since I was 16. Any hopes and dreams I had to make it as an artist, pretty much don't exist in this town. 

Most of the time I find this to be a depreciation of the work and I find myself stuck... not wanting to make art again. I'm pretty much over the BS associated with the New York art scene. What a bunch of hype and covering up of mistakes and the blind leading the blind. What I had hoped for Eugene is to have found a supportive community of artists backed by a town that supports the arts. Eugene's future decisions need to value both the artist and their work. Otherwise, we will look back and see the clear path of defunding and value gone to other aspects of a growing city (aka Tech).

How am I participating in helping the art scene in Eugene? I am attempting to give space to local curated artisans and artists where they have an alternative space at a reasonable price. It really is the only way to support the arts.

*You must show up. Enough with the flaking Eugene.

*Buy local. Stop importing goods and saying they are locally made.

*Support the artists, in and out of gallery showings. That means providing them space to create the art, access to like minded creatives that enhance the scene, and building relationships. Otherwise, these artists will leave. As an art appreciator, buy the art and return each time you want to keep seeing new art up on the walls.

sarah richards gallery exhibition artwalk keven craft rituals

sarah richards exhibition gallery artwalk first firday eugene oregon gallery keven craft ritual

(Sarah Richards on exhibition through the First Friday, Jan 8th 2016 Artwalk in Eugene, OR)

Keven Craft Rituals still has work up by two local artists. Please come by and see their work. Heck, even purchase their work. It won't pay my bills or keep the lights on, but it will keep art vibrant in the town!


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