Take Five

Arts leaders pick their top pieces of local public art

Eugene may no longer be deemed the world’s greatest city of the arts and outdoors (in 2010, the city tagline shifted to “a great city for the arts and outdoors”), but more than ever our town is gilded with murals, sculptures, mosaics and other public art, which can mostly be enjoyed en plein air. EW reached out to local leaders in arts and culture and asked them to pick one must-see piece in the city.

1. Of the People, For the People, By the People (2001) by Mari Livie and Annie Heron, 2nd and Blair

I rarely pick favorites as I tend to see the best parts of everything, but I have a sweet connection to this one.   It’s one of MECCA’s first large projects made by volunteers and led by two local artists whom I dearly love, Mari Livie and Annie Heron. It may not look like much from afar but when you look more closely at the handmade tiles and lovely designs, you can see the intention and beauty that resides there.  It’s a fun and funky piece of renegade public art and it brings a smile to my lips when I’m in the Whit.

— Mija Andrade, resident artist at Oregon Supported Living Program

2. Stained Glass Window (2008) by John Rose, Eugene Public Library

The rich lighting that reflects through the stained glass creates an atmosphere of seclusion and intimacy that serves to temper moods. The interplay of the light and colors of the stained glass transforms the space, flooding it with a sense of meditation that allows you to admire the quality of the light of the city.

— Jessica Zapata, Eugene Arte Latino director

3. Eugene Group (1974) by Hugh Townley, Alton Baker Park

My favorite is Hugh Townley’s concrete ‘space aliens’ (of Jan Zach’s 1974 Oregon International Sculpture Symposium) — my term, not his — that cavort in Alton Baker Park. Townley, who died in 2008, told me about his visit: “We drove down next to the Willamette River on a picnic. And in the course of that drive, we passed people swimming nude in the river, people throwing bottles in the river and shooting at them and people obviously smoking copious quantities of pot. We were driving two cars behind a state trooper, and yet it all seemed to be all right. I thought this was a nice indication of the integration of all these things into the local society without anybody being annoyed by it.” His dancing figures remind us how deeply art was valued here in 1974.

— Bob Keefer, writer, photographer and editor of EugeneArtTalk.com

4. Four Seasons (1997) by Betsy Wolfston and David Thompson, Broadway and Willamette

If I had to pick one absolute favorite, it would be the “Four Seasons” sculpture downtown at Broadway and Willamette. I just think it’s very successful public art on a number of levels: well-placed, a nice collaboration between two of Eugene’s most-talented longtime artists and a lot of interesting detail, layers of meaning and connection to place.

— Jud Turner, sculptor

5. Evolutionary Leaps (2014) by Esteban Camacho, WJ Skatepark + Urban Plaza

I am in love with Esteban Camacho’s mural at the WJ Skatepark. It’s gorgeous; it speaks to the space and the community that uses WJ, and driving by it at night — lit dramatically and nearly always surrounded by skaters of all ages and backgrounds using the park — it’s what I think public art is all about. And not only is the mural beautiful, but its creation was a community-wide effort and also seeded several other mural projects around the city and Springfield and is part of a reigniting of interest in mural art in Eugene.

— Tomi Anderson, city of Eugene cultural services director