A Vibrant Scene

Recent commentaries on the arts ignore the reality

In response to the misguided Viewpoints Nov. 12 by Courtney Stubbert, “Guess What? There’s No Money. Seven Steps to Make the Jacobs Gallery Closing Not Matter at All” and by John O’Malley (“hater of negativity and apathy”), “Wake Up Eugene, and Push Your Art Scene Into the 21st Century”:

I’ve produced more than 350 art shows, exhibits and events promoting more than 1,200 artists during the past 25 years. The shows include the very popular “Salon des Refusés” from 1991 to 2009, an exhibit of artists refused by the Mayor’s Art Show; the “Salon du Peuple” and “Zone 4 All Shows” from 2007 to the present, open non-juried community art exhibits; and New Zone Gallery members and theme shows from 1998 to the present. All of these were done on a shoestring budget and, recently, without grants.

Guess what? You don’t need money, just the passion to make the art scene happen in Eugene.

Stubbert’s piece states, “I can’t survive as an artist in Eugene!” Well, very few ever do anywhere. “Nobody buys art!” Not true! Certainly during the recent recession most people’s budgets did not include buying art, but that has changed as our local economy has recovered. The New Zone Gallery had its best sales month this October and this is its best sales year ever!

“Someone should step up and donate!” They do! Thank you to Oregon Contemporary Theatre, Ninkasi Brewery, Raven Frame Works and many more from the local community for their generous and ongoing support of New Zone over the years. Our art scene sucks. I’ve never met a single person here who thought it was remarkable at all.” The crowds in art venues on First Friday don’t seem to share that opinion.

However, Stubbert’s seven steps for artists to create a better art scene are valid, although I would add a few more: First, believe in yourself and your art. Second, presentation of an artist’s work is critical. Lastly, follow-up, follow-up and follow-up is key to being successful.

In the back pages Arts Viewpoint, O’Malley states: “Surveying the art scene of Eugene tells me it’s less relevant and more ‘over the hill.’”

Have you ever visited the New Zone Gallery, which is next door to the Wayward Lamb? It’s always packed with art lovers and buyers during the First Friday Art Walk. We always have exciting and very engaging shows that include established and emerging artists.

Our current Steampunk exhibition displays artwork from all over Oregon. “I work for a community that doesn’t think it needs community” and “the art scene in Eugene is bleak,” O’Malley writes. We at the New Zone believe that the community has a vital interest in the art scene.

We have promoted West Broadway as “The Cultural District of Downtown” for years, even when we were the only light on at our end of the street. The revitalization of downtown has turned it into a vibrant, exciting place to be and we are delighted to be a part of it.

Wake up, John, and take the blinders off.

— Steve La Riccia

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