It was one of those moments when I felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room. I had entered the Growler Underground in anticipation of meeting several friends and hearing lots of great music at the weekly open mic on Main Street in Springfield. As soon as I walked in, someone handed me the latest issue of Eugene Weekly and said, “Look what they did to Springfield.”
I could not believe what Ben Ricker had written about the downtown nightlife in his cartoon graphic “All Quiet on the Eastern Front” in the March 10 edition. The article was being passed around to several people attending the open mic and jaws were dropping all night. This reaction continued into the following day and was the only topic of conversation throughout downtown Springfield before, during and after the art walk. The anger was palpable everywhere I went as I talked with others in the downtown area.
I wanted to understand why I reacted so strongly to Ricker’s article. Why was I taking it so seriously and, in fact, personally?
I have been involved in the revitalization of Main Street for more than five years. There have been countless hours, energy, money spent and volunteers that have worked and will continue to work diligently to develop an arts and culture district. We worked hard to reclaim the streets and make it enjoyable for everyone without having to step around barf or someone passed out on the sidewalk.
There are merchants who have spent their life savings investing in downtown, and all of the people who support this effort to bring people back to downtown Springfield have been dealt a very mean-spirited blow to their vision.
What was the true concept behind Ricker’s piece? I was told that Ben had asked a business owner for the seediest places* to go on his nightlife exploration of our area. Why wasn’t that mentioned as part of his exploration or in any of the aftermath, instead of links to articles from the past that don’t help with anything that is believed to be the current situation in this area?
The rest of the Swizzle supplement was devoted to all of the positive activities and events happening in Eugene and even in Dexter at the Dexter Lake Club, while the back page was dedicated to the non-existent scene happening in Springfield. The continued bias toward Springfield needs to be questioned at the Weekly. Old press releases and articles do not hold any weight. What is currently perceived as happening takes precedence.
That was the same weekend that Plank Town had its Cask Festival and the lines were out the door and on the sidewalk, which Ben would have certainly seen had he been there anytime prior to closing at midnight.
Everything that all of us in downtown Springfield have strived to improve in regards to the age-old stereotype of seedy bars and strip clubs along with the work to bridge the division between Eugene and Springfield felt like it was slipping away as we were once again made to be the butt of a joke.
We will continue to grow as an arts destination as our downtown grows and offers more art, shops, restaurants and events, and through it all we hope that someday in the not so distant future, more of Eugene will venture over and explore the actual life happening in our community— Paula Goodbar
Paula Goodbar is an artist, arts advocate and activist, coordinator of Downtown Springfield Second Friday Art Walk, and executive director of Emerald Art Center.
*EW sent Ben Ricker without an agenda, and the suggestion to go to Brick House was put forward by several people.