A Life Steeped in the Arts

In Memory of Lois Wadsworth, 1936-2019

Lois Wadsworth

My mother was a gatherer of people. She could draw someone she had just met into conversation, then into friendship, almost before they knew what had happened. She loved family, valued the work that is necessary to keep relationships real, and poured her energies into those she loved.

She cultivated lasting connections throughout her life, embracing all with her affection, curiosity and deep passion. Many of her most intimate friendships carried forward over decades, helping to create a biological and extended family that is now enjoying its fourth generation.

Part of what made Lois so engaging as a person was her unabashed love of stories — her own and those of others. She was an avid reader who collected books the way some people collect clothes. She loved the emotional narrative of dance, the visual power of cinema, the dynamic energy of live theater. As a young woman attending university on a full drama scholarship, she acted “in every play they would give me a part in.” And as a member of the Eugene community in the early ’80s, she spent three years bringing the stories of Northwest activists to a public access television show called Nuclear Questions.

Lois always had a strong sense of self.  As she matured, that expanded to her appreciation of art. In the late ’60s she bought her first piece of pottery, an unusual blue sugar bowl that still sits in the living room of her house. “I realized then that I could trust my eyes. I knew what I liked, and why I liked it.”  

This awareness of the power of art to elevate human experience, combined with her love of people and stories, guided much of Lois’s career, and underpins many of her contributions to our community. 

Lois was the arts editor at Eugene Weekly from 1991 until 2006, when she retired. During this time, she was a prolific and trenchant writer, penning close to a thousand movie reviews and interviewing hundreds of local artists, as well as organizing film festivals and summer reading issues.

For Eugene film buffs, her articulate, unapologetic and insightful perceptions provided years of consistent, thoughtful analysis to draw upon when perusing the marquees or arguing over movies at the coffee shop. I once told her my favorite reviews were the ones she panned. She laughed. “I sat through a lot of bad movies, yes, but I also acquired an education in film because I saw great movies that changed my life, changed the way I feel and think and look at the world.” 

Lois once described her time as arts editor as the pinnacle of her working career. “I got 15 years of just enjoying what I was doing to the hilt. I loved writing movie reviews. And I got to meet so many wonderful artists. I went to their studios, they showed me their work and talked about what it is to be an artist. That was so enriching for me. I also got to know people in the literary arts, writers and poets. Listening to poets changed my life, because they had this way of writing about their lives in a shorthand that I’ve never acquired.”

Lois gave back by bringing local artists to life on the pages of EW and communicating her experiences in reviews that made the reader want to go see their work with a little bit of her eyes. This intense appreciation was reciprocated, as artists often wrote notes to her, thanking her for seeing their work and understanding it and writing about it in a meaningful way.

For Lois, though, art appreciation was not just a matter of words on the page. She adorned the walls of her home with works of many local artists, and enhanced her library with books by local authors and poets. She bought art cards in lieu of stationery, and when traveling, frequently took entire rolls of film just photographing the art she encountered.

She played classical radio while I did my homework in high school and took me to countless poetry readings, art galleries and dance performances over the years — not because she thought it would be “good for me,” but because she found art so moving, she simply had to share it with everyone she knew. 

Lois had strong convictions, a powerful inner compass and a fearlessness in blazing the trails of her life. She brought boundless love to her relationships, and a generosity of spirit that seemed to say, “I believe in you, you can do anything!” She lived her life in many ways like a force of nature, and she challenged me, by the ways she lived, to look inside, to be curious about what I found there, and to define myself on my own terms. That, in the end, is a gift beyond measure. 

I loved her deeply, and I will miss her intelligence, her humor and her humanity.

Lark Wadsworth is a writer and a mother who lives and works in Eugene. For one and half years starting in 1996 she wrote the “NetWit” column for EW. Some quotations for this piece come from Lois and Lark’s 2013 participation in the Story Catchers program as Eugene was celebrating its 150th birthday by interviewing 150 members of the community who had had an impact. A celebration of life is 1 to 5 pm, Sunday Nov. 17 at the Valley River Inn. A eulogy by Lark is 3 pm.