Fields of Color by Colleen Goddwin-Chronister

Springfield’s Award-Winning Art 

Check out the winners of the 30th annual Springfield Mayor’s Art Show at the Emerald Art Center

Encouraging words matter. Just see Tim Gunn tell one of the designers on Project Runway, “I believe in you.” Even watching on a screen, you can feel the relief sweep through the room.   

Al Dobra had only been drawing for one year when he entered the Springfield Mayor’s Art Show at Emerald Art Center. Unlike Project Runway, which is a competition to show in New York’s Fashion Week, everyone gets to show at Emerald Art Center, which is where the Springfield Mayor’s Art Show runs through Oct. 28.

The year before Dobra submitted his work to the community art center, he had been “made redundant” at his job, he says, and found himself with free time. So he did something he’d wanted to do when he was 10 years old — learn to draw birds. After a year of practicing, he entered his charcoal drawing of a white egret in the Mayor’s Show. It was accepted.

Everyone gets their work accepted and shown, he says, as long as they bring $20 for the entrance fee. Both he and his wife, Sharon Dobra, submitted, though he adds she was a lifelong art practitioner.

“We both got awards,” he says, and afterward he became a member of Emerald Art Center. Today he is on the board serving as treasurer, financial report auditor and membership chairman.

He doesn’t have any artwork in this year’s show, but Sharon does. The exhibit is divided into more than 10 categories, according to medium. Her “Oregon Inspired Blue Mountains,” displayed with the watercolors, is flanked on both sides by cash award prize ribbons. 

There are four categories of awards: the Mayor’s Choice Award, awards selected by guest judges, sponsor’s awards and cash awards that can be given by anyone.    

The Mayor’s Choice Award was presented this year by Mayor Sean VanGordon to D. Brent Burkett for a work in the oil category titled “Coryell Pass toward Mt. Pisgah.” First, second, third and honorary mention prizes are selected by guest judges, who this year are painter Analee Fuentes and photographer Rich Bergeman. A work by each of them is included in the exhibit: “Recuerdo de mis Antepasadas” by Fuentes and “Newspaper Wall, Abandoned Cabin, Eastern Oregon” by Bergeman.

All award ribbons are presented near corresponding artworks, though sometimes, as with “Oregon Inspired Blue Mountains,” multiples can occur. No limit exists for how many cash prize ribbons someone can accumulate. The formal awards ceremony has already taken place, but you can still purchase a cash award prize for $5 and have it pinned alongside your favorite artwork. 

In theory, it’s possible that every work of art in the show could be awarded. If Ellen Gabehart had her way, she’d likely make that happen. I meet her looking at the watercolors. When I ask for her favorite, she says it’s hard to say. She thinks they’re all good.

She has just finished a drawing class with children at the Emerald Art Center, which she teaches once a month, and is looking at the art on her way out. She tells me she teaches a course in mixed media at Willamette Adult Center, too, then we walk over to the mixed media division, where her work “Self-Portrait” is displayed. It’s put together as a collage, with figures from prints she’s made, paintings and references to images from the natural world. It received a third place award by the guest judges.

She is most excited about the project she’s finishing now, though, which is a calendar that will be on sale at the art center’s gift shop. The images in the calendar are all going to illustrate the theme that people should be kind to one another.

“Come back next month,” she says, “It’s going to be good.”

Gabehart is turning 89 years old in February. Besides being a member at Emerald Art Center, she belongs to the New Zone Gallery in Eugene. “They’re going to throw me a birthday party,” she says, “when I turn 90.” 

 The Springfield Mayor’s Art Show continues at Emerald Art Center, 500 Main Street, Springfield, through Oct. 28. Hours are 11 am to 4 pm Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free.

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