City Club of Eugene: Impact of The Visual Arts in Eugene

Feb 10, 2020

Recorded On: February 7, 2020

Air Date: February 10, 2020

From the City Club of Eugene:

Eugene bills itself as a “Great City for Outdoors and the Arts.” For our size, we have an impressive number of high-quality visual arts museums, galleries, art walks, and murals.  These resources impact us not only personally, but also socially and economically. The visual arts clearly are essential, but what does that really mean?  We have thousands of artists living and working here, but they face challenges in building viable arts careers. Leaders of the arts community will describe the successes and challenges of local visual artists and how we can build a robust arts industry, where Eugene is truly known as a creative arts destination.


For 9 years, Liora Sponko has served as the Executive Director of Lane Arts Council, a nonprofit arts organization that supports the arts throughout Lane County. Liora has worked in nonprofit organizations for over 20 years. Locally, Liora worked for the Community Center for the Performing Arts/WOW Hall, Centro Latino Americano, Womenspace, and the University of Oregon. She also lived and worked for community-based organizations in Costa Rica for three years. Liora earned a BA in Sociology and Spanish from the University of California at Santa Barbara and an MA in International Peace and Development Studies while living in Spain. She is passionate about the arts.

Mitra Gruwell is a second-generation crafts person, sewer, and upcycle fashion designer from Eugene, Oregon.  She has been redesigning clothing for 20 years. She is the lead designer and manager of the ENVIA upcycled fashion brand—a project of thrift store non-profit St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County.  Mitra is the founder of several fashion-focused companies in Eugene, including Bricolage LLC and Eugene Fashion Week. She also facilitates art-focused business workshops for The Arts and Business Alliance of Eugene (ABAE) and does mentor-ships and apprenticeships with local youth.

John Weber was born and raised in Corvallis and began his museum and gallery career in Portland. He served as curator of contemporary art at the Portland Art Museum (1987-93) and curated two other non-profit spaces there. Before coming to the University of Oregon in October 2019, John served as the founding director of the Institute of the Arts and Sciences at University of California Santa Cruz, where he worked with internationally renowned artists on site-specific exhibitions and a new artist-in-residence program. Previously Weber was the director of the Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College, and curator of education and public programs at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. His background in fundraising, museum education work, and guiding major curatorial projects are important resources for his direction of the JSMA.

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