The City of Eugene is commissioning 20 murals to be painted throughout the city by 2021 in time for the IAAF World Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field. Next week, they’ll host 8 artists from around the world to paint 7 murals in 7 days.
KLCC’s Rachael McDonald joined the Debbie Williamson-Smith of the Jordan Shnitzer Museum of Art for a look at some of the murals already completed downtown.
Williamson-Smith: “We’re standing in downtown Eugene at 62 West Broadway in the alley beside Cowfish. And this is our very first mural called “Sidewalk Games and Kindness” by the Brazilian duo Acidum Project. Originally, it was just called “Sidewalk Games” but after their experience in Eugene, they added “And Kindness” to the title because they enjoyed their Eugene experience so much and it’s a wonderful kind of fantasy world of street games with their fancy characters done with stencils and bright colors and really bringing characters from their dreams to life.”
Williamson-Smith says the murals are covered with a special coating that makes it easy to wash off any dirt or graffiti. One of the mural has already been tagged but she said it was easily removed. We next visit the mural that’s high on the west wall of the McDonald Theater by the downtown bus station. It’s by U.S. artist Beau Stanton.
Williamson:Smith: “This is the one, I think, that really put this project on the map because it impacted our landscape so much. You can see it from the Eugene Public Library. You can see it from downtown LCC and you can see it from the LTD main station where we’re standing right now.”
When you commission these, do you say, okay here’s a wall, do what you want or do you have any themes that you ask people to explore?
Williamson-Smith: “We have a list of walls and we have a list of artists and so once we are able to commit an artist we try to find a wall that matches them. Beau Stanton’s asthetic really worked well with the McDonald Theater and the Kesey family who were great partners in this project. We don’t try to control their creativity. We want to see what they come up with. We’re really bringing the best in the world to Eugene. This was a design that Beau came up with. It’s similar to his aesthetic in his artwork so it’s definitely a Beau Stanton piece.”
Williamson-Smith says this weekend’s Eugene Sunday Streets will kick off the weeklong Eugene Walls project.
The Shawmed building on West Broadway and Charnelton is getting power washed as we walk by. Williamson-Smith says it will be the canvas for one of 7 new murals to be painted next week.
Williamson-Smith: “We are bringing in a duo from the Netherlands. Telmo Miel, to create one of their works on this building. So as we can hear, before we paint the building we wash the building.”
So, with the artists that are coming, there’s a lot of international artists. Are there local artists as well?
Williamson-Smith: “There are. We have Ila Rose, who is a Eugene artist, creating a mural in the Whiteaker for us at 348 Lincoln Street. Ila is new to the street-art world, mural world. She had her first mural at 5th and Blair last year. She reached out to us to really talk about incorporating local artists into the project and we recruited her to create her own mural for the project.
Was there a reason that you wanted an international group of artists in terms of what the project is about?
Williamson-Smith: “Initially, we started with recruiting the best street artists in the world because in 2021, Eugene is hosting the world, the IAAF Championships will be the world’s largest sporting event taking place that year. Athletes from over 200 countries will be here and wee started thinking this was a great way to welcome the world to Eugene. But from that we always had in mind that by exposing our local artists to these international artists, we’re elevating them. We’re giving them the opportunity to put on the world stage.”
Eugene Sunday streets this weekend kicks off the 7 day Eugene Wall mural event. There’s a meet greet with artists at JSMA which next Wednesday. And the First Friday art walk next week is all about the murals. Funds for the project come from City of Eugene Cultural Services, Epark Eugene, and a variety of local business partners.