When Eugene received the news that we are going to host the IAAF World Championships (Oregon21) in the summer of 2021 (the world’s largest sporting event of the year), City Manager Jon Ruiz posed the following question to staff:
"But as with the permission slips you give your kids, they may have permission to go to the zoo, but they still need to get on the bus. Set the intention. Follow through. That day, I got on the bus."
The Cultural Services team took this as a challenge. Knowing City leadership wanted to see projects developed from the ground up, they took the opportunity to engage with partners and dive into a project that would ultimately change the paradigm of how the City of Eugene works with the community and uses public art to improve the urban landscape. Writing themselves a permission slip, Cultural Services set out to leverage Oregon21 to improve Eugene and inspire the world. Isaac Marquez, Cultural Services Director, emphasizes, “Oregon21 is not the reason for this project: it is the catalyst.”
The 20x21 EUG Mural Project advances local visual arts by inviting world-renowned, international street artists to create 20 or more world-class outdoor murals by 2021 (18 of the murals are now complete). The project is led by a highly engaged committee made up of public and private partners who bring their professional skills to the table, along with a team of City staff committed to the vision. Isaac explains that the committee and the process are not always ‘tidy,’ but adds that he wouldn’t ask for a cleaner process for such an exceptional level of community engagement and impact.
Taking this risk has also resulted in some incredible relationships. Locally—especially in the business and development community—the project has cultivated broad-based support to help fund and implement public art murals. And for the artists, Isaac notes, “(they) fall in love with who we are and who Eugene is. Eugene is earning a reputation for being a kind and giving community with these artists and as a result, we all get to watch artists come to love our city. Bringing international artists here has been such a powerful mirror for our community: what gets reflected to them is how we interact with each other. A depiction of our true values.”
One artist, AIKO, from Japan sums it up nicely: “And I thought it’s really cool for this world festival in Eugene to introduce my heritage and some happy vibes for everyone, you know?”