A vibrant arts scene is a vital piece of any city's downtown. Artists define the character of communities. In Eugene, we have a wealth of places downtown where we can see art, find supplies to make art, and buy pieces from the local artists we love.
Artists Sunday – this year, Nov. 29 – encourages people to shop with artists on the Sunday after Thanksgiving to find gifts “special, unique, and handcrafted this holiday season” (artistssunday.com). This year more than ever, community leaders are encouraging residents and visitors to shop locally so that the artists and businesses that contribute to the city’s eclectic culture and economy can continue beyond the pandemic.
Suppose you are looking to spend time exploring art in downtown – the cultural center of our community. In that case, several traditional spaces, such as galleries, allow you to find and enjoy exceptional local artwork. On one block of Willamette Street, you can easily stop in one of three homegrown galleries: Karin Clarke Gallery, White Lotus Gallery, and New Zone Gallery.
Having arts spaces near one another helps spark creativity. These galleries are pillars of Eugene's downtown cultural footprint and have been in business for decades. Many galleries remain safely open and provide a space where you can have an engaging and inspiring experience.
"Right now, the experiences that we can have are limited,” said gallery owner Karin Clarke. “We can't travel or do a lot of the things we normally enjoy, but the surprise of seeing interesting art allows you to take a journey."
Non-traditional places to see art are available in downtown, too. Eugene's reputation for public art has grown as new murals have popped up in surprising places as part of the 20x21EUG Mural Project, a City of Eugene initiative to create 20 or more world-class outdoor murals.
Also, many local businesses have found ways to highlight local artists, such as Noisette Pastry Kitchen, which consistently displays local artists' work on the walls. Co-owner Tobi Sovak, who has a Master of Fine Arts degree in addition to being a top-notch chef, explains, “Noisette is about making food by hand. Everything we serve is made by hand and with our hearts. Having local art on our walls is an extension of that purpose because artists have done the work with their hands and hearts."
Downtown has a range of options for viewing artwork, but if you are feeling inspired, you can also find the supplies you need to create your own. In business since 1970, Oregon Art Supply was drawn to its current Pearl Street location in 1999. The space, on the first floor of a parking garage, is adorned with one-of-a-kind tiles created by local artist Betsy Wolfston.
Oregon Art Supply co-owner and local artist Rebecca Mannheimer notes that many people, not just professional artists, find comfort in making art during this challenging time.
Options abound if you are looking to buy beautiful artwork for home or office. Galleries, shops or the many vendors at the Holiday Market might have the perfect piece. Karin Clarke reflects on the joy of having art in your spaces, "Art activates the walls around you,” she said. “Your home can be a prism. You can fill it up with beautiful, interesting or challenging art, and it can become a source of inspiration."
The arts and related businesses have uplifted our downtown for decades. Shopping at these family run businesses supports them and the people who make art. While it can occasionally be gray and drizzly in Eugene, art is a bright spot in the downtown landscape.
Enjoy art, make art, and buy art in downtown Eugene.
Published as a Register-Guard guest viewpoint on 11/28/20:
Article by Kelly Johnson, Executive Director, Arts and Business Alliance of Eugene (ABAE)
Photo courtesy of Karin Clarke Gallery
Downtown Eugene Visual Art Galleries
Some locations are open only limited hours; call or visit websites for more information. List provided by ABAE.
245 W. 8th Avenue
The Quackenbush Building, 160 E Broadway
Cappers Frames and Prints
1280 Oak Street
Karin Clark Gallery
760 Willamette Street
New Zone Gallery
22 W 7th Avenue
Oregon Art Supply
1020 Pearl Street
Out of Step Tattoo & Gallery
1022 Willamette Street
The Miner Building, 136 E Broadway
White Lotus Gallery
767 Willamette Street