(Above: Longtime Eugene artist Bets Cole’s show, “Line, Value and Color,” ends July 29 at the Karin Clarke Gallery in downtown Eugene. A new show opens Aug. 2 and features work by the nine winners of last year’s first juried biennial art show at the gallery.)
By Randi Bjornstad
It came as a shock to the arts community-at-large in November 2015 when the city of Eugene abruptly announced the impending closure of the popular nonprofit Jacobs Gallery, which had been supported by the city for 18 years on the lower level of the Hult Center for Performing Arts, in the form of free rent, utilities and security.
The space, which had staged nearly 150 exhibits and shown the work of about 350 area artists — most notably the annual midsummer Mayor’s Art Show — was considered by many in the arts arena to be one of the premier gallery spots in Lane County, and many feared the dampening effect its loss could have on local support for the arts.
Karin Clarke, owner of the downtown Eugene gallery that bears her name, shared that concern, and she decided to do something about it, quickly putting out the call for submissions to a new exhibit, the Eugene Biennial 2016 Juried Art Show, which she hosted last August.
“I thought about making in an annual show, but it takes so much time and effort that I thought it might interfere with my ability to do my regular shows throughout the year,” Clarke said. “And I honestly didn’t know how it would work and if I would want to do it again, so I decided to tentatively make it a biennial project.”
Last year’s call drew 241 entries from 140 artists in Lane, Benton, Linn, Douglas, Coos and Lincoln counties. Clarke enlisted the help of two fellow art aficionados — curator and collector Roger Saydack and artist Jon Jay Cruson — and the three chose 33 pieces by 31 artists to make up the biennial show.
Nine of the artists took home prizes. Two were $500 awards — a “best in show” prize in the name of Clarke’s well-known artist father, Mark Clarke, who had died recently, and a Mayor’s Choice award chosen by then-Eugene mayor Kitty Piercy — as well as three $250 juror’s choice awards sponsored by Whiteaker Printmakers, Oregon Art Supply and UO Duck Store. The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon named three honorable mentions to receive memberships to the art museum.
The biennial was a great success, but given the intensity of its planning and execution, Clarke has concluded the every-other-year decision was a good one.
She now has the Eugene 2018 Biennial Show in the works, with the submission call to artists open from January through April 2018 and the exhibit scheduled for Aug. 1-25, 2018.
In the meantime, Clarke decided she didn’t want to lose the momentum created by the good response to last summer’s show, so she came up with the idea of asking last year’s winners each to submit between three and eight pieces of their recent work for a group show this year. It opens Aug. 2, with a public reception during downtown Eugene’s First Friday ArtWalk on Aug. 4.
Clarke paid visits to each artist’s studio or workspace during June and has put together a show she calls “Eugene Biennial Award Winners: One Year Later.”
“I was surprised at what a treat it was to visit them all, to get a sense of their lives and how they work and what they have done since the last show,” she said. “It’s a lot to do, but I feel like this is going to be a great new tradition.”
The August show will include between 40 and 50 pieces — “Whatever will fit,” Clarke quipped — by the following winning artists from last year’s biennial show:
- Edward Teague (Mayor’s Choice) — from Eugene; abstract expressionist painting
- Sarah Peterman (Mark Clarke Award) — from Fern Ridge; functional sculpture
- Ivan Leontyuk (Juror’s Choice) — from Eugene; paintings in acrylic
- Mavelle Featherstone (Juror’s choice) — from Eugene; paintings in oil
- Suma Elan (Juror’s Choice) — from Eugene; abstract landscapes in oil and encaustic
- Judith Sander (Honorable Mention) — from Philomath; mixed-media collage
- Rebecca Mannheimer (Honorable Mention) — from Eugene; acrylic abstractions
- Susan Applegate (Honorable Mention) — from Yoncalla; interpretive oils from plein air sketches
- Janine Etherington (special Jerry Freeman Award) — from Eugene; abstracts in acrylic and mixed-media on canvas and panel
Eugene Biennial Award Winners: One Year Later
When: Aug. 2-26, with opening reception 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 4
Where: Karin Clarke Gallery, 760 Willamette St. in downtown Eugene
Gallery Hours: Noon to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday
Information: 541-684-7963 or karinclarkegallery.com