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Eugene Weekly : Eugene Celebration : 9.3.2009

Eugene Celebration 2009

The Process and the Product

Mayor’s Art Show, 2009 edition

Who Gets to Choose?

Cats Down Under The Stars

Melvin Seals and JGB close Saturday night’s Eugene Celebration

Blues to POP

Plenty of shows worth the price of admission

 

The Process and the Product

Mayor’s Art Show, 2009 edition

By Sheena Lahren

Lane County artists formed a long line outside the Jacobs Gallery the morning of Aug. 22, some nervously clutching their artwork, some beaming with confidence, some waving at familiar faces and a few sneering at the other artists. All were waiting to submit their artwork, in a variety of media, into the Jacobs Gallery Mayor’s Art Show, an annual juried art show that showcases some of Lane County’s most gifted artists. None knew which of the hundreds of artworks the jurors would select to display in the Jacobs Gallery during the Eugene Celebration or which pieces would receive one of the few awards given out by the show’s jurors and Mayor Kitty Piercy.

Rocking Speedway by Kerry G. Wade
Polished by Tana Hagen

“It’s always a crapshoot. You never know. It may depend on what the jurors ate for breakfast this morning,” Kathleen Caprario, a former award winner and former juror, said.

Each year, the process is the same: Artists enter their work, three jurors choose the 40 or more pieces for the show while the remaining are displayed at the Salon des Refusés during the Eugene Celebration, a few awards are given by the jurors and the mayor gives an award. A Viewer’s Choice Award winner is also selected by the viewers during the Eugene Celebration, and Jacobs Gallery Director Beverly Soasey gives an award.

However, while it may be difficult to predict which pieces the jurors will choose for the show, this year’s jurors had a method. The jurors are Andreas Salzman, a mixed media sculpture artist who also teaches ceramics and sculpture at Lane Community College; David Turner, the director of the Lane County Farmers Market, who spent more than 30 years working in art museums; and Rachel Witt, a intaglio and silkscreen artist and art supply buyer for the UO bookstore.

“I rely on my own experiences as a professor and an artist and as someone who really enjoys to look at art. Craftsmanship is big for me, but there also needs to be content and something exciting about the piece,” Salzman said, adding that many of the submissions this year were “extraordinarily high quality and beautiful.” 

Unlike many juried art shows, which are “blind,” the Mayor’s Art Show allows the jurors to discuss the pieces openly with each other. The jurors separately walk through the artworks and then share their perspectives with each other, expressing what excited them about a certain artwork.

“The main thing for me is how a piece is a little different than from what I would generally see in that kind of work,” Salzman said. “There were a couple of pieces that I generally wouldn’t be very excited about, but there was something about them that went that extra mile that really made them sing.”

In the end, while the jurors use their art experiences as an objective basis, subjectivity always comes in when selecting the work for the show. “The wonderful thing about art is that subjective connection along with an intellectual judgment,” Caprario said. “Unlike plumbing or heart surgery, we have latitude as artists and as consumers of art.”

Piercy, whose selections for the Mayor’s Choice Award over the years range from sculptures to artwork on cardboard, said she’s subjective when making her selection for the Mayor’s Choice Award.

“I am no expert. I am a fan. I do appreciate and like to live with art in my life,” Piercy said. “I have always done a bit of drawing myself, and I know how important these kinds of expressions are to the artists and to those who share in what is created.” 

Despite the excitement of being chosen for the show and receiving an award, the Mayor’s Art Show is not just about competition. Piercy believes that the show is a celebration of art, “part of the character of the Eugene community, part of the job of living here and an important piece of our local economy,” and a way to bring awareness to the various artists in the community. 

Originally an invitational exhibition from its beginnings in 1983, the Mayor’s Art Show has evolved into a “Call to Artists” show, accepting entries completed in the past year from any Lane County artist 18 years or older. The ability for professional and amateur artists to participate is a valuable aspect of the show for many artists. “I’m entering the show partially for fun and partially to see how much progress I have made as an amateur to what a juror likes,” first time entrant Alice Kaseberg said on drop-off day.

Well-known professionals such as Caprario also find value in the show beyond the external competition. “I feel it’s time to share my work with the community, and it is a community activity that I support,” Caprario said.

In the end, the Mayor’s Art Show is not the type of art competition that has artist prima donnas, large cash prizes (in fact, there are no cash prizes) and unforgiving jurors. It is a non-exclusive, open-minded community event designed to coincide with the Eugene Celebration, a celebration of the unique aspects of the city. 

“The City Council and I see art as a key part of our community and are working on strengthening our support of this valuable asset through engaging the business community and through making the public ever more aware of all that is available in our city,” Piercy said.

Selections for the Mayor’s Art Show were announced Aug. 28. The opening ceremony and awards for the Mayor’s Art Show is 5:30 pm Thursday, Sept. 3, in the Hult Lobby, followed by the official opening of the 2009 Mayor’s Art Show. The show, which is open during the First Friday Artwalk and most of the Eugene Celebration, stays up through mid-October.