In 2009, unhappy in Sarasota and wanting to get outta Dodge, so to speak, Jason Pancoast found himself Googling “What is the opposite of Florida?” Oregon kept popping up in the results. And so it was: Pancoast hopped a plane and settled in Eugene without knowing a soul.
“I immediately fell in love,” Pancoast says of the Pacific Northwest. That love is instantly apparent in his art, which, for a transplant, has a keen Northwestern sensibility. His layered laser-cut shadowboxes favor woodsy scenes like a lone stag in the forest (“Passing Through”) or a portrait of a shrewd owl (“Mr. Owl”).
Those boxes now have a home downtown at 76 W. Broadway in a newly renovated gallery space between Cowfish nightclub and The Davis Restaurant. The gallery, Shadowfox, had its soft opening in August, but Pancoast plans to do a grand opening in early October.
Opening a gallery in a town known for shuttering arts spaces is no easy task, and Pancoast’s path to Broadway has been filled with elbow grease and sleepless nights. Long smitten by architecture — he was a certified draftsman at 17 and at 20 apprenticed with an architect in Florida — Pancoast originally chose Eugene to attend the UO architecture school, but three years in, decided to take a break.
“It was not sustainable,” Pancoast says. “I had three jobs just to get through school.” The artist was bartending at multiple places, working as a personal assistant and even doing a minor acting gig for Grimm, filmed in Portland. It was on his way to the Grimm set that Pancoast had a realization. “If I put this much work into my own business, I’d be a lot more successful.”
While studying architecture, however, Pancoast had had the opportunity to use a laser cutter for the first time.
“To see a machine bring your ideas into three dimensions is pretty amazing,” he says. Through Kickstarter, Pancoast raised the money to buy his laser cutter, allowing him to produce a higher volume of original art at a cheaper price. The majority of the shadowboxes are less than $100, and he makes earrings from up-cycled acrylic that sell for less than 20 bucks a pop (he also makes St. Vincent de Paul’s up-cycled earrings).
“As a poor artist,” Pancoast explains, “I can’t afford art. I think it would be silly if I made stuff above most people’s price range.”
Pancoast started showing his art during local art walks and peddling his work at the Saturday Market and Oregon Country Fair, but it was year-round foot traffic he sought.
“Being downtown and having a space that you can see [the art] in is really important,” Pancoast says, who runs the business with designer Eric Hersey and manager Elizabeth Paul.
Opening the gallery is only phase one. For phase two, he plans to make Shadowfox a collaborative creative workspace, bringing in the laser cutter and a dry-erase wall for drawing out ideas so that customers, or just passersby, can be part of the creative process.
“I think everyone is creative but not everyone has the means,” Pancoast says. “Together, we can be more than we are.”
For more info, visit shadowfoxdesign.com.