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Eugene: ArtsTown USA

Kesey Square

The Commons

Every good city needs a strong, vibrant public space, and Kesey Square — located in the heart of downtown Eugene at Broadway and Willamette — is ground zero for the open interaction of a metropolis and its community. On any given day, the red brick plaza of Kesey Square (named for its iconic statue of legendary local author Ken Kesey) is bustling with food carts, street musicians and folks just passing through, from local business people to shoppers to skateboarding youth. From 5:30 to 8 pm Friday, July 1, the city will host live music and dancing with Calango, a Brazilian jazz band, all in celebration of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials as well as the summer games in Brazil. On Saturdays, head north a block to the famous Saturday and Farmers markets.

 

Get Classy

Now in its 47th season, the world-famous Oregon Bach Festival runs June 23-July 10 at Eugene’s Hult Center as well as the beautiful Beall Concert Hall on the University of Oregon campus. This summer, Oregon Bach Festival’s theme could have been “Generations.” The fest features a father-and-son team, Jeffrey and Gabriel Kahane; leaders of two generations of historically informed Baroque violin, Monica Huggett and Rachel Podger; old and new music from Baroque and early Romantic masters to contemporary composers; veteran visitors conductor Anton Armstrong, pianist Robert Levin and organist Paul Jacobs; as well as today’s rising stars, including OBF artistic director Matthew Halls and tomorrow’s musical leaders, with the Youth Choral Academy, Berwick Academy and more. For a schedule of concerts, tickets and further information, visit oregonbachfestival.com.

 

WJ Skatepark + Urban Plaza

Concrete Paradise

Close your eyes and listen: The continuous buzz and grind of trucks biting the paved surface sounds like some glorious machine of perpetual motion. Open your eyes, and you behold a swarm of human activity — zooming bodies crisscrossing in space, as one boarder goes airborne and another perches on the berm, greedy to drop into the bowl. This is Eugene’s new WJ Skatepark + Urban Plaza, located in the Whiteaker neighborhood beneath the I-105 bridge between Jefferson Street and First Avenue. Dreamed up by a group of skaters who petitioned the city for a new park, and a decade in the making, this $2.5-million carnival of concrete is a shredder’s dream, offering features like a drop pool, iconic ribbon and mini snake run, along with oodles of rolling plains and steep terrain that accommodate everyone from beginners to pros. At 23,000 square feet and open to the public from 6 am to 1 am, this is the sort of egalitarian public space that appeals to everyone.

 

Oregon Country Fair

Hippiedom

The more things change, the more they stay the same — especially the Oregon Country Fair, a three-day festival of free-spirited creativity that seems a world unto itself. Started in 1969, the Fair takes place about 15 miles west of Eugene in a huge wooded setting that, for one long weekend, becomes a celebration of arts, crafts, food, fun and self-sustained communal living. Part hippie utopia, part elfin village, the Fair is non-stop movement and performance, from buskers and jugglers to larger acts that include live music, dance and even a circus or two. Taking place this year July 8-10, Oregon Country Fair is the perfect place for visitors to get a glimpse of something unique to Oregon and the Northwest. More info at oregoncountryfair.com.

 

Homegrown Cinemas

Sometimes the crash and bang of a blockbuster in the monster mall Cineplex won’t do; we want something quieter, more artsy and sophisticated, in a quirky movie theater that offers history and local flavor. Eugene is lucky to have not one but two independent cinemas: The newer Broadway Metro downtown (43 W. Broadway) with its elegant marquis, comfortable small theaters and staff of hip film nerds willing to talk everything from Kurosawa and Kubrick to Malick and Jarmusch (on July 2 the Metro will feature a live screening of the Royal Opera performing La Traviata); and the older Bijou Arts Cinema near the University of Oregon (492 E. 13th Ave.), a classic art-house theater that features everything from first run independent films to revivals of retro classics and more, all under the roof of a beautiful, and perhaps haunted, old church.

 

Putting on the Schnitz

Eugene is lucky to have an art museum like the University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, which not infrequently brings blockbuster, world-renowned exhibits to our small city. The Masterworks on Loan program also makes sure the galleries are stocked with work from the likes of Peter Paul Rubens, Joan Miró and Jean-Michel Basquiat on the regular. Escape the heat into the museum's cool halls and check out current exhibits like Aliens, Monsters and Madmen: The Art of EC Comics and Shaping the Collection: 50 Years of Pacific Northwest Sculpture at the JSMA. In celebration of the Olympic trials, the Schnitz is offering free admission July 1-3 and July 6-10. Pro-tip: Check out the museum’s peaceful inner Prince Lucien Campbell Memorial Courtyard, complete with sculpture fountain, reflecting pool, brick colonnades and gilded domes — one of Eugene’s top architectural gems.