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Best of Eugene Readers Poll 2017-2018 - Boom! Performers

 

Best Photographer

1. Athena Delene athenadelene.com.

2. (Tie) Josh Latham  sandratphotography.com

2. (Tie) Wind Home Photography windhomephotography.com.

3. Tracy Sydor digitallatte.com.

Athena Delene has been surrounded by photography her whole life. Growing up with a photographer for a mother, Delene’s career started earlier than most. “My mom would always enter the Lane County Fair photo exhibit,” Delene says. “When I was 13, she let me enter for the first year. I ended up winning the people’s choice award for the whole exhibit — after that I was ready to go photo crazy.”

She says her mom helped her develop her style and skills, but Delene has undoubtedly created a photographic style entirely her own. You’ve most likely seen her photos of local musicians, artists and business owners within the Weekly’s pages, as she’s been freelancing for EW off-and-on for almost five years now.

“I’ve always really loved the thought of being able to take a photo of someone that they love so much it’s the one they show their kids down the road,” Delene says. “And then their kids keep it because it’s their favorite photo of their grandparents they show off.”

As far as the kind of subject matter she likes to photograph, Delene says it varies. “I love old men with mustaches, anyone who says ‘I hate getting my photo taken,’ aspiring middle-school musicians,” Delene says. “But, really, any kind of artist in action or business owner. I just like working with people who like to work; doing photos of someone doing what they love is always my goal.” — Meerah Powell

Photo: Todd Cooper

 

Best Artist

1. Ila Rose facebook.com/ilaroseart

2. Shanna Trumbly trumblydesigns.com.

3. Max Von Kaspar

 

Best Mural 

1. Woman with Snakes, Ila Rose Elevation Builder Gym at 348 W. 3rd Ave.

2. Tiger and Dragon, Hua Tunan Vistra Framing and Gallery, 411 W. 4th St.

3. Bee of Wildcraft, Steven Lopez WildCraft Cider Works, 254 Lincoln St.

Her newest creation of art, a show-stopping piece covering the walls of another building in Eugene, has clearly captured the attention of many, as Ila Rose — a Eugene native and lifelong painter — is not only the winner of this year’s Best Mural, but is crowned Best Artist as well. 

“There was never a starting point for art for me, it’s just always been what I do,” Rose says. 

The winning mural dignifies the north and east walls of the Elevation Builder Gym at 348 W. 3rd Avenue and features a two-faced head of a woman with snakes in her hair. The mural is centered on the corner connecting both walls, and the geometric patterns in the green and yellow backdrop create a perfect contrast to focus in on the detail of the woman looking out onto the two. At the second glance, you see a young girl reaching out to greet the woman.

“Essentially, it’s about how children face obstacles with more of an openness and curiosity than adults,” Rose says. “This child is facing what an adult might see as a beast, but the child is looking and examining differently, pondering what lessons can be learned rather than seeing it as something scary to avoid.”

Rose’s mural is part of the 20x21Eug Mural Project, a city initiative to create 20 or more world-class outdoor murals in Eugene between now and the 2021 IAAF World Championships. She reached out to the project committee about their inclusion of local artists in the project; they gave her a wall and she came up with the design in only a week.

“Murals are an awesome way to make a public statement and engage with the world around us,” Rose says. “I wanted to paint one as a way to engage with my local community and just connect with the people in Eugene.”

Rose says this mural was in part a response to her first public mural that paints another wall in Eugene, at 5th Alley and Blair Boulevard, that she did as a commission for the Whiteaker Community Art Team a few years back. “Imagery in this mural was born from shifting around images and thoughts from my other mural,” she says.

The project brought in artists from around the world, and Rose says at times she felt she had less technical skill than some. But, she says, the support she received as a member of the community kept her going. “There is so much support for local artists in Eugene, and that really helped me feel like I could be successful,” Rose explains. “I’ve always had my whole town behind me, and that is really cool.” 

What’s in Rose’s future? “Finding something with a salary,” she laughs. She is considering going to graduate school and getting a degree to teach art in an educational setting. “Whatever I do, I’ll always be creating art.”

The remarkable second-place mural — an intricate, deep-red wall featuring a battle between tigers and a black dragon — was created by Chinese artist Hua Tunan. The mural is powerful, displaying the result of a focused combination of traditional Chinese art and the act of graffiti. The action-filled, detailed creation can be found on the west wall of Vistra Framing and Gallery, at 411 W. 4th Street. 

Steven Lopez, the artist behind the third-place mural, works and lives in Los Angeles but graduated with a degree in fine arts from the University of Oregon. His mural is vibrant in color and grand in character — a dynamic bee stands out among a geometric honeycomb, creating an extravagant scene with a subtle environmental message about the importance of wildlife in our world. The bright, elaborate mural can be seen on west side of WildCraft Cider Works’ warehouse at 254 Lincoln Street. — Morgan Theophil

Photo: Athena Delene

 

Best Local Theater Company

1. Oregon Contemporary Theatre 194 W. Broadway. 541-465-1506. Octheatre.org.

2. Actors Cabaret of Eugene 996 Willamette St. 541-683-4368. Actorscabaret.org

3. Very Little Theater 2350 Hilyard St. 541-344-7751. Thevlt.com.

Led by artistic director Craig Willis, Oregon Contemporary Theatre has distinguished itself as Eugene’s foremost purveyor of new and challenging theatrical works —  plays that often exhibit a kind of urbane, postmodern sensibility with a slightly dark or absurdist edge. And the productions, regularly directed by Willis himself or OCT associate producer Tara Wibrew, are always top notch — well designed, superbly acted — and they reveal an implicit trust in the intelligence and sophistication of the audience (rather than continually dusting off safe old standards everyone’s seen a zillion times). Of course, OCT isn’t above celebrating the classics of theater, as when a few seasons back they mounted a stunning rendition of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The company continually raises the bar for theater in Eugene, which keeps everyone on their toes and makes the community of the stage that much stronger all around. — Rick Levin 

 

Best Actor/Actress 

1. Rebecca Nachison

2. (Tie) Inga Wilson 

2. (Tie) Storm Kennedy

3. (Tie) Dan Pagoda

3. (Tie) Sam Elliott

“I am one of those actors that really disappears in the characters,” says Rebecca Nachison, voted this year’s Best Actor by Eugene theatergoers. “Seeing me walking down the street, you may not know that I was the hard, fierce nun in Doubt, or the German grandma in Lost in Yonkers. Nachison, who plays Molly in Radio Redux’s live production of Fibber McGee and Molly this weekend (Nov. 3-5 at the Hult), says she’s been drawn to the theater since childhood, noting that she loves digging into a good role — and the messier and darker the character, the better, such as her turn as the drug-addicted Violet in Oregon Contemporary Theatre’s 2013 production of Tracy Lett’s August: Osage County. EW critic William Kennedy noted Nachison’s fierceness as an actor in his 2015 review of Lost in Yonkers at Very Little Theatre. “As the fearsome matriarch Grandma,” Kennedy writes, “Rebecca Nachison steals every scene with quiet menace, the tap-tap-tap of her cane signaling dread.” Bravo, we say! — Rick Levin

 

Best Drag Queen 

1. Facisha Farce

2. Monique La Faye

3. Karess Ann Slaughter

Photo: Todd Cooper

 

 

Best Live Music Venue

1. Hi-Fi Lounge/Music Hall 44 E. 7th Ave. 541-636-3292. Hifimusichall.com.

2. Cuthbert Amphitheater 2300 Leo Harris Pkwy. 541-762-8099. Thecuthbert.com.

3. WOW Hall 291 W. 8th Ave. 541-687-2746. Wowhall.org

 

Best Band

1. Fortune’s Folly fortunesfollyband.com.

2. High Step Society highstepsociety.com.

3. Sol Seed solseedmusic.com.

Popular Eugene guitar-pop band Fortune’s Folly is building a reputation around the region for high-energy performances, sparked by charismatic front-person Calysta Cheyenne, who’s a little bit Gwen Stefani with some grunge-rock attitude. 

Listening to Fortune’s Folly, it’s hard not to crack a grin, so when Cheyenne heard the news her band won EW’s Best of Eugene Best Band category, she said just what you might expect: “Yay! We owe it to our amazing fans.” And when it recently came time to make a music video, Cheyenne says, Fortune’s Folly wanted to get those fans involved. 

“It’s for a song off our Red EP called ‘Wouldn’t Make You Mine,’” she explains. “Our film crew got a bunch of people together, fans and community members. They all got dressed up like Pacific Northwest animals: crows and stags and rabbits, mice and all kinds of stuff. That’s going to come out before the end of the year.” 

And in 2018, Fortune’s Folly hopes to build on their local success up in Portland and beyond. But Cheyenne says Fortune’s Folly owes it to Eugene audiences most of all. “We’re really happy with how well we’re being received,” she says, “and how much the fanbase is growing.” — Will Kennedy

 

Best Singer-Songwriter

1. (Tie) Endr Won endrwon.bandcamp.com.

1. (Tie) Halie Loren halieloren.com.

2. Calysta Cheyenne of Fortune’s Folly fortunesfollyband.com.

3. Bettreena Jaeger bettyandtheboy.com.

The Singer

Halie Loren might be Eugene’s hardest working person in show business. She spends long stretches of time on the road, touring the world with her pop-jazz combo, so news of tying for first in EW’s Best of Eugene Best Singer-Songwriter category came as somewhat of a surprise. “I’m really honored,” she tells me over the phone. “I’ve been gone since late August — touring, and out of the country most of the time.”  

But whether it’s playing jazz in Japan or performing around town with folk-pop outfit Halie and The Moon or popular acoustic-dance mainstays The Sugar Beets, Loren never forgets Eugene is her home. “I’m thrilled to still be here, to still be local, to be able to live in this community and be able to share my music with the very people I started my career playing for.” 

Loren says all her projects provide outlets for her voice and style in different ways. And after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Loren is in the studio working on an album of all original material. She calls her new stuff a step in a different direction that reflects the breadth of her musical influences. “Which not only includes jazz,” she explains, “which I’m known for, but also folk and soul and blues. Even a bit of world music.” And she says a lot of her new material is very vocally oriented. “It’s really quite different from anything else I’ve ever done,” Loren adds.

But no matter what project she’s working on, she says her music always starts with a melody. “The words fall into place based on what the melody is speaking to me,” Loren explains. “I have to integrate lyric and melody together.” But nothing makes her heart happier than to have the support of local fans. “I’m just so overwhelmed to have been chosen,” she says. — Will Kennedy

 

The Survivor

Eugene Rapper Endr Won has been through a lot to get where he is today: married, a father and touring the U.S. supporting his latest release, Bigger Than Me. “It’s a blessing,” Won tells me over the phone from Salt Lake City. He calls life on the road a lot of work. “But what’s beautiful,” he adds, “is being able to take the gift that I have and reach other people.” 

Bigger Than Me is available on all digital music and streaming services, and it’s Won’s first new music since struggling with addiction and mental health issues. “I’m a recovering addict and alcoholic,” Won explains. “I used to actually live on the streets of downtown Eugene. I’m diagnosed with anxiety, depression, PTSD. I was going through some things.” 

Won says a friend encouraged him to get back to writing and performing. “He said, ‘I know it’s been a minute since you put pen to paper,” Won recalls, “‘but I know you still got the fire in you and people need to hear your story.’” And getting back in the game rekindled Won’s love for hip hop. “I believe wholeheartedly in the culture of hip hop,” he says. “I believe that hip hop with substance, with a message, is something people yearn for.

Now, Won says, he’s humbled by tying for first place in EW’s Best Singer-Songwriter category. “To say I’m humbled is an understatement,” Won adds. “The life I’ve lived, just to be breathing is a blessing, let alone rap and travel cross-country and have people care to listen.” 

Won calls his fans family. “Anybody that knows me knows I could really care less about being in some kind of competition,” he admits. “My competition is with my man in the mirror. It’s an honor to think people out there listen to my music and love my music enough to vote for me.” ­—Will Kennedy

Photo: Rob Sydor

 

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