How to feed your art fix in Track Town during the US Olympic Trials.

One week from now the greatest runners and athletes from across the United States will take their penultimate step towards making their Olympic dreams come true as the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials commence in Eugene, Oregon.  Historic Hayward Field will be the backdrop for the trials once again and once again as is usual in “Track Town U.S.A.” enormous crowds are expected.

To me there is no better venue in the states to host the trials.  Having attended graduate school at the University of Oregon I had a chance to experience Hayward Field and the fervor with which the local fan base cheers on their Duck track teams.  The sport was made popular by legendary Duck coach and Nike co-founder, Bill Bowerman.  Bowerman literally wrote the book on running.

The effects are still seen in Eugene.  (and for those of you from out of town it is pronounced “eu-GENE”)  After all, this is where the Nike Corporation got its start.  Track is so big in town it is not uncommon to see the local watering holes showing track events on their television screens with plenty of customers glued to the screens.  Local fans love the 1500M and the 800M and expect some former Ducks to be on those collective podiums when it is all said and done.  Trust me you will know when a former or current Duck is competing.  Be mindful of Decathlete, and former Duck, Ashton Eaton if you are headed to the trials, he’s poised to be a household name in a few months in London.

If you are similar to me and like to take in some art while in town for a sporting event might I suggest two local art venues: The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and M.E.C.C.A.  

The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, or the JSMA as it is commonly referred to is literally steps away directly west of Hayward Field and boasts the art collection of the university.  It is open 8:30 – 4:00 M-F, 8:30 – 7:00 W, 11:00 – 4:00 Sat-Sun.  Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, and free to all students (with ID).  Aside from the permanent collection, the JSMA has two exhibits up this summer with the athletic fan in mind.

Currently on view is “Art of the Athlete” which features original works by current University of Oregon varsity athletes.  Student athletes took part in studio sessions at the Jaqua Academic Learning Center creating works from across artistic disciplines.  In addition to this exhibition, there is also an exhibition showcasing American success in the Decathlon.  The show was put up by my former professor John Fenn from the Arts Administration Department.  (Go AAD!)  So, if in town for the trials, go check out the JSMA to catch up with your favorite decathletes and see some athlete art.  Oh yeah, the collection is more than worth the trip!

If you are looking to get a little bit more hands-on with your art while in Eugene I have to suggest that you go check out M.E.C.C.A., the Materials Exchange Center for Community Arts. M.E.C.C.A. takes in donated materials of all sorts from the local area to be repurposed into artworks.  This place was a favorite of mine and my classmates in my program to get lost in a project and just have a creative outlet.  M.E.C.C.A. is located north of downtown on Willamette Street just next to the Amtrak Train Station.  If you are staying at the Eugene Hilton then you are a VERY short walk away.  Open Studio times are 10:00 – 3:00 on Tue-Thur, Thur evenings 6:00-9:00, and Sat 11:00 – 3:00.  Cost: $2-$5/hour.  

I cannot recommend M.E.C.C.A. enough.  Why not take a piece of Eugene home with you?  The staff there is always warm and friendly and more than happy to help.  Maybe you will see something that will inspire you?  It never hurts to get creative and have some fun.  

I wish I still lived a few blocks away and could walk to the trials and these two great venues, but I will have to settle for the t.v.  Enjoy your stay in “Track Town” and I hope you see more of Eugene than you had planned.  It’s a great town that will cheer loudly for the U.S. and maybe even louder for their Ducks.

Posted on June 14, 2012, in Art, Sport, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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