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Ceramic green statues of frogs from the Hult Center Lobby

40th Anniversary: Visual Arts in the Hult Center of Performing Arts

The following is a digital recreation of the self guided tour booklet Visual Arts in the Eugene Performing Arts Center (1982).

One of the remarkable features of the Eugene Performing Arts Center and its neighboring Conference Center is the scale at which visual arts have been architecturally incorporated, and the variety of these works. Ranging from hand painted tiles in the restrooms to the house curtain in the Silva Concert Hall, a total of fifteen works by about thirty artists and crafts people were planned and executed in concert with the building construction schedule.

The majority of the artists are from Oregon, though they were chosen through national and regional competitions by four panels of jurors. At the time of the competitions, construction of the Centers was barely under way. A leap of the imagination was required for the artists to visualize from the site plans, how their proposed artworks would look  in the finished buildings. Likewise, the jurors had to choose from among the submitted proposals, those that would best enhance structures that did not yet exist. Under these circumstances, the architects’ participation in the process of integrating artwork into the structures was critically important. Fortunately, Hugh Hardy of Hardy, Holzman, Pfeiffer Architects, New York, designers of the Centers, took great interest and where necessary, changing the building to accommodate the artwork. For example, the colors of paint and upholstery in the Silva Concert Hall were lightened in response to the curtain and in the restrooms, shelves were eliminated because they would have interfered with the tiles. As Hugh Hardy wrote, “… the public places of the Eugene Performing Arts Center surpass in size anything (previously) present in the community, and require a sure knowledge of the effects of distance upon color, texture and structure, (but), the building also calls for small and wonderful works in the context of large, abstract spaces.” He also remarked at a public meeting with artists, that he really likes art/craft work which from far away may not look just like a dark line or accent, but, “… when you get up close you see that somebody cared.” The band of tiles which surrounds the Concert Hall is an example of this sort; on the street side they are up high and are perceived only as a dark textured line. However, as one walks up the ramp, the tiles come down to eye level and, finally, to hand level as one enters the lobby. Thus, the detail and variations in the faces can be seen, felt and remembered.

In many cases, the project for the Performing Arts or Conference Center has been the largest in the artist’s career thus far in terms of scale, complexity and time commitment. Approximately three years passed between conception and installation, and many design changes were made in the process. Thus, the tiles mentioned above were originally proposed as a mural and then re-designed as a band. Conversely, the fused glass now surrounding the ticket window was first suggested as forming bands for the glass walls of the Lobby.

A combination of public monies and private donations provided funding for the program of architecturally integrated art and craft, a program about which Hugh Hardy wrote, “Its contribution to the success of a building which celebrates diversity is of far greater value than any of the actual costs indicate.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            – Lotte Streisinger, September, 1982