The now-removed Hult Center’s Blackberry Curtain depicts a cloudy Oregon sky over blackberry bushes (photo source: the Hult Center for the Performing Arts website).
Eugene’s favorite curmudgeon, Otto Poticha, FAIA, emailed me last week regarding a topic of continuing concern for him, which is our community’s seeming indifference to its artistic and architectural heritage. In this instance, Otto cited the City of Eugene’s decision to retire the Hult Center for the Performing Arts’ iconic Blackberry Curtain in the Silva Concert Hall in favor of a nondescript replacement.
New at the time of the Hult Center’s completion in 1982, the massive, hand-printed house curtain was the work of artists Margaret Matson and Mollie Favour. It was one of the original works of art funded in part by the City’s then-new ordinance specifying that a small percentage of the project’s construction budget be reserved for place-specific art pieces. After thirty-five years of wear and tear, the curtain was admittedly threadbare.
Otto laments how Eugeneans so willingly and repeatedly accept the loss of invaluable cultural assets. He wrote the following letter for submission to The Register-Guard and The Eugene Weekly, but neither paper bit, so it went unpublished—until now that is. Otto also hoped AIA-SWO’s Committee on Local Affairs (CoLA) might take up the cause. The subject is certainly one that warrants our discussion.
In Otto’s mind (and mine as well) the Blackberry Curtain is an irreplaceable work of art, one that deserves to be restored, cared for, and protected in the same way treasured works of art around the world typically are. It should be refurbished and reinstalled in the exact setting artists Matson and Favour intended it for.
Here’s Otto’s letter:
Letter to the Editor:
Another mistake: Replacing the main curtain at the Hult Center
This is not a curtain; this is a piece of art. It was selected in a national, juried art competition and funded with 1% for art funds.
This work, like the other destroyed or misplaced forms of art, is a community resource. It is community property and must be maintained and cared for. Art all over the world is restored, not destroyed.
Our current short list of not caring: The (shuttered) Jacobs Gallery, the “Flying People” at the airport, the Sandgren murals abused by the new glaring airport terminal lighting, the Hadzi sculpture from the County Public Services building, the destroyed art and murals from the past City Hall, soon the (underfunded) Eugene Opera, the reduced Oregon Bach Festival, the (demolished) former national-design-awarded City Hall, soon the (to-be-replaced) Lane County Courthouse, the (threatened) Eugene Main Post Office, the pedestrian bridges abused by signs, and more to come.
Doesn’t anyone care?
We have become “the just get by city,” not the city of the arts, imagination, and culture. We apparently only embrace an “off the rack” mentality.
Eugene is famous within the valley as the city that destroys its history as documented by its art and architecture. Unsurprisingly, we are still one of the largest cities in the USA without a public museum of art.
This piece of art—the curtain—represents the unique and special nature of this community and needs to be restored, preserved, and maintained—not made into pillows or wall hangings.
(City) Manager, STOP this nonsense.
Otto Poticha, FAIA