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An illustration from page 6, “The Eugene Food Scene”

Emily Hope Dobkin came to Eugene, Oregon by plane in 2010. Dobkin was born in Simsbury, Connecticut, got her bachelor’s degree in creative writing at Maryland’s Goucher College, and had just spent a year working in Baltimore. She wanted a change for graduate school, and decided to attend the University of Oregon.

“I came here and I had a month before I started school,” said Dobkin. “The first weekend was Eugene Celebration, and I was like, ‘This place is awesome!’”

A year later, Dobkin was trying to figure out a thesis project to complete her master’s degree in arts administration. She’d just summered in San Francisco and interned for the 1,000 Journals Project, which sends blank notebooks around the world and exhibits the results. It’s an experiment in analog mass communication that connects artists and writers everywhere.

Dobkin wanted to do something similar, but on a local level. She was browsing Smith Family Bookstore for inspiration when she found “The First Eugene, Oregon Coloring Book” created and published by Mike Helm of the Rainy Day Press in 1979.

This was no ordinary coloring book. On each page was a tender line drawing of a scene from the Emerald City, populated by characters that would still fit in on Eugene’s streets today.

“When I show people pictures of the coloring book, I get the same reaction of this slow smile creeping up on their faces,” said Dobkin. “Clearly things have changed in Eugene, but everything that’s in that coloring book is still here.”

The second she saw the coloring book, Dobkin knew it would be her project. She just had to figure out how to enlist Eugeneans to color it in.

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Doug Blandy came to Eugene in a “very small” Ford Escort with his wife, infant daughter and 3-year-old son in 1987. He’d left his teaching job at Northwest Ohio University to be a professor in arts and administration at the University of Oregon.

“I remember coming for my interview and thinking how beautiful it is, and also, coming from the Midwest, how many different shades of green there are that I never even realized,” he said.

The Blandy family’s first place in Eugene was Motel 6, and housing was hard to find around campus because of an enrollment boom. They eventually settled in a home in the south hills. Two years later, Mike Helm published “The First Eugene, Oregon Coloring Book” and 32 years after that Blandy became Dobkin’s research advisor for her thesis project.

Blandy loved the coloring book as much as Dobkin. They started throwing around questions about how our memories might be enhanced or changed when we see our hometown from different perspectives, or with “new colors.”

“Conceptions of Eugene are always changing, which is one thing I like about this town,” said Blandy. “There seems to be always an interest in reimagining what communities are.” How could Dobkin help Eugeneans along in this grand remixing process?

In October 2011, Dobkin registered the domain name eugenecoloringbookblog.com. The following February, the site was open for locals to virtually browse the pages of the book. At the bottom of every page, from one (“Arriving in Eugene”) to 20 (“Parks of Eugene”), site visitors were asked to leave stories about their experiences in the city.

Dobkin also gave local artists paper copies of the coloring book asking for remixes. She planned to exhibit the stories and art at the DIVA’s downtown gallery space in May and June. The Eugene Coloring Book Project had officially begun.

“People communicate about their relationship to place in a variety of ways,” said Blandy. “Emily was able to provide an array of possibilities with which people could communicate.” Now all she needed were some stories.

Mary Morgan drove from her home state of Wyoming to Eugene last fall, with her dog riding shotgun.

“I made jokes all the way here about finding wild berries and getting cholera because I went the route of the Oregon Trail,” Morgan wrote on the Eugene Coloring Book Blog. She’d never been to the city before and was “extremely nervous” about moving here, but she’d decided to get her master’s in art administration at the University of Oregon and wasn’t looking back. She quickly befriended Dobkin, and when the project started she became one of the blog’s most avid writers.

“Since I’m new here, I really feel like I want to be part of a community,” she said. “I don’t want to be a student who just shows up and leaves. Anywhere you live is just as cool as you make it.”

The blog has become something of a virtual diary for Morgan. She’s chronicled her adventures in a new living situation (“We lived like hobos for a long time”), the art scene (“Art walks breathe the life”), the Saturday Market (“Wow, this is what this town is about”) and other places around Eugene.

The tales of Morgan and others were starting to bring the pages of the coloring book to life, but Dobkin knew that in order for the project to reach its full potential, she had to get strangers to submit stories.

“I needed a sign that knowledge of the project had broken into the public consciousness,” said Dobkin. With stories trickling in, she was getting worried about the project.

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SLUG Queen Holly GoSlugly’s diorama

Debbie Williamson Smith arrived in Eugene at Sacred Heart Medical Center on her very first birthday. She grew up going to Eugenean operas, ballets, art museums and, of course, the Eugene Celebration Parade.

That’s where she first saw the SLUG Queen, riding by on a fancy float in her traditional spot at the front of the parade. “I was more about the queen part than the slug part,” she said of her initial fascination with Eugene’s royal representative. “Any time you can incorporate glitter into your wardrobe, it’s a good thing, right?”

Williamson Smith would grow up to become 2011 SLUG Queen Holly GoSlugly, and also the communications manager at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. Dobkin had been working an internship in the museum’s education department, and enlisted Eugene’s unofficial ambassador to her cause.

“I am probably Eugene’s number one fan or pretty close to it,” said Williamson Smith. “Emily wanted to see Eugene from the SLUG Queen’s perspective.”

Williamson Smith took the pages of the coloring book and remixed them into an enormous, very slimy diorama full of photos of Eugene. She also started spreading the word about the project. Dobkin’s network of stories began to expand.

“Most of the people involved in the project are from other places,” said Williamson Smith. “I’ve enjoyed looking at their perspectives. It’s nice seeing people coming from more metropolitan areas and embracing a more casual attitude. ”

A few connections with bloggers and University classes followed, and Dobkin was hearing word from all sorts of folks.

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The “anablog” displays some of the stories that were collected

“Let a five-year-old design a sundae—gummy worms, cake batter ice cream, Oreos, sprinkles and maybe some chips—and it might come close to what the Eugene food scene looks like,” wrote Melissa on page six. “It’s a whimsical world of sometimes local, sometimes Sysco food with a focus on everyone-friendly fare.”

“Far from modest or shy is the ‘LTD Bike Guy,’” wrote Basha Gitnes on page 12, “The Characters of Eugene.” “From his attire, or lack thereof, his profane words and his unwillingness to leave campus, us students will definitely keep memories of this ‘character’ for the rest of our lives.”

“Autzen Stadium is the symbolic Roman Coliseum-like arena that is home to our mighty Ducks,” wrote Cory Kirchner on the page devoted to the Ducks. “From the walk over the river and through the woods to the stadium steps and finally to the final horn, it was at the time the best fan experience of my life.”

Dobkin noticed that those who chose to write tended to have a deep love for and a healthy sense of humor about the town.

“It’s funny, even in the ‘Rainy Days’ section, people… always find something that resonates with them about the rain,” she said. “Because this is a college town, a place where people root themselves from other places, I think it’s really important to take time to appreciate and process where you are.”

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As May approached, Dobkin began collecting the paper versions of remixes from artists. There was a beautiful sketchbook full of tips to living in Eugene, a series of collages, and a book full of photos culled from an adventurous Eugenean’s Instagram. Dobkin had also been working with a Lane Community College design class, which created an analog version of the blog for her.

The art, the stories and the “anablog” all came together at the beginning of May at the DIVA. Dobkin printed out giant vinyl versions of the characters in the coloring book and stuck them around the space. She set up a coloring area with copies of the pages, hundreds of crayons and a corkboard. There were iPads with a coloring app running, and a laptop displaying the blog so that more people could share their stories.

“I started naming all the characters and making the exhibition a compact version of Eugene,” she said. “I even had a dream one night that all the characters that I put up came alive.”

On June 1st, the night of the First Friday Art Walk and the official opening of the exhibition, Dobkin bought a cake, made sure the anablog was working and waited for familiar faces to arrive. In came Blandy, and a very excited Morgan in a flower print dress, and the SLUG Queen in her signature green organza gown.

Also in attendance were countless Eugeneans, some of whom could have been straight from the pages of the coloring book. They browsed the artistic remixes and scribbled on pages and reeled through the anablog. They lined up to write down their own stories of the town.

Dobkin had good news to spread that night. She’d just heard word that the Lane County Historical Museum was interested in remounting her exhibition. It seemed Eugene wasn’t ready to part with this quirky storytelling tool just yet. However, Dobkin will be graduating and moving on.

“It’s going to be really strange when I graduate, and all of a sudden everything I’ve been doing is just over,” she said. “But in a sense it’s not, because this is going to continue. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish while I was out here, which was this idea of preserving culture through art, and I did it in a completely different way than I ever anticipated.”

Marc Shapiro walks into the men’s dressing room at the Very Little Theatre in Eugene, Ore., and turns the lights on to reveal walls covered in pictures, a bat pinned to the wall, and markings to remember many of the performers that had been on stage at the theater.

The Very Little Theatre was founded in 1929 as a community theater and has remained one of the most successful community theaters in the country. In 1950 they moved to the building they are in now at 2350 Hilyard Street.

Shapiro, who is the technical director at the Very Little Theatre, says, “If we were to rebuild this theater, and we’ve often talked about this, there’s a good chance we would take the walls and display them.”

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The graffiti performers leave behind can be quite detailed sometimes and be in different forms, from signatures, to cartoons, props, and posters. There are no rules.

 

When the University of Oregon remodeled their theaters and created the Miller Theatre Complex, which houses both the Robinson and Hope Theatres, they too kept the panels with writing from the actors.

John Schmor, head of the department of theatre arts, says that some of the signatures on the wall go back about thirty-five years. Although the writing at the Robinson only goes back to the 1970s, some of the marks left in Villard Hall go back further than that, but are nearly impossible to trace back to performers.

As a much newer theater in Eugene, Ore., the Lord Leebrick Theatre Company was established in 1992 and occupied their current location at 540 Charnelton Street in 1994. Mary Whetherbee, office manager for the Lord Leebrick Theatre, says, “Very little that has been written on our back wall.” Although in other theaters the graffiti the performers leave behind sometimes spreads throughout the building the Lord Leebrick Theatre only has one or two items that were left in the actor’s bathroom, the rest can be found on stage.

The Very Little Theatre has writing throughout the men’s dressing room. Even the insulation, that was installed about a year ago and covers up old signatures, has been written on. “They’ll write wherever they find space,” Shapiro says. “Sometimes they’ll write in spaces you didn’t think anybody could reach,” he says as he points out a large drawing backstage that is about ten feet up in the air.

Judging from the dates in some of the writing Shapiro thinks that the performers started their graffiti in the men’s dressing room and have moved to the women’s dressing room when the walls in the men’s dressing room became too full. The performers have written their names behind mirrors, costumes, insulation. “Most of the graffiti centers around a specific play,” Shapiro says looking at pictures people have drawn or posters people have stapled to the wall.

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The performers often focus their graffiti around the play they performed, such as this Guys & Dolls performance.

 

The black partitions backstage at the Hult Center, the performing arts center in Eugene, Ore., is full of photographs, posters, drawing and signatures of people who performed on the stage. From performers in international productions like Wicked and Beauty and the Beast to local groups like the Eugene Symphony, everybody has written their name in white on these black walls.

While the graffiti appears in most theaters, there are no rules for it. People aren’t asked to write their name down or draw a picture of the show, but yet somehow all performers know to leave their mark on the buildings they have visited. “They all anticipate to become famous,” Shapiro said. “But not me, I’ve worked in theater for 50 years, and I don’t think I’ll get famous.”

Shapiro’s role as a technical director might keep him from ever coming to the foreground as a celebrity, but this hasn’t stopped the people who work the lights and sounds at the Very Little Theater from carving their names in the wood above their control panels.

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Even the people in the audio booth want to leave their mark on the theater.

 

by Katie Armstrong

Its red eyes are bulging and bloodshot. Its snout is pink and pig-like. Its purple antennae stick straight up in the air. Its teeth are red and thin, pointing in several directions. What is this creature? Is it a ferocious animal? Is it a misunderstood alien? Is it a lemur in a costume doing yoga? Continue Reading »

The Very Little Theatre is a volunteer organization run solely on membership power.

It’s a freezing Thursday night for the opening of “The Madwoman of Chaillot,” and Paula Tendick cannot stop tapping her black stiletto on the carpet of the green room in The Very Little Theatre. Paula Tendick is a hooker – tonight onstage, of course. She feels the ends of her false eyelashes as they graze the top of her eyebrows. She then closes her eyes, trying not to show the pain she is feeling from the massive headache from the tightly knotted bun on her head.

She takes a step but stops. One stage mate laughs as she nearly falls getting ready to walk onto the alley-decorated stage.

“It’s time,” she whispers to herself as she walks to the center of the stage.

Gazing at the gray-haired crowd, as she’s flaunting her short, red mini-skirt and low cut blouse, all of her fear escapes her. She opens her mouth, and the words flow out.

She woos the crowd.

Since 1929, The Very Little Theatre has been the jumpstart for amateur actors like Tendick. It was born during the Great Depression, when eight local theatre enthusiasts put the idea together. While the name of the theater may seem odd and obvious, incoming Publicity Director and former VLT President Scott Barkhurst says that it suits The VLT well.

“When the group of theater enthusiasts got together, one person said to the others, ‘There are hundreds of little theater groups up and down the country, but this is certainly going to be a very little one!’” he says.

Early on, The VLT underwent difficult economic conditions at its beginning including World War II, fluctuating consumer tastes and increased competition to become one of the oldest, continuously-operating community theaters in the United States.

The VLT has grown to be not so little, though. The Board of Directors is able to produce more complicated shows because there is a full-working stage. Full-fledged productions and a space of its own were not always the case for The VLT, however.

Back in the 1930s, The VLT was in the “Pillbox,” which was a drugstore on 13th Street. The residence provided seating for only 95 to 100 patrons on wooden packing cases and folding chairs.

“We are now able to stage fairly professional looking backgrounds here given the space we have now,” Barkhurst says. “And the numbers of guests keep growing.”

President of the Board of Directors for The VLT Rich Scheeland creates his own blueprints for how the stage will look for the next performance.

And that’s just what happened in 1935. People kept coming back for more plays, but rent also grew, unfortunately. The VLT was forced again to move its operation. For only sixty dollars a year, The VLT resided at the Lane County Fairgrounds in a framed exhibition hall known as the “Barn.” With renovations to the new space, a larger stage harbored full-scale productions as opposed to the one-act plays at the “Pillbox.” Not to mention, the space even provided 200 seats for guests.

One hundred extra seats just weren’t enough, though. In the 1947-48 season, long-time VLT supporter Horace Robinson convinced the theatre to sell season tickets. They did a five-play schedule for that season where tickets were five dollars a piece, raising $2,500. The following season was even more successful, selling $4,000 in season tickets.

This meant that it was now time for its own space. The VLT needed something more than the “Pillbox” or the “Barn.” It needed something more comfortable and bigger. So with the $4,000 raised in season tickets, the members of the theater bought the property located on Hilyard Street from the city of Eugene where it remains today. It contains a 220-seat auditorium, a workshop, dressing rooms, a green room and a small service kitchen.

Aside from its lengthy history, what makes The VLT different from other theaters, Barkhurst says, is the fact that it is solely a volunteer-based organization.

“Every person gets a vote, which is very unusual for an organization,” Barkhurst says.

President of the Board of Directors for The VLT Rich Scheeland says that because the theater is a volunteer-based organization, camaraderie is a characteristic amongst its volunteers.

“Being a member of The Very Little Theatre is like a sense of ownership for some people,” he says. “Because no one is paid, everybody’s voice carries equal weight when it comes to making some of the major decisions.”

These members have been active members of The VLT for 20 years or more and have, thus, become life legends of the theater.

Perhaps the most unique part about The Very Little Theatre, though, is the fact that the costumes are real clothes from the older eras. Many times they take dresses or suits and just add to them or rework them to fit the actors.

Paula Tendick, who originally began her membership at The VLT with acting, is also one of the costume designers. She says that the costume designing is her favorite part because it’s vintage but it’s also her own.

***

“This is it!” Tendick exclaims.

As she sits down with Carol Massahos, director of the upcoming play “I Hate Hamlet,” she whips out her pencil drawings of a beautiful Shakespearean dress.

“What is this? I love it!” Massahos exclaims.

As Massahos gazes at the intriguing drawing, she cannot help but wipe away a tear of joy from dripping down her cheek.

She jumps from her chair and runs backstage where the mannequin wearing the 70s’ empire dress is sitting. Tendick calmly walks over and runs her hand down the front showing Massahos where she will add a flowing piece down the front. Tendick then closes her eyes and runs her hands down the upper arms of the mannequin indicating where the sleeves will be added.

“I can definitely work with this,” Tendick says.

***

“It’s all a matter of formulating ideas,” Tendick says. “You see an already existing costume, and wonder what you can add to make it better.”

As a matter of fact, The Very Little Theatre’s costumes are so unique that its directors lend some of the vintage costumes to the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House, the oldest house in Skinner’s Butte, so everything looks real for guests who come to watch the performances.

Just when you think it stops there, The Very Little Theatre pleases its member with yet another appealing factor.

“People constantly tell us how nice, comfortable, inexpensive, convenient and entertaining our location is,” Scheeland says.

Granted the audience at The Very Little Theatre isn’t, well, young. Yet, the theater is just a place where people gravitate once their kids get out of high school and into college.

“I used to sit back and wonder what was with all the gray hair in the audience,” Barkhurst laughs. “When these people die we are in big trouble!”

Scheeland responds as he laughs, “Forty-year-olds become fifty-year-olds become sixty-year-olds. You have a never-ending supply.”

So with better quality of productions, more space, a more convenient location and a plethora of entertaining performances that have been perfected since 1929, it’s no surprise that The Very Little Theatre keeps growing.

Is Electronic Dance Music the New Rock N’ Roll?

As people start to fill the pit of the Gorge Amphitheater, the energy is high with anticipation. One by one, kids and adults alike start to make their way down the enormous hill that makes up the main stage at the Sasquatch music festival. With the Columbia Gorge in the background, and the sun having just set, the atmosphere is ideal.  Everyone is waiting for Derek Vincent Smith of Pretty Lights to take the stage and show off his catchy yet original hip-hop beats. The lights go dark and cheering erupts. The stage is brought to life with every color of strobe lights imaginable and people can’t help but start dancing as the bass drops and thousand of glow sticks fill the air. With a quick glance at the audience one can see the pure exhilaration this electronic vintage funk dance music brings to the thousands of people in attendance for the Pretty Lights concert.

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The overall popularity of electronic dance music has hit an all time high this year in the United States. According to Danielle Adams of the College News Blog, “Electronic Dance Music” was added as a category of nomination for the Grammy Awards for the first time in history, and dub step artist Skrillex won three out of five awards he was nominated for, beating out several other popular electronic dance music artists.

According to an interview in Billboard magazine, the sudden popularity spike of electronic music is a result of a myriad of things says Ray Waddell, the touring editor of billboard magazine.

“The genre provides a means of escape from the poor economic climate for people in their twenties, that rock music cannot give them,” Waddel says. “This is the new rock n’ roll.”

While some may not agree that electric dance music is the new “rock n’ roll”, the genre is certainly growing in popularity at an extremely fast pace. 

Tiara Weiner, a senior in the fashion-merchandising program at Oregon State University, as well as a guitarist and vocalist, says she hates electronic dance music.

“It’s electronic computer generated noises that don’t really call for musical talents,” Weiner says. As a musician, I respect music that takes years to write, perfect, and produce. I’m not saying electronic music doesn’t take talent to produce, I just find other types of music to be more impressive as far as talents and techniques go, as well as more appealing to the ear.”

Unlike rock music events, EDM festivalgoers often purchase tickets without even knowing who the acts are. For this year’s Sasquatch Music Festival, several people decided to purchase tickets because Pretty Lights was one of the headliners. Jacob Reichman, a University of Oregon senior majoring in Biology said that Pretty Lights was one of the main reasons he attended the festival, even having never seen them before.

“I’ve been to a lot of DJ shows, but Pretty Lights was different. Aside from having literally some of the prettiest lights I’ve ever seen, Derek was a lot more in tune with what the crowd needed,” Reichman says. “I’d never really listened to Pretty Lights before, but I left the Sasquatch stage a huge fan – very impressed.”

One of the attractions of electronic music is its accessibility. Artists can create tracks with a budget of less than $1,000 worth of gear. All you really need is a laptop, sampler, sequencer, bass synthesizer or drum machine, as well as the ability to upload your final product.

With the popularity of EDM increasing rapidly, one might wonder what all the fuss is about. Is there a reason that electronic dance music is so popular all of the sudden, and what does the scene have to offer to its audience? Well, the genre is a guaranteed party. Although the bass may be heavy, the energy and spirit of the concert is anything but – reaching an all time high of positivity. Fashion ranges from bikini-clad garments, to furry costumes, to glow in the dark beads covering thousands of forearms– and the glitter is everywhere. No matter who you are, the crowd is a positive and welcoming one. The happy vibes are blatant, but what is the source of this elated attitude?

Drugs always seem to be the lingering inquiry in almost any realm of tunes, and it proves to be a large part of electronic dance music. “Molly,”(the nickname for the purest form of MDMA, or Ecstasy) is a popular drug to take before electronic shows. A common drug in the 1990s rave scene, MDMA, an amphetamine, is reemerging as a frequent party and concert drug. A lot of people also choose to binge drink before shows, in hopes of relaxing enough to dance for several hours.

“Drug and alcohol use at electronic dance shows still tend to be heavier than for pop or rock concerts,” says David Lefkowitz, a Northern California concert promoter for Goldenvoice. “We staff these shows differently (in terms of security) because I don’t think things have changed that much.”

Several of the genre’s top stars — including Bassnectar, Aoki and Deadmau5, among others – have publicly denounced drugs, saying they detract from their music. And, overall, promoters note that drug abuse has not marred the genre’s big festivals in recent years.

“John Smith,” a college student, says that he’s taken molly before at electronic shows, and really enjoys it for the most part.

“I was introduced to Molly my sophomore year in college, and at first was somewhat afraid of it,” Smith says. It doesn’t really do much to me except make me want to dance and enjoy the music.”

“I also like to enjoy electronic shows without the drugs,” Smith says. For a lot of people they don’t like to go to these electronic shows unless they’re really fucked up. That’s not me, but I’ve only had good experiences with molly.”

Regardless of whether people are choosing to consume MDMA or not, the drug has a major presence within the electronic dance music scene, as well as college parties.

Crouse Hospital, less than a mile away from Syracuse University campus in New York, is one of many hospitals near a college campus that has seen a significant increase in the past two to three months of patients in multiple units that use MDMA, with the age range of patients coming in for MDMA treatment or therapy is generally between 18 and 25.

At the WaMu Theater in downtown Seattle Washington, young adults and kids line up down the street and around the corner to get into the Bass Center for the sixth and final Bassnectar show of his spring tour. The lobby is semi-dark with fluorescent blue lights on the vaulted ceilings as people run from the bathroom to the bar in anticipation of the bass drop. The opening show has already finished their set and people look to settle into their prime dancing spots. Most everyone is wearing some version of a crazy outfit, ready for the bright lights and heavy bass. The amount of people waiting for the show is overwhelmingly huge, with over 7,000 people in attendance.

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The rate at which tickets for electric dance music shows sell out is another wild aspect of the genre. This spring, for Bassnectar’s VaVa Voom tour, a show was announced at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO for June 2nd. More than 10,000 tickets were sold within a day, and an extra show at the Red Rocks amphitheater was added to compensate for the number of people who didn’t receive tickets.

While some may not classify electric dance music as rock n’ roll, it certainly has just as many fanatics. The Bassnectar movement has resulted in a community of fans who refer to themselves as “Bass Heads”; consisting of fans that follow Bassnectar around the country to attend his shows. Much like the Deadhead community centered on the Grateful Dead, electronic dance music is surely creating a significant following as well as several other electronic bands.

According to the Billboard Year in Music Review: 2011, “In 2011, three-day festivals Electric Daisy Carnival (June 24-26 in Las Vegas) and Ultra Music Festival (March 25-27 in Miami) drew 230,000 and 150,000 attendees, respectively, besting all prior attendance records. Dance-dedicated label Ultra Records broke the 100 million mark in monthly YouTube views: Its channel now has more than 1.3 billion total views, making it the fifth-most-watched music-focused channel overall.”

The popularity of the genre is growing, not only in large cities but also all over the world and the nation. In Eugene Ore., electric dance music has its own movement forming.

Locally there are several bands attempting immerse themselves within the electronic dance music scene, as popularity of the genre increases. Greg Powell, a music producer based in Eugene Ore., is part of the collaborative music project called Tribal Spectrum. The group has incorporated a variety of sounds and musical influences from all over the world, giving you “a live band experience with a tribal hopping sound.”

According to Powell, the band is hoping to capture a new, larger audience in the Portland area next year while continuing to experiment and create different styles of music.

“We hope to build upon and improve our live show, and to make each show a different experience,” Powell says. “We don’t want to get tied down to one particular genre of music, so we try to switch it up as much as possible.”

With electronic music becoming increasingly popular all over the world, the Pacific Northwest and Eugene in particular have been inundated with synthesized electronic sounds. Mike Hergenreter, the booking agent for the McDonald Theater, says that he’s noticed the mainstream appeal of electronic music creating quite the buzz over the past few years with “dubstep” becoming a version of popular music. 

“I’ve seen a large interest in electronic dance music amongst younger folks in the community with the scene increasing exponentially over the past 12-18 months,”Hergenreter says. Usually, however, when trendy scenes are created, they dissolve just as quickly as they became popular.”

On the other end of the spectrum, electronic dance music seems to only be increasing in popularity. With shows selling out within minutes of tickets being released, and tens of thousand of people attending concerts made entirely from a computer. Many of the people in attendance have never even heard any of the artist’s music before, but are willing to jump into the music scene that is electric dance. The sounds may be completely different to any other form of music in history, but the massive following and fan base of this genre similar to that of rock n’ roll – enormous.

Ultra Music Festival – a world-renowned music festival in Miami Fla., drew 165,000 people from 70 different countries around the world this spring stretching over three days with more than 100 different performances. Winning “Best Music Event” of the year for 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011, UMF is one of the largest and fastest growing music festivals out there.

Phil Taylor, a senior majoring in geography at the UO, attended Ultra Music Festival and said it was one of the best he’s been to.

“I had no idea of who was going to be performing at ultra, but bought my ticket anyways,” Taylor says. Overall, Ultra was one of the best-organized and easiest music festivals I’ve attended – keep in mind I’ve attended 13 music festivals.

According to an article written by Ben Sisario of The New York Times, electric dance music is changing the industry like never before.

“With the boom (of electric dance music) artist fees have exploded,” Sisario says.“Top D.J.’s like Deadmau5, Tiësto and Afrojack can earn well over $1 million for a festival appearance and $10 million for a Las Vegas nightclub residency.”

Producing millions of dollars, and selling out thousands of shows, people flock from all over the world to hear the pulsating base and bright lights that is electric dance music. Some may argue that this is the future of the industry, while others hold tightly to sounds of the past. Whatever the case may be, there is power in numbers.

“If you’re 15 to 25 years old now, this is your rock ‘n’ roll,” says Michael Rapino, the chief executive of Live Nation Entertainment, the world’s largest concert promoter.

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In a small warehouse off of Highway 99, Kris Uhlhorn sits with his newspaper. The old copy of the Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard is thickly folded, charred, and drenched in water. His ungloved hands pick up the ruined periodical and skillfully make their way toward a fiery piece of colored liquid.

Uhlhorn is a glass blower. He uses recycled chards of glass and tiny pellets of color from Germany to create works of art. After twelve years of shaping and molding this unpredictable medium, he knows exactly how to handle the burning piece of glass in front of him. It’s only three in the afternoon and he’s already made hundreds of pieces today.

“I knew I wanted to be involved in the glass blowing process three years out of high school in ’94, when I saw the potential for making money at it, from witnessing the success of my friends with small glass blowing businesses here in Eugene,” Uhlhorn says. He began to hone his craft by watching and working with a group of talented glass artists who trained in the Seattle mold of Chihuley glass blowers.

Now, years later, he is the owner of Eugene Glass Blowing company. The small warehouse on highway 99 is where he spends most of his week, starting at 7 a.m. Along with his two assistants, Tyler and Kyle, Uhlhorn shapes fiery pieces of glass all day, wearing only his regular clothing as protective gear.  The first thing Tyler does is pour an enormous bucket of broken glass, which look more like a sac of icicles, into a small kiln inside the warehouse space. The kiln is set at a cool two thousand degrees. 

Uhlhorn pushes a long rod, called a cane, in and out of the kiln with the precision of a surgeon. A baseball-sized ball of fire is attached to the end of the cane. It looks orange but just a few seconds earlier, Uhlhorn dipped it in a rainbow of colored pellets ranging from sky blue to sea green. Now, he swiftly moves the piece out of the kiln and places it on top of the edge of his workspace a few feet away. He rolls it along a metal edge as it begins to expand into a bigger version of itself.  Kyle blows air into the other end of the cane, forcing the ball of fire to grow even faster.  As the glass begins to shift in shape, the colors become more vibrant and apparent. It changes from a burnt orange to a deep bluish-green. Tyler takes a blowtorch and showers it with a flame. Fire again engulfs it.

Uhlhorn proceeds like a doctor in the operating room, yelling out instructions for Kyle and Tyler every few seconds. “Stop.” “Flatten.” “More air.” He is calm and in the zone. His voice is steady. Each movement is made with precision so the glass remains smooth and unblemished. It’s a team effort, but Uhlhorn is the leader. 

Swiftly, he knocks off the top of the glass with another cane, and it breaks apart like an iceberg. After a quick stop at the kiln, he lifts a metal tong-like tool from the bench next to him and twists the still molten area at the bottom of the piece.  It’s now flat with swirly edges. Tyler is preparing to place a long fiery ribbon of glass to the bottom. Once it’s secure, Uhlhorn pulls the ribbon apart with the tongs, pressing firmly.  This creates the width of the piece. By the time that’s done he’s already switched to a flat tool that resembles a pancake flipper. He rests it against the top and rotates the piece back and forth. The entire piece returns to the kiln. This time it’s four times as big as it was in the beginning, but Uhlhorn’s movements are still just as precise. 

As soon as it comes out and meets its first burst of cooler air, he makes sure to shape the glass. He holds the cane downward, spinning it frantically up and down. Suddenly, the flat ribbon begins to curve, and the entire piece starts to look like the petal of a flower. He sits down with it at his workspace and inspects his latest creation. With an approving nod from Uhlhorn, Tyler secures the top while Uhlhorn knocks the bottom with another metal cane. It breaks free from its bindings and is now a work of art.  It has become a glossy, sleek, multicolored vase. 

Uhlhorn’s years of experience shines in every aspect of his art.  Each sellable piece is perfectly symmetrical and has an attractive combination of color and opacity. Tyler, while making a glass flower on his downtime, says, “I’ve been doing this since I was sixteen. I’ve never seen anyone work with glass the way Kris does.” 

Uhlhorn is also dedicated to making face-to-face deliveries with his customers. “I do 95% of my deliveries in person. I load up my van with my last two weeks of product and hit the road traveling to the stores that I’ve made appointments with. I’m in Portland every two weeks, in Seattle every month, and Montana through tri cities and Spokane every two months. Only rarely do I ship UPS,” Uhlhorn says. 

It’s that kind of commitment that makes Kris Uhlhorn such a pleasure to work with because he cares just as much about his clientele as his work of art. He also feels pride for each of his pieces. He has no interest in changing his technique (drenched newspaper and all) or upgrading to a newer form of technology.  “I get to work with the three elements. Earth, wind, and fire,” Uhlhorn says. “The process of glass blowing hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. I love that about it.”

 

Click-clack, click-clack.

The sound can be heard through the halls at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art with its decorative molding and iron grillwork. It’s the sound 6-year-old Debbie’s shoes make as she walks across the floor.

It makes her feel like a princess walking through a castle.

 

Debbie Williamson-Smith, now 40, works as the communications manager at the Jordan Schnitzer and still loves to hear the sound of her heels against the floor.

Although the art didn’t matter much when she was 6, Williamson-Smith does remember what her art teacher taught her when looking at art. “You have to allow yourself to feel,” she says, adding that when she first looks at art she asks herself “Does it make me feel mad, sad or glad?” To Williamson-Smith the medium doesn’t matter as much as the feeling she gets from looking at art. Responding to art as a child is something that she would challenge anybody to do.

Williamson-Smith hopes to pass her love for art on to her 3-year-old niece. She likes to take her niece to art exhibits and show her the pieces that she is drawn to and hopes to see a reaction from her niece. Although her niece’s attention span doesn’t allow for long days at the museum, it’s those small moments when the art makes her giggle or cringe that Williamson-Smith looks for. “I love experiencing art through her eyes,” she says.

For Williamson-Smith the art also has a therapeutic effect. “I have to be bouncing around almost all of the time,” she says. “When I feel the art, it has a calming effect.”

A Eugene resident from birth, she remembers the field trips to the museums and the way her parents encouraged her to embrace art. “They’re sports people, but I responded to art as a child, and they took me to museums,” she says.

The museum gets school visitors almost daily. September and May, around 5000 children from all over Oregon visit the museum.

Her favorite exhibit was Carl Morris: History of Religion which was on display in 2007. The art debuted at the 1959 Oregon Centennial Exposition and had not been collectively shown since their debut. Morris was asked to create a piece representing religion and he chose to do so through large mural representing things that religions have in common; such as light, struggle, and sacrifice. “The art took up a large part of the museum, but it was just beautiful,” Williamson-Smith says. “It told a story with no religious bias,” she says as goose bumps appear on her arms while talking about the exhibition. She says a tingle went down her spine just thinking about the exhibition. As she begins to talk about the possibility of the exhibition returning a smile appears on her face.

 

As a lifelong Eugenean, Williamson-Smith had always dreamed of becoming the Slug Queen, an unofficial ambassador of the city and the reigning “monarch” of festivities at the Eugene Celebration. In August of 2011, that dream came true when Holly GoSlugly, her alter-ego, became the new queen.

In her sparkly green dress, Queen GoSlugly attends arts shows throughout the city, spreading arts awareness and advocating for arts education. Holly GoSlugly is a character Williamson-Smith based on Audrey Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly from the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Holly GoSlugly is louder and more outspoken than Debbie Williamson-Smith, but their goal is the same: “Trying to raise $10,000 to target arts programs.” The money will go to several different places. The two most important ones are Fill Up The Bus, A stipend the Jordan Schnitzer Museum provides for field trip transportation; and Outreach Kits, suitcases from the Museum filled with arts lessons so that teachers without a background in arts will be able to teach children about the arts.

Although she’s sad that her ‘rain’ –instead of ‘reign’ because of rainy Eugene- as queen is soon coming to an end, she is happy with the changes that Holly GoSlugly brought to her day-to-day personality of Debbie Williamson-Smith. “I’ve become more of the person that I wanted to be.”

 

Even now, 36 years later, the click-clacking sound of heels serve as a reminder of the royal life that the museum has brought Williamson-Smith.