Scenes from Eugene: Murals of the 20x21EUG Festival in Oregon

The city of Eugene in Oregon is preparing for the 2021 IAAF World Athletics Championships and like many cities these days it is transforming itself with murals.

With a goal of 20 new murals by ’21 (20x21EUG), the city began in 2016 to invite a slew of international Street Artists, some locally known ones, and a famous graffiti/Street Art photographer to participate in their ongoing visual festival.

WK Interact. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2018 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

A lively city that is bustling with the newly blooming marijuana industry and finding an endless array of ways to celebrate it, Eugene has been so welcoming that many artists will report that feeling quite at home painting in this permissively bohemian and chill atmosphere.

With a goal of global diversity a selection artists have included a variety of Street Art names from around the world including Blek le Rat, AIKO, Dan Witz, HUSH, Martha Cooper, WK Interact, Hyuro, Jaz, Alexis Diaz, Telmo Miel, Hua Tunan, Beau Stanton, Matt Small and local talents like Bayne Gardner and Ila Rose. With some luck organizers say they hope this year to also include artists H11235 from Nepal and Shamsia Hassani from Afghanistan.

Today you can see a lot of the painting action thanks to 2018 “20x21EUG” participant and famed photographer Martha Cooper, who had an opportunity to meet the artists this year and catch up on some of the work from previous years. We’re proud to be able to show these new images with BSA readers and we thank Ms. Cooper for sharing them.

WK Interact. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2018 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)


We spoke with two important pillars of 20x21EUG, Debbie Williamson-Smith, Director of Communications and Paul Godin, Director of Artist Relations, to get a little background on the festival and to see what makes it unique.

BSA: Can you speak about the genesis of 20x21EUG? Why did you decide to start an Urban Art Festival?
Debbie Williamson-Smith: The concept of a large-scale public art project such came from Isaac Marquez, Cultural Services Director for the City of Eugene, and is rooted in Eugene’s rich history of public art, dating back to the Oregon International Sculpture Symposium in 1974.  Mr. Marquez gathered a committee of arts organizations and community members passionate about the project and street art to bring the concept to fruition.

WK Interact. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2018 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Paul Godin: We wanted to invite the very best street artists from around the country and around the globe, to create a living outdoor art gallery in Eugene for the world to see when they came. We have curated a mix of street art legends, rising stars and local heroes, all with very different artistic styles and strong voices. Street art is a global movement, of increasingly high profile, and it was a shared passion that united our committee members.

If you want to take it way back, the origin may well have been a trip to the east end of London ten years ago, on a failed quest in search of a Banksy that led instead to the discovery of the wonders of Brick Lane.

WK Interact. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2018 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

BSA: How is a project of such quality as this funded?
Debbie Williamson-Smith: Funding for the project comes from the City of Eugene Cultural Services transient room tax revenue, sponsorship with City of Eugene Parking Services and contributions from wall owners and local businesses through donations of goods and services. We have had over 50 businesses support this project since it started and volunteers have donated hundreds of hours of time. It takes a village to make a mural and a full list of partners can be found on our website.

WK Interact. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2018 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

BSA: Is it difficult to get landlords’ permission to paint on their properties in Eugene?
Paul Godin: Heck no. We have found many landlords very open to the idea of putting street art murals on their walls. Civic pride in our project, and the high quality of the work here has made it very easy to sell more wall owners on involvement.  Now they are coming to us. Our biggest problem in Eugene with walls is that we do not have as many big blank walls as larger cities do. Our kingdom for a blank 12 story wall!

Eugenians are generally thrilled by the transformation that 20x21EUG has wrought. Just last week, a city police officer brought a woman to her favorite piece, a group of elderly women were seen admiring Matt Small’s piece and chatting.

WK Interact. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2018 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Debbie Williamson-Smith: It is so electric that we have coined the phrase “mural magic”. This project has ignited the civic pride in our community and has already inspired another mural project, Urban Canvas. This initiative of the City of Eugene’s Cultural Services department matches local walls with local artists and three murals have been added to the cultural landscape since it launched in 2018. People are making mural watching a regular activity, taking children to watch artists in action and bringing visitors to see the murals.

WK Interact. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2018 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

BSA: What are you personal observations regarding the experience as a whole? What would you do different for next year?
Paul Godin: One thing that became clear about our festival this year is that we have created a family, uniting our committee, our volunteers, our artists in a unique and inspiring way. We have bonded through our shared experience, the long nights, the controlled chaos days, the communal dinners, and the stains of primer on all of our clothes.

AIKO. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2018 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Debbie Williamson-Smith: This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. As an arts advocate, I am so inspired by the changes art is making in my community and this is one of the reasons why public art and street art are so important. It gives immediate access to art for the public. We are also in a time of political upheaval and for some people, including myself, this has been a difficult time for our country. To welcome people to my part of the world is my form of resistance. We can unite each other through art and as anyone who has studied art history knows, the arts have gotten us through some dark times.

AIKO. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2018 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

If I could do anything differently, it would be to make certain all the artists travel here at the same time. When we had Dan Witz here last summer, he talked about what he called artist equity, meaning that festivals for him provide an opportunity to work with artists that he has not worked together before and that always influences his decision to attend. One of my highlights from last summer was watching him and Blek le Rat work on separate installations on the same building.

I was almost as giddy as Dan was. Almost.

Martha Cooper standing with windows full of her images at the Rising Moon makers store. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2018 Edition. Eugene, Oregon.

Bayne Gardner. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2018 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Bayne Gardner. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2018 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Bayne Gardner. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2018 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Matt Small. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2018 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Alexis Diaz. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2018 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Alexis Diaz. WIP. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2018 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Blek Le Rat. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2017 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Blek Le Rat. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2017 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Blek Le Rat. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2017 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Dan Witz. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2017 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Dan Witz. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2017 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Hyuro. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2017 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Ila Rose. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2017 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Telmo & Miel. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2017 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Telmo & Miel. 20x21EUG Mural Project / 2017 Edition. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Stefan Ways was in Eugene assisting Aiko with her mural this year. He wasn’t in the official line-up of artists but didn’t stop him from getting up. (photo © Martha Cooper)

And of course there are tracks and trains in Eugene, Oregon ready to painted…(photo © Martha Cooper)

There are bargains everywhere in Eugene, Oregon… (photo © Martha Cooper)

As well as consciously aware and decent residents. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)


For more information about 20x21EUG in Eugene, Oregon, please CLICK HERE.


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