20x21EUG Mural Project brings international art to Eugene Walls

First Published in the Daily Emerald on July 30th, 2018. In the upcoming week, Eugene will be transformed with a colorful array of new murals, street art installations and gallery walks during 20x21EUG Mural Project’s Eugene Walls, which is part of the Downtown Visual Arts Festival.

From July 27 to Aug. 3, artists from around the world will be creating murals and street art as part of 20x21EUG’s initiative to add 20 murals by international artists to Eugene by the year 2021. The goal of the 20x21EUG Mural Project is to showcase art from around the world when athletes converge on Eugene for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in 2021.

The project began in 2016 with a goal of 10 murals to showcase international artists, and is well on its way to surpassing its new goal of 20 murals this year.

“Eugene has always been on the map for track and we’re having this great championship coming in the year 2021,” said Jessica Watson, EUG Mural Project coordinator. “We’ve always tried to be a place for arts and culture, so when the world comes to Eugene in 2021, they’re going to see world class artists.”

The Downtown Visual Arts Festival will be the first of its kind in decades, said Watson. During the week, the City of Eugene will be hosting a plethora of gallery tours, walking public art tours and artist meet-and-greets.

Muralists this week include Alexis Diaz from Puerto Rico, AIKO from Japan, WK Interact who is based in New York but originally from France and Bayne Gardner from Eugene. Artists Kiran Maharjan “H11235” from Nepal and Shamisa Hassani from Afghanistan will be painting murals later this summer. 

Local artists Bayne Gardner and Justin Bauer began their day of painting at 5 a.m. Artists have begun painting new murals for this year’s festival and will continue until Aug. 3, 2018. (Henry Ward/Emerald)

In addition, artist Matt Small from the UK has already created a mosaic-style street art portrait of Jesse Owens, the American Olympic track and field gold medalist, using recycled material found around Eugene, including pieces from the Hayward Field stadium.

Martha Cooper, a world-famous street art photographer from New York, will have a storefront street art photography exhibit and will be documenting the mural-making process.

Debbie Williamson Smith, director of communications for 20x21EUG, encourages people to watch the mural making process throughout the week. The 20x21EUG website has a map of each new and existing mural location. There will be refreshments and guides at new locations.

In addition, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is hosting an artist reception on Aug. 1 from 6-8:30 p.m. It will be an opportunity to meet the muralists and will offer a beer and wine garden in front of the museum. The event is free and open to the public.

“That will be your chance to see them one-on-one as opposed to you on the ground and them on a scissor lift way up tall,” said Williamson Smith. “We want the whole community to come out.”

Among other events, PeaceHealth is offering bike tours on Aug. 1 and 2. On Aug. 3, Lane Arts Council will host a First Friday Art Walk tour of several murals and art installations.

By the end of summer, 20x21EUG will have 18 out of 20 murals by both local and international artists completed to reach their goal. Local artist Bayne Gardner said it’s like a dream to be painting murals in a large-scale festival in his hometown. He’s keeping his project largely underwraps for now.

“Let’s just say it might get a little weird,” he said, “but not too weird.” He plans to incorporate “local imagery,” nature and a few messages into his mural.

Gardner is “a huge fan of public art,” he said. “It changes the landscape, hopefully brightens someone’s day or makes them smile and makes them feel good […] It turns the city into a gallery.”