Art and the Vineyard
The world is full of sweet combinations: bacon and eggs, beer and pizza; wine and art, festivals and parks. Every year the Maude Kerns Art Center sponsors such a great combination: Art and the Vineyard, a 3-day Friday-Sunday event that takes place each July in Eugene’s Willamette-riverside Alton Baker Park.
Artists from around Oregon and the nation set up shop, er, tent, alongside over a dozen Oregon wineries. You can buy something neat for the garden, the kitchen or the wall; you can taste the finest and latest vintages from some of the best tipples the Willamette Valley has to offer, and you can stuff yourself silly on food from just about every culture and ethnic cuisine style you can think of. Barring all that, you can do some awesome people-watching from face-painted children running around the grassy park, to people having a little too much wine under the sun, to yuppies and dreadlock sets mingling and enjoying fine summer weather while all few days of it last.
Walking through the gate, the $5 admission fee also gets you a hand stamp, so you can come and go as you wish throughout the day. After getting my hand stamped and walking into the grassy park, I looked to my right â€“ the children’s activity area, full of face-painting, storytelling and costume booths. Nah. I looked to my left, sniffed â€“ food from dozens of booths took over the air. And me. I walked left, got a coffee; sipped past the main stage, where throughout the weekend live musical acts play, to the vino row where 14 Oregon vineyards offered bottles and samples.
Personally, my budget wasn’t in the market for a bottle, but 50 cents will buy you a taste, about a shot, of any wine of your choice. Not bad, really; you can try one sample from each vineyard for $7. Most booths also had a glass special, where paying the $5 or so for a wine glass also included a sample of all of that booth’s wines, usually at least half a dozen.
The bulk of Art and the Vineyard, however, is the art. Over 150 artists â€“ whose wares include pottery, paintings, woodwork, metalwork, jewelry, leather, clothing, housewares, crockery and photography â€“ set up shop here. Many are familiar, long-time faces at this event, but there are plenty of first-timers as well, such as Toni Spencer, a batik artist.
Spencer lives in Idaho, but was drawn to Art and the Vineyard by three friends who have sold here in the past. She thought she’d give it a go herself. "I love it. This is a very nice show, wonderful to work," Spencer said while attaching some of her work to mattings. "I’m really proud to be part of this show, looking around at the other artists. Some people who’ve come in the past were impressed; they said the quality has really improved over the years."
Walking around the park, which is easily larger than a U.S.-style football field, seeing so many artists in one place and examining so much talent and craftsmanship kept drawing my hand towards my credit card. I was getting increasingly more nervous that I left home with my American Express.
Wandering over to painter Paul Sloan’s booth didn’t help. Sloan (www.paulsloan.com) has brought his surrealist, romantic and natural images to shows and art events all over the American West, including Arizona, Idaho, California, Oregon and Washington. He was once a regular at the Eugene and Portland Saturday Markets, as well as Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Now he focuses on traveling around to shows. "I’ve done Art and the Vineyard for 12 years. I’ve seen it evolve," said Sloan. "It’s a good art show, art-focused. It’s a good combination of repeat and new customers."
The day was cloudy, and being so close to the river the air at the park was muggy and sticky, reminding Sloan of his most memorable experience at Art and the Vineyard. "One year was a show we called ‘Art and the Storm’. It was one of the worst rainstorms we’ve ever seen…. I’ve never before seen a rain storm like that. Some of the booths got crushed. Otherwise we’ve been blessed with good weather."
Walking around some more, I looked at the people wandering around â€“ girls in hippie-style patchwork dresses, a man in a blue button-down shirt and Dockers â€“ and agreed with Sloan’s comment that Art and the Vineyard is also a "great people-watching show." Too right. "In Eugene you have one of every sort of person. Some shows are a very mono-demographic," said Sloan. "Eugene has the whole bag."
If only he’d stuck around for the Oregon Country Fair…
Art and the Vineyard takes place every year in early July, in Eugene’s Alton Baker Park. Admission: $5 per day; $8 for all 3 days; kids 12 and under, free. Parking for cars and valet parking for bicycles is provided. For more information, go to artandthevineyard.org.