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Artists & Authors

December 5th, 2008 by dk

In case you haven’t noticed, you live in a great place. Congratulations. What makes it so great? Mary and Eugene Skinner must have had a realtor tell them the three factors for picking a home: “location, location, location.” The hills and trails tease us to visit the mountains nearby. The rivers flowing through connect those mountains to the ocean.

Proximity is matched by scenery — beauty in every direction. Unlike a base station, the southern Willamette Valley rewards us when we sit still.

But location and beauty don’t begin to cover what makes this place so great. The culture that has spread across the land below the Skinners’ cabin has made it a truly special place. A major university goes a long way toward fostering that culture, but look more closely.

Once you count the number of artists who call this valley home, you can argue only whether their abundance is a cause or an effect of the magic we call home. Any English major will tell you the answer is (always) both. Artists gather here because it’s inspiring. Artists gathered here make it inspiring.

First Friday Gallery Walks do a fine job of showcasing the work of painters, photographers and sculptors. (If you’ve been meaning to get to one, let this serve as a reminder that tonight is the night.) Saturday Market features a wider array of artistry than you imagined. Its indoor cousin, Holiday Market, inhabits the fairgrounds every weekend until Christmas.

Music, dance and theater can be enjoyed every weekend of the year, from full-scale Hult productions to impromptu microphones in the corners of restaurants. The Jaqua Concert Hall at The Shedd and the MacDonald Theatre and The Wildish Theatre have added significantly to performance options.

What’s missing from this cornucopia of creativity? Writers. We know their names. We read their tomes. But the experience of appreciating them arranges itself sequentially. Not even the most avid reader could exhaust the entire local corpus in a year.

Author and library activist Bill Sullivan estimates the number of working authors in Lane County in the hundreds. He may be the valley’s most successful author and publisher. Odds are you have at least one of his hiking guides in the trunk of your car. (“Location, location, location.”) Nine years ago, Sullivan recruited scores of authors to assemble together and set out their wares.

It started in the old downtown library, and may have helped rally opinion leaders and civic activists to the need for a new library. The event then moved to the new library, giving those supporters their first good reason to wander the stacks and marvel at the staircase and meet author after author, embedded in the building. Last year, the event moved to the fairgrounds, where it fits beside Holiday Market and lands the “buy local” movement somewhere between simple and irresistible.

This year’s Artists & Authors Fair takes place tomorrow, Saturday, Dec. 6 at the Lane County fairgrounds from 10 until 6. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted to fund the Lane Library League’s summer reading program for thousands of Lane County youth. You can discover local authors, pick up autographed copies, or just stand amazed at the embarrassment of riches we enjoy in little ways all year round.

Artists and authors are a lot like manure. They are most useful to us when they are spread out, making everything we do more fertile. But once a year, it’s good to see so many of them in one place.


Don Kahle ( writes each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs. Details about this year’s event, including a list of participants, can be found at

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