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What Belongs Where EWEB Is? Our Passions

February 21st, 2006 by dk

If EWEB decides to move all or part of its operations from Eugene’s downtown riverfront, what do we hope will take its place? As a public agency run by elected commissioners, they do have to consider our opinion, if only to ease their reelections.

Several alternatives have been floated over the past year, since EWEB announced its intent to purchase property northwest of downtown, where its repair trucks and poles can be transported, stored and maneuvered without a perpetual, nightmarish merge near the Ferry Street Bridge.

Triad wanted to put a hospital there. The Arlie Co. proposed a mixed use urban village. Some of us dreamed about the new Mac Court sitting beside the federal courthouse for a unique court-court tandem of gargantuan buildings. Others have suggested the office building, as is, could be the start of a fine, new City Hall.

Maybe none of those ideas ought to be fully discarded just yet. But here’s another to add to the mix. Let’s build a consortium of four museums, with a shared ticket counter, entryway, cafeteria, and lecture hall. Security and maintenance expenses would be pooled and the lecture hall could be used by other organizations during the evening hours.

What would the four museum wings display? That’s the mystery that could drive this dream into reality. There are so many passions in this town and each has its own constituents, its own donor base, its own champions, public and private.

The city claims to be ready to support its own art museum, to match for the visual arts what we’ve offered the performing arts for years. Jacobs Gallery is a noble afterthought to a majestic concert hall. The Schnitzer Art Museum on campus is marvelous, but it’s not the city’s. If the challenge was set to the arts patrons in town, would they give to the cause?

Shouldn’t Eugene be home to the first or best Hippie Museum, recounting for future generations the “other meaning” of Kool-Aid, acid, grass, weed, and other innovations many of us might rather forget? Where better to stash it all than in a museum? If the Oregon Country Fair decided to mobilize around such an endeavor, there’s no telling what might happen.

We already have a Nike Town, but how about an honest retelling of the jogging and track craze that shaped so many of us and a nation that read the books and bought the clothes, but never before felt invited to visit the place where it all began? Could the civic leaders who wooed the Olympic Trials use their skills to build a track museum?

EWEB has stated that wherever they move, they intend to keep a presence downtown. A museum dedicated exclusively to water and conservation and the fragility of this wet blue marble we all call home would fit the space and the utility’s needs quite well. It may help them leave if they know a part of their heritage will be preserved.

There are other passions that could compete well for one of the wings of the museum. Bach, jazz, education, organics, microbusinesses, self-help, feng shui, public radio, the list goes on and on. Each group would be invited to compete for the honor of one wing of the museum for a decade. The four winning groups would have staggered lease options. Every two or three years, a new wing would be up again for bids, tapping its supporters for the most pledge dollars.

Those who love Eugene from all over the world could then vote with their dollars what they love best about this place, whether with endowment pledges or simple ticket purchases. Visitors for one wing of the museum might find themselves surprised and excited by another wing. In this way visitors will be able to experience what life in Eugene really is: a crazy coagulation of competing convictions, all sharing a single concession stand.

We all understand that the EWEB location is special: the connecting point between the river and downtown. Public access is paramount, but not just when they’re sick or they need a permit or they want to shop. This plan would afford future generations the opportunity to visit what might be our ultimate location when they are exploring our ultimate expression: the passions that animate us.

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