DIVA, the Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts, is a multi-use visual arts facility at 110 W. Broadway, next to parking facilities, the bus station and the library. The public is invited to the formal opening of DIVA from 5 to 8 pm Friday, Nov. 7. Expect several exhibitions and a reception.
DIVA is part of a history of arts-related venues and activities in downtown Eugene that has resulted, according to a recent City Club survey, in about 200 sites connected to the arts located within the eight-square-block area between 3rd and 11th avenues and Lincoln and High streets.
An informal arts and culture district has emerged in downtown Eugene, with the word "art" conceived broadly enough to include venues and ventures from fine arts to tattoo art, from the Hult Center to the Saturday Market, OFAM's Shedd to WOW Hall, the library, theaters (Lord Leebrick, Actors Cabaret, McDonald), art galleries, cafés with rotating art exhibits, Brush-Fire ceramics, outdoor art, frame shops, bookshops and art supplies.
The development is good economic news, because the arts are considered a leading factor in stimulating economic prosperity.
DIVA is "an effort to bring the visual arts into 'parity' with the performing arts," said Carolyn Kranzler, the driving force behind the facility. DIVA implements the stated goals for the visual arts of the ArtsPlan proposal, which a citizen task force produced in 1994-95 and the City Council endorsed in January 1996.
One of DIVA's primary goals is to unify the local visual arts. "We want to be the hub of activity in terms of the visual arts in town, the way the Hult Center is the hub for performing arts," Randall Stender, chair of DIVA's steering committee, said. "We hope to be a catalyst for a downtown revival." The DIVA team wants downtown to become a "nexus for visual arts activities," he says.
The ultimate goal is for DIVA to grow into a full-blown visual arts center with a permanent building of its own downtown. The team would like to build the center across from the Court House on Lane County property known as the Butterfly parking lot. If large enough, the facility might include artist studios for rent.
"A bigger location would have the ability to accommodate a permanent collection together with temporary exhibits, storage, events, teaching, space for people to meet," Maude Kerns Art Center's Karen Pavelec pointed out. "Right now we're losing a lot of artwork created in Eugene, because artists move away, and art done here is donated or bought outside of Lane County."
Kranzler hopes that Lane County Historic Museum could share the center's building. "They're both public buildings with similar functions," she explained. "We need the same kind of climate control in terms of exhibitions, preservation and storage. We could have a building with two entrances, but share a gift-shop where we'd offer local arts for sale. We both attract students, give slide and power-point presentations. The city badly needs a public meeting-room, a place for fund-raising events — a function that museums always have. We could organize joint art and history walking tours."
Financially, "our long-term goal is to work toward getting three endowments funded by bequest of people with a vested interest in the visual arts," Stender said. It would include: 1) an operational endowment such as the Silva Endowment for the Performing Arts to pay bills and fund the new building; 2) a special projects endowment similar to the Hult endowment to provide for traveling exhibits, purchase awards, commissions and competitions such as public sculpture; and 3) a collection fund to build and sustain a permanent regional art collection. These endowments would apply strictly for a future visual arts center.
DIVA has not yet started fund-raising, according to Kranzler, and about $60,000 is needed to cover the coming year's expenses. "We'd like to make DIVA self-sufficient through commissions generated through sales, memberships, tuition," Stender said.
MKAC and Gallery at the Airport will coordinate their exhibits with DIVA and will organize the first few shows. MKAC became DIVA's fiscal agent in March 2003 while DIVA applies for its own nonprofit status. MKAC will not give up its historic church site on W. 15th Avenue, but the center has long felt the need for a downtown presence. DIVA will provide an exhibit space and host some youth classes for the center. DIVA welcomes volunteers and is looking for students to fill intern positions.
DIVA plans accessible exhibits, curated as well as juried, including youth exhibits that will involve children from elementary to high school. The new facility hopes youth with young urban tastes for fashion design, experimental film and video, animation, computer art and printmaking will use the center. "I envisage people coming at all times of day and being involved, not just coming to look," said committee member Carole Patterson.
DIVA contacted a group of artists, who expressed the need for a digital camera, scanner and computer to help artists put together portfolios. Four artists serve on DIVA's steering committee: Jerry Ross, Tenold Peterson, Patterson and Hallis. Patterson said they want DIVA to be "a place for networking, with a café atmosphere."
Kranzler would like DIVA to be a place where artists and the public gather for social evenings, where artists would bring their art and set up on the sidewalk, and where an annual art ball would draw people in costume. Ross has suggested creating a Mayor's Art Show purchase award that would go toward DIVA housing a permanent regional art collection.
Crack open the champagne, drum rolls, please: This is the Eugene Ballet Company's 25th anniversary, and they are celebrating with some terrific new dancers and a season of classics, starting with The Sleeping Beauty, which opens in the Silva Concert Hall at the Hult Center for two performances, at 8 pm Nov. 1, and at 2:30 pm Nov. 2.
Pimble's 1993 staging of the 1890 Marius Petipa ballet based on Perrault's fairy tale of the sleeping princess awakened by a kiss, like the original, is all about dancing. Eloquent pas de deux, bravura solos, ensemble social dances and glorious third act fairy tale divertissements are all performed to what Tchaikowsky viewed as his finest ballet score.
Performing it would have been impossible 25 years ago, when Managing Director Riley Grannan and Artistic Director Toni Pimble sewed the costumes, painted the scenery and performed with six other dancers. Today, the company's roster of 19 performers and five apprentices adds up to "by far the finest group of dancers we have ever had," according to Pimble.
Pimble and Grannan are particularly excited about Hyuk-Ku Kwon, a gold medalist in the first Kirov-Universal Ballet Competition in the early 1990s and most recently a principal with Ballet Arizona. "He has beautiful technique and style," Pimble said, "and an abandoned quality when he gets going." He'll bring those attributes to the role of Prince Desiree, which he will dance with Jennifer Martin as Aurora on Saturday night.
Also new to the company this season are Gilmar Duran and her husband, Dubraskha Arrivillaga, from Venezuela, both of them experienced in the classical repertoire as well as more contemporary choreography.
It took enormous effort on Grannan's part with the INS, but Peter Orlov, whose training is Russian and English, is now a full-fledged member of the company. And Diego Fernando Castro, who studied in Havana and has a grand jump, is also an addition to the male complement. Suzanne Haag appeared in Kirk Peterson's Sleeping Beauty with Hartford Ballet; Carlos Miller is a graduate of the Joffrey New School BFA program, and Phyllis Rothwell has joined the company from Charleston.
Returning dancers include Frank Affrunti, Daniel Alsedek, Juan Carlos Amy-Cordero, Neysa Fulsome, John Funk in character roles, Jonathan Guise, Melissa Nolen and Stephanie Parker. New apprentices include Mary Jane Ward and Kaitlin van Rossman, both students of Susan Zadoff and Sara Lombardi at the Eugene Ballet School.
With these new and returning dancers, EBC is obviously poised to deliver a new season with plenty of high points.
Asked about the high points of the past 25 years, Pimble pointed to Don Quixote in 2001, staged by the highly distinguished Anna-Marie Holmes and her respect for the company. Curiously Pimble, this innovative contemporary choreographer whose Silk and Steel is arguably a masterpiece, also mentioned the first Giselle the company did in collaboration with Ballet Oregon in 1988, with live orchestra and guest artists Fernando Bujones and Kimberly Glassco. The much earlier Les Noces, performed with the Eugene Concert Choir, was also a high point for Pimble.
Grannan's choices are different. "The dramatic power of Toni's Still Falls the Rain was his first thought, a defining moment for this writer as well. The 1997 work, based on a horrific incident with the Taliban, made a strong statement about the horrors committed in the name of fundamentalist religion.
"Being in Syria, in Aleppo, on tour was another high point," Grannan said. "To share our work with another culture, to get through to people who have lived in one place for so long, to hear their applause, was really memorable. And the collaborations with Lloyd Sobel, especially Silk and Steel, are also high points."
Both founders were non-commital about the company's low points, preferring to forget them. Grannan mentioned the loss of the young, such as Nian Mei Geng, a beautiful classical dancer who fell to her death some years ago, and choreographer Dennis Spaight's death from AIDS in 1993. The company's revival of his Scheherazade, with Jennifer Martin dancing the title role, paid homage to Spaight's memory and brought that eloquent, splendidly designed work before audiences who would not otherwise have seen it.
That, really, is the defining quality of this company, whether at home in Eugene or on tour: For a quarter of a century, it has brought fine ballet, increasingly well-performed, to many for whom this form of dance was new.
Growing up, you know how food should taste. The problems arise when you move away and then try to replicate your favorite flavors in your own kitchen.
As a newlywed and transplant to Eugene, I'm a little daunted at the idea of cooking Pakistani — what if it doesn't taste like back home? I've also discovered a whole new world of Western herbs: basil, a name always associated with British comedy and Austin Powers, turns out to be an herb, as are rosemary and thyme. Initially, my Western cooking vocabulary lessons seemed complex enough without my worrying about how to recreate my old world with turmeric, coriander and cardamom.
However, I'm starting to feel it's time. Screwing up my courage the other day, I cooked up a favorite dessert with some input from a visiting aunt and a couple of substitutions in honor of good ol' American convenience. It's called gajar ka halwa, with "gajar" meaning carrot in both Urdu and Hindi.
Halwa, explains Madhur Jaffrey, the goddess of Indian cookbooks, is a sweet dish of grated vegetables or whole wheat cooked in milk, which originated in the Middle East and gained popularity in Asia.
Carrot halwa makes a grand appearance at big banquets and weddings in Pakistan, often slathered with ghee and nuts. Home-made versions tend to go lighter on the grease and keep flavors more fresh. A favorite in the Punjab for centuries, it can be found on Indian and Pakistani tables alike.
This convenient recipe is fairly quick, taking no more than 30 minutes. What you will have in the end is an extremely fragrant dessert, with wafting cardamom and rose perfume. It's a pleasure just to sniff the pan after you're done. Serve it hot or cold.
You will need: 2 pounds of the juiciest carrots you can find, peeled and grated (My aunt scoffs at American carrots, recommending you take out their tough core before grating; I used organic and left the core in)
1 c. powdered milk, full or nonfat
Split the cardamom pods open, discarding the peel and keeping the dark seeds. Put the oil, cardamom and grated carrots in a non-stick pot over medium-high heat. Let the carrots steam in their own water for about 10 minutes, stirring every minute or so. You should be able to smell their mingled perfume after a while.
Using 1/4 cup at a time, scatter the powdered milk over the carrots, stirring continually until you have gradually stirred it all in. The milk should form tiny granules among the softened carrots. You'll notice droplets of moisture on the pot sides at first, but keep stirring for about 20 minutes or so until those dry up. You want the mixture to be almost crumbly.
When no droplets of moisture can be seen on the pan, crack one egg at a time over the carrots, stirring quickly so that it forms granules of its own in the mixture. Stir for another 5 minutes.
Now put in the slivered almonds, pistachios and raisins. Stir for 5 minutes.
The sugar doesn't go in until almost the end, otherwise it would change the dessert's texture. If you prefer semi-sweet desserts, start with 1/2 cup of sugar. My family, who like their desserts very sweet, would normally put in 3/4 cup. Stir continuously for a few more minutes. Pound the saffron strands in a saucer, and scatter them over the mixture.
Take the pot off the heat. Sprinkle the rosewater over the carrots, stir once quickly, and cover the pan immediately. Keep it covered for 5 minutes for the halwa to better absorb the rosewater scent. This recipe serves 10.
Serve the gajar ka halwa garnished with more slivered almonds or pistachios. In Pakistan, sometimes we garnish it with bits of edible silver foil.
If you like what you taste, consider substituting cardamom and pistachios for cinnamon and walnuts next time you make carrot cake. You can find a great carrot cake recipe with Asian spices in Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking. As I'm starting to learn, sometimes combining two worlds yields the best cooking of all.