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Theater Corridor artist selected

A 142-foot pedestrian walkway connecting Main Street to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival campus and the Hargadine Parking Structure will get an artistic makeover.

The walkway between Starbucks and Early Goods will be re-envisioned by Gordon Huether, an artist named last week by the Ashland Public Art Commission. The goal of the work is to "enhance the barren pedestrian corridor and transform it into a lighted, artful walking experience," according to the city of Ashland website.

Huether specializes in public art and has designed site-specific art installations around the world, the city said in a release. His work has been characterized as “colorful, textural, playful ... and endlessly engaging.”

Much of Huether’s work is fabricated at his studio in Napa, California, by a team of craftsmen.

“A goal of public art is to enhance an individual’s experience of a space and its surrounding environment," said Sandy Friend, chair of the Public Art Commission. "Gordon believes that public art can shape a space in a very positive way, bestowing a new level of engagement to an otherwise everyday experience. ... His references commented that he is good at community engagement, very collaborative, and works well with stakeholders. We are very pleased he has accepted the Theater Corridor commission.”

After the Ashland Downtown Beautification Committee in 2014 identified the walkway as a space that needed improvement, Ashland City Council asked the Public Art Commission to oversee the project.

In June, the commission invited artists throughout the West to submit their qualifications for consideration. It held five public meetings to review the 28 responses received from artists and teams of artists, including local artists. The commission conducted phone interviews with finalists, and Huether was selected.

The concrete walkway between East Main Street and the city parking garage goes past the former home of Adelante! art gallery to the Thomas Theatre. It's about 15 feet wide by 142 feet long (a little more than 2,000 square feet), and has two staircases. The artwork will be solely on the walkway, not affixed to or on the adjacent privately owned building walls, and cannot obstruct access to the walls.

Funds for the project, which is budgeted at $130,000, comes from the city transient occupancy tax, sometimes called a "bed tax." The city charges a 9 percent tax on lodging. The bulk of the money, about 83 percent, goes back to promoting tourism, to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and city economic, cultural and sustainability grants. Three percent of the revenue is set aside to fund public art. Huether will be paid $3,000 to develop two concepts and $110,000 to make and install the selected concept.

Huether will visit Ashland in February to meet with the commission and the community and view the site. Over the next several months he will develop two concepts for the site and present them to the community in September. A selection panel independent from PAC will choose the concept it feels best meets the project objectives and provide a recommendation to PAC and City Council.

To help inform the artist as he works on developing concepts, PAC is inviting the community to answer an online questionnaire asking, "What should the artist know about the Theater Corridor?" It's online at www.ashland.or.us/theatercorridor (click on the "Click here to complete the questionnaire" link).   

Installation is expected in the spring of 2018.