Painting It Forward: Eugene Bennett Continues To Support Local Artists
Eugene Bennett is best known for his luminescent paintings, mid-century modern watercolors that build on the legacies of Monet and Seurat. But his legacy also is helping build another generation of southern Oregon artists.
Born in Central Point, Bennett joined the U.S. Navy during the final years of World War II, and brought his watercolors to every base he was posted. After discharge in 1946, he was determined to pursue art as a career and enrolled at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago.
After several years of teaching and traveling, Bennett returned to this area and formed the Rogue Valley Art Association with local artists in 1959 and, in spite of world fame, stayed in his home turf until he died in 2010 in Jacksonville at age 88.
Through a fund managed by the Oregon Community Foundation, Bennet continues to support budding regional artists, like current Bennett scholarship recipient Trevis True, a 2016 Southern Oregon University graduate who, according to the press release sent to the Messenger, is “on a rocket path.”
RVM: I assume you are from the Rogue Valley originally, which town and where did you go to school and what impact did that have on you pursuing art as a career?
TT: I grew up in Ashland and graduated from AHS.
RVM: What did the Eugene Bennett Scholarship do for you?
The Eugene Bennett scholarship was the first external validation of my decision to pursue a career as an artist. It was a major confidence booster. The financial assistance provided by the scholarship has been
essential. I couldn’t have continued my formal art education without it.
RVM: How did your time at Southern Oregon University shape your art?
TT: Southern Oregon University has been good to me. I couldn’t have had a better undergraduate art education. The creative arts faculty at SOU are talented and extremely generous with their students.
RVM: And likewise studying at the Pratt Institute in New York City?
I’ve been studying at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY for the past year. Pratt exposed me to the dynamic art world of NYC and helped my find a footing within it.
RVM: You are in Europe right now, which part and what are you working on?
I spent six weeks studying in Europe this summer. I saw many of the artworks I’ve been learning about for years in addition to exploring Documenta 14, the Venice Biennale, and Munster Sculpture Projects.
RVM: What are your plans after receiving your Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Michigan in 2019?
I’m thrilled to be joining the MFA program at the University of Michigan this fall. I have some ambitious projects planned for the next two years. I’m going to keep building my art practice after I finish the MFA at
Michigan. I’ll be pursuing residencies, grants, and exhibition
RVM: What does your art do for you, and what do you hope it does for others?
TT: Art is the best way I’ve found to make sense of the world. Art works in so many different ways. It’s hard to define successful outcomes. My desire is that viewers find something enriching within the work.