PUBLIC PROFILE: Simone Stewart, Medford Arts Commission Chair
Rogue Valley Messenger: What do you do as chair of the arts commission?
Simone Stewart: I am the leader of the commission. I set the agenda for our meetings and conduct our meetings. I am the point of contact between the city of Medford and the Arts Commission. We have nine commissioners, which is a full commission. I am fortunate to have a diverse commission with 3 of our commissioners being under 20 years old, four in mid-career and two in late career. All of the commissioners work day jobs, none of us are retired (yet), we volunteer our time to plan and present cultural events and public art displays as well as offer a few small grants to local art producers and non-profits.
RVM: What are your future commission plans?
SS: The Medford Arts Commission has just selected the bands that will perform during the free and family friendly Summer Concerts in the Park series which will take place Thursday nights in July at Bear Creek Park Amphitheatre and Thursday nights in August at the Pear Blossom Park stage in the Medford Commons downtown. We are also diligently working to bring Buskers (street performers) to downtown Medford for the 3rd Friday Artwalk and for Art in Bloom on Mother’s Day Weekend. We have plans to bring more music, dance, performance art and fine art to the city of Medford in the coming years. We would also like to expand the public art mural that is painted on the pillars near the skate park at Hawthorne Park. …I’d like to add that the Medford Arts Commission released a RFP last year for a public art installation at the Medford Police Station. That art, a mosaic sculpture, was installed in October at the entrance to the station on Ivy Street. I encourage the public to see it, touch it, take photos with it, talk about it, interact with it, connect with it — public art is for the public.
RVM: How long have you been in this line of work, and what else have you done in the art field?
SS: The Arts Commission is volunteer. I have been volunteering in for the arts and in my community since moving here in 1992. I love being able to drive by the public art mural on the Hawthorne park pillars or the sculpture in front of the Police Station and say to my sons ‘I did that, I put that there for you and more generations to enjoy.’ I have been a professional actor for over 30 years. My Bachelor’s Degree is in Art History and Architectural Design from U.C. Berkeley. I work full time for the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University as the Marketing Manager/Box Office Manager. I became an Arts Commissioners for the City of Medford because I wanted to see really good public art in the City of Medford and not just paintings or sculptures. I have served on the board of the Collaborative Theatre Project and Southern Oregon Film & Media. I have been serving on the Women’s Leadership Conference committees since 2012, and I currently serve as the Institutional Representative (representing SOU) with Oregon Women in Higher Education. I also work with an Improv Comedy Troupe in the Rogue Valley.
RVM: What is your favorite piece of art (in any category), and what is your favorite local piece of art?
SS: My favorite movement in painting is the Fauve movement which happened as an opposite response to the popular Impressionist movement. Henri Matisse is my favorite painter. I love looking at all of the different Architecture in Rogue Valley. There are some incredible buildings here and there are restoration contractors and real estate investors that have taken great pains to restore some of the older buildings. I have two favorite pieces of art at SOU, the floor of the foyer at the Hannon Library, and “The Third Eye Theater,” the stones that create a labyrinth-like sitting/meditating/hopping along the rocks space between the SU and Britt Hall.