Sunday, December 05, 2004


The Tango Center's block, in downtown Eugene, Oregon, could really be called the "non-profit project" block. Downtown Eugene is basically abandoned, and a number of non-profit projects have taken advantage of the low rents, and made it their mission to revitalize the town.

Alex Krebs, one of the top dancers & teachers in the country, came here Friday, and beforehand we walked less than a block to the non-profit project on the opposite corner, DIVA. DIVA is trying to create an art museum for the city, and in the meantime is fulfilling its mission by providing gallery space, hosting art classes, and generally trying to gather momentum & interest around painting, sculpture, photography etc.

Tango Center co-director Olga Volchkova has an art show there, of her superb cast glass sculpture. We're tryng to increase the mutual support among all the non-profit projects on the block. DIVA director Mary Unruh is taking Tango classes, and she organized a block party a few weeks ago. In turn, I'm trying to make sure that the new online tool I make will be useful in creating all the connections we need to make downtown a success.

As Alex & I sat at the nearby Broadway Market, it seemed like there were lots of people downtown. The non-profits and the private venues in this small area have struggled to create enough energy to attract people, and it's working, but on Friday probably no more than 5,000 came. In a town of 130,000, that's pretty dismal. People are mostly still sitting at home, or hanging out in the suburbs.

We need to make the town more interesting, but not just in an "entertainment" sense. We can't compete with spectacle -- movies, TV, big shows, sports ... Instead, we need to create ways for people to participate. That's why social dances like Tango, Swing & Salsa can be so marvelous. Because everyone is trying to make the evening a good one. It's like a good conversation, or a good bit of work. It doesn't work without you.