The University of Oregon Saturday figure drawing group, free and open for 20 years to anyone wanting to sculpt, paint or draw nude figures, is no more. In response, Lane Community College is expanding their offerings to accommodate.
A week before fall term started, Carla Bengston, head of the UO Department of Art, emailed the group volunteer coordinator, Will Mitchell, concerning the open drawing sessions on campus. “Their concerns naturally suggested that we, as a group, have done something wrong but they said ‘No, that was not the case,’ but instead they had concerns about this group being a liability,” Mitchell said. “They said they were concerned about the general public coming onto the campus and there was a naked person involved.”
“The university said that they had been getting some strange phone calls, but I also heard that these calls weren’t really from creeps or weirdos,” local artist David Straton said. “It was just from people who were interested in modeling and they didn’t know about modeling till they saw the flyer about the open session on campus.”
Maya Benezer, recent UO graduate, does nude modeling for the UO art class and the LCC figure drawing sessions. She was present at the last UO Saturday figure drawing session. “I was modeling the weekend they got the announcement that the sessions would be cancelled,” Benezer said. “It was one of the best sessions that I ever modeled for; everyone was super friendly and nice. I got more jobs in other modeling places and it was probably the highest paying job.”
The weekly sessions at UO typically drew 30-35 people. “There was never any harassment issue,” Benezer said. “If somebody accidentally walked in the room, they would freak out seeing a nude model and then walk away.” Figure drawing classes, open only for UO credit students, still continue from Monday through Friday.
Local artist Don Houghton wrote a letter to the UO Department of Art, asking for reasons behind cancelling the session. The acting dean, Brook Muller, wrote back the next day saying that it was for financial reasons and for the safety of the models.
“They wrote they were worried about the models being exhibitionist and people looking at them in a weird way,” Houghton said. “It was ridiculous; we are all just artists, not rapists.”
LCC is welcoming all people from the UO group to their figure drawing session on Saturday. “People needed a venue to draw,” LCC studio arts faculty member, Satoko Motouji said. “After they terminated the class at UO, we moved all our sessions to Saturdays so that the people who used to go to UO can come over here.”
The LCC figure drawing sessions and the Buckner drawing group are both held on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Building 10.
The Buckner drawing group, a nude figure sculpting and drawing session is coordinated by LCC Media Arts Faculty member Jan Halvorsen. “This is a long standing tradition in art to have an open figure session,” Halvorsen said. “That’s why I think people were so shocked when UO cancelled theirs.”
The sessions at LCC are open to the public and the cost is $3-$5 per person for each session.