Ritz Arts member Ken Hardenbrook talks with us about the beautiful artwork being installed outside the Ritz in the patio area. Learn about the time capsules they are putting into the wall which will capture bits of Fair magic for the future. Check out the great photos that go with this episode below.
Ritz Arts Ken Hardenbrook at OCF
Transcription by Jade Rainsong
(Karen) Up by the Ritz sauna there’s a beautiful totem pole. I’m standing underneath and I’m looking up at the trees behind. It looks like fish, birds, raven wings, giant elk horns at the top and at the base, there’s a covered area, beautiful wood background, and the cement block that it’s sitting on is being covered in a mosaic. And the tiles are not square cut tiles are all kinds of different shattered shapes of… looks like polished rocks. There’s folks working on it right now. The entire floor is covered in beautiful mosaic. It’s pebbles of different colors. They all look polished. Some of them are in patterns like wings or eyes around a central stone. There’s even some words painted on some tiles here in some mirror tiles. Gorgeous scenes. It looks like flamingos and a lake, mushrooms, forest, dragonflies… really, really gorgeous art. There’s also some signs on the wall that says, What is art? Where does it belong? Where doesn’t it belong? The sign above it says The power of art to start conversations. So this is kind of like an art conversation corner here. Have the arts ever shifted your perceptions, and how? are some of the questions on the wall here.
People are looking at the signs and talking about them as well as artists working down here on the mosaic, on the floor and on the base of this beautiful totem pole in the center. And what’s your name?
(Ken) Ken Hardenbrook.
(Karen) Alright, nice to meet you, Ken. Yeah. You having a good day today?
(Ken) I am, definitely.
(Karen) So I see you’re, you’re badge here, Ritz Sauna. Can you tell me a little bit about what you do?
(Ken) Well, I’ve been here since the, it started, uh, when I was 12, and that was for 40, you know, 43 years ago. And, uh, I do a lot of the stainless work here. I do all the stainless work here. Um, I made the dragon fly up on the roof over there and I made these time capsules.
(Karen) Time capsules? I didn’t realize that’s what those were, can you tell me what that is?
(Ken) Absolutely. This is, uh, these are all, uh, we’re putting things about the Fair and the Ritz. Uh, and, uh, that’s a 10 year time capsule. And then it goes in these vaults in the floor, and that’s a 25 year, a 50 year and a hundred year.
(Karen) What goes in them and who puts the things in there?
(Ken) But we’re putting Fairs, uh, stories, uh, people’s stories. We’re putting some heirloom seeds in. There were a big variety of things. Uh, we’re encouraging people to bring stuff to put in. Um, and, uh, we have a bunch of stories actually, uh, that we’ve put onto a microfilm that we’re putting in.
(Karen) And, uh. So they’re made of stainless steel and they’re cylindrical tubes, and it looks like there’s kind of some native American art etched on the outside.
(Ken) Yeah. Brad Bolten did the designs and I actually etched them.
(Karen) So I’m noticing these questions about art and its power to start conversations and do you see a lot of people like reading these signs and talking about it and thinking about it?
(Ken) Yeah, every year we put up new questions. And so this is the result of last year’s questions over here. And it’s a, we started a nonprofit called Ritz Arts, and this is kind of our public interface.
(Karen) And what you see, you pointed on the to the wall over here, there’s some charts. You said the answers to last year’s questions. So it looks like some colorful pie charts. Um, and the questions are like, how do we assure that the OCF is here in 10, 25, 50 and a hundred years? So how do you collect the answers to these questions?
(Ken) People write down things and we record them all, and then we go through and try to split them up. Well as we can, you know, it’s a, it’s interesting to do cause things blend into each other. And so as close as we can, we’ve got it divided up into different, different areas.
(Karen) So it’s sparking conversations about different things, like a macro view it sounds like.
(Ken) Yeah. Yeah. And we’ve had, uh, every year we do new questions.
(Karen) Who comes up with the questions?
(Ken) The board of Ritz Arts. Yeah. Yeah.
(Karen) So tell me about some of this mosaic work in this shady little, it’s almost like a triangular shaped shady patio here with all the gorgeous art. I was talking about the beautiful stonework and the floor, and then on the wall here it wraps around, it’s kind of like the stained glass almost.
(Ken) It is stained glass. Yeah. There were 600 hours of work went into it this year. There’s over 700 pieces of stained glass in it. A lot of people worked on it. People that don’t normally work with, with glass worked on it and got to play with that. And Andy Poiner was actually the, uh, lead the project and, uh, did an incredible job on it.
(Karen) And do they draw out a design first and spend a lot of time working out the details of it before? I’m sure they have to cut all of those pieces.
(Ken) Absolutely. They, they, uh, they, it’s all drawn out first and then they shape each piece, uh, with, with shapers and grinders and cut them. And the mosaic floor was done by, uh, Jim Blanford, and it’s all a river rocks.
(Karen) And then there’s some glass hearts that are set into the stones in the bottom. They look really thick.
(Ken) And they did a beautiful job. There were 800 hours in the floor. Yeah.
(Karen) I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s incredible. I mean, I’ve seen temporary installations. Ya know mandalas made out of natural things, but not like a permanent floor like that. So beautiful. How long has this floor been here?
(Ken) It went in like this year? Well, last at the end of last year.
(Karen) So yeah, then and then the time capsules, I noticed the lids in wood, they have painted on them, years, and this would be like what year it’s going to go in the ground.
(Ken) What year it comes back out of the ground when it comes back out.
(Karen) Oh, so we’ve got 2029 on that one. 2040 on that one. It’s hard to imagine what the place is going to be like in 2040.
(Ken) Were trying to capture a piece of the present and let people in the future see what it was like as much as we can.
(Karen) And there are so many wonderful different ways to do that. You know, there’s the audio recording like we do with Fair Family Radio, and there’s pictures and video, and then. The time capsule. It’s such a, I love it. It’s such a unique idea and the fact that there’s going to be so many different things in there and so many different perspectives.
(Ken) Definitely. Um, I made lids for them that have two holes in them, so purge all the oxygen out and put argon in them so they won’t, things won’t oxidize in there and they would last a lot longer than a hundred years at that point.
(Karen) Uh, high tech.
(Karen) So do you have a, like a favorite memory from all your years working the Ritz Sauna here? A favorite story, you can share this, being the 50 year anniversary.
(Ken) Um, well, it’s just for me, the, the whole thing has been almost one event as I’ve been here my whole adult life and part of my youth. And, uh, it’s just, uh, I, I can barely distinguish one year from the next, to tell you the truth.
(Karen) And do you live locally here in Eugene?
(ken) I do. Yeah.
(Karen) So what is it like out here in the winter when the the rivers can overrun? It can be water. Is this all up out of the water or?
(Ken) The water came up to within an inch of the wood last year.
(Karen) Wow. That’s amazing that it still looks in really good shape. I mean, that, I mean, rocks and the ground here just didn’t, didn’t seem to get affected at all.
(Ken) No, no. It was a, it, it did very well with the flooding. And, um, this should, this should hold up fine too, and we can, we can wash it. Uh, these get dirty, but, uh, they’re cleanable.
(Karen) My gosh, I’m so impressed and inspired by this little space here.
(Ken) Yeah, thanks. Yeah. I make all this stainless steel. The dragon fly over there is mine and the wings up here on top of the pole are mine.
(Karen) And you have a studio at home, a shop, or?
(Ken) I have a shop at home. That’s a small one. But, uh, mainly I work at the Springfield Creamery and do things for them.
(Karen) So you have a regular gig, regular daytime gig, and then do the art on the side.
(Karen) Thank you for your time.