Art of the Athlete: Pay it Forward

June 04, 2022 to February 12, 2023

This year’s Art of the Athlete (AofA) exhibition highlights 4 alumni of the AofA program and their contributions as they returned to share their time and talents to work on the museum’s education programs with UO students, youth in our World of Work program, and outreach programs for children identified as at risk and enduring trauma. The former student-athletes and AofA alumni who participated were Tony Washington, Jr., Malik Lovette, Dexter Myers (football), and Erin Boley (women’s basketball).

Many of the self-portraits on display were created by freshman student-athletes who recently arrived on campus to start their college journey.  As part of their orientation to campus, the new UO coach for Player Development, Tony Washington, Jr. requested that we provide a workshop on self-portraits as part of their group bonding and immersion program.  Inspired by the art of contemporary artist Titus Kaphar, whose work centers around layers of identity, Lisa Abia-Smith, JSMA director of education and Hannah Bastian worked with the students on a series of exercises focusing on internal and external identities which resulted in the self-portraits on view today. 

Other examples of self-portraits on display were created by students who illustrated their faces with words and lyrics to express their values, identities, and struggles as they process death of loved ones, sacrifices made, and hopes for the future.

In Memoriam
Spencer Webb

July 14, 2022, Spencer Webb passed away after a tragic accident. He was part of the Art of the Athlete program for a year and enthusiastically embraced making art as a way to express himself. He verbalized his appreciation for finding this new medium as a way to explore his feelings.

Last summer he started to work on his self-portrait and met with me a few times to tell me how much he “needed this in my life right now."

I was happy to connect with him again this summer and to see him enrolled in my summer 2022 Art and Human Values course. The day he passed away, he was in class telling me how proud he was of his art and how making art helped him to work through some memories from the past and how he was able to get clarity for the future.

A few of Spencer’s teammates created a work of art to honor him and used that process as a way to work through the pain of losing one of their friends who impacted so many of them.

Spencer was a bright light and he will be sorely missed by so many at the UO who were fortunate to know him.

Lisa Abia-Smith 
JSMA Director of Education & Senior Instructor 1, PPPM