Illness claims renowned Jacksonville artist Eugene Bennett

Nationally renowned Jacksonville artist Eugene Bennett has died after an illness.

Bennett, 86, died Tuesday evening at Rogue Valley Medical Center from complications from pneumonia, several sources said.

Bennett's work has been shown at the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the San Francisco Museum of Art and in Alba, Italy.

The walls inside Bennett's home studio in Jacksonville, created from an 1850s brewery he rehabbed in the early 1060s, are covered with colorful collections that represent six decades work. Britt Festivals and Taste of Ashland posters reside alongside his many collages, oils, drawings, photographs, sculpture and assemblages.

Born and raised in Central Point, Bennett attended the University of Oregon to study music until World War II interrupted. He entered the U.S. Navy in 1943, and when he was discharged in 1946, Bennett decided to start a career in art.

He returned to the Rogue Valley in 1958 and became a founding member of the Rogue Gallery & Art Center.

Bennett influenced generations of children through private instruction and as an artist and teacher for the Medford School District's Artists in Education Program. Six years ago he founded the Eugene Bennett art scholarship for Jackson County youth through the Oregon Community Foundation, said Cristina Sanz, the foundation's Southern Oregon regional director.

In the 1990s Bennett was stricken with a rare disorder that caused involuntary spasms in his eyes. The incurable condition made it difficult for Bennett to keep his eyes open to paint. In 2008, Bennett suffered a stroke.

Funeral arrangements through Conger-Morris are pending.

— Sanne Specht

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