Todd Van Horne’s eye for the brand lives on through a “sprucing up” of Moshofsky Center
More than 20 years after designing Oregon's new era of uniforms, the former Nike creative director's latest vision paints the walls of the Mo.
EUGENE — In sprucing up the Moshofsky Center, Todd Van Horne found himself with a familiar problem.
Similar to decades ago when he helped design Oregon’s uniforms into a full-on college football fad, the former Nike creative director needed to balance flash with function in repainting the inside of the 135,000-square foot practice facility.
Specifically, after years of scuffs from medicine balls, carts and the comings and goings of practice, Van Horne needed to create a piece of art that drew eyeballs up and away from the 24-year-old building’s age spots — especially as the space becomes more fan-focused in 2024 when Oregon’s new practice facility is scheduled to open.
His solution: a mural with a foundation of dark, evergreen colors that glow lighter as the walls ascend.
“It related to this kind of landscape of just looking out at the Coburg hills,” said Van Horne, who left Nike in 2020 to found Van Horne Brands. “You’ve got trees and forest, and then you’ve got the hills and you bring in some good branding and all of a sudden you got something that feels like it’s naturally part of the Eugene branding package.”
Unmistakably, Van Horne has an acute sense of the brand. Originally from Southern California, he moved to Oregon in 1990 and spent 30-plus years with Nike. His children are fourth generation Ducks, and his son Quinn is Van Horne Brand’s lead designer.
Some of his favorite creative memories came here. He looks back fondly on trading ideas with former Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington about the first batch of Oregon’s new-age uniforms back in 1999. Designing the 2017 “Stomp out Cancer” uniforms Oregon wore against Nebraska is a career highlight.
“No one can compete with the beauty surrounding Eugene and University of Oregon,” Van Horne said.
He took on the Moshofsky project more than eight months ago and enlisted Garage 31, a father-daughter team which specializes in large-scale paintings. Based in Oregon City, Jason Prouty started Garage 31 Art Department two decades ago. He’s worked on projects throughout the Nike campus, including the new Serena Williams and LeBron James buildings. He spent over a year and a half on the Williams project, which included a 1,200-foot graphic in the parking garage.
“They'll take on anything,” Van Horne said of Garage 31. “They're fearless. You can dream it and they'll find a way to paint it.”
When Prouty’s daughter Sophia finished high school five years ago, she made it clear she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps. Delighted, Prouty brought on his first and only full-time employee.
“She’s an amazing artist,” Prouty said. “She just has natural talent.”
An Oregon fan for years, Prouty remembers how vanilla the Moshofsky Center looked his first time walking in — an overwhelmingly monotone warehouse masquerading as a practice facility in stark contrast to the rest of the artfully designed and branded sports complex.
“[Van Horne] knows I love a challenge,” Prouty said.
He added: “You forget about the sheer scale, because now I'm looking at it through the eyes of, I have to actually paint in here and it's a lot of square footage.”
Prouty, Sophia and a team of three others worked around football practices, sometimes painting well into the night. On occasion, they received visitors. Throughout the project’s first few weeks, Marcus Mariota, his two dogs and his brother Matt were there every morning throwing a football.
“We're completely honored,” Prouty said. “We're humbled. Every day we go to work and we are sitting there, it's quiet. We're painting next to each other. We're like, we get to do this for a living, pinch us… It’s a dream job, it really is.”
After the first brush touched the wall in late June, and a two-week break during the World Championships in mid-July, they finished early last week, more than two weeks ahead of schedule.
The reception has been a warm one. Prouty and Van Horne said players and coaches alike have expressed their admiration for the new look. They’ve even caught coaches on FaceTime using the new-look facility as a recruiting tool.
Based in Portland, Van Horne made sure to make the drive south to Eugene every week during the painting process. The center is a special place for him. His vision already had life there through the clothes and uniforms.
Now, it surrounds them.
“When you’re telling stories,” Van Horne said, “magic comes from the artwork.”
— Shane Hoffmann