James H. “Jim” Winkler, the Portland developer who was a champion of photography and other visual arts, died on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, from complications related to an infection. He was 72.
Winkler was president of the real estate development firm Winkler Development Corporation, which among other projects created Portland’s Adidas Village corporate headquarters complex, the Platinum-certified One Waterfront Place residential building, and The Headwaters mixed affordable and market-rate residential complex.
But in the city’s arts community he was most known and admired for his key role in the DeSoto Project, which in 2007 transformed the former Daisy Kingdom fabric building and warehouse on Portland’s North Park Blocks into the thriving center of an art gallery and museum district. The redevelopment became a crucial factor in the revival of the North Park Blocks, buttressed by its proximity to nearby galleries such as Elizabeth Leach and Blackfish, and the move in 2015 of the Pacific Northwest College of Art to a campus just a couple of blocks away.
Winkler’s interest in the Daisy Kingdom space was prompted by his love for photography and the nonprofit photo center Blue Sky Gallery, as D.K. Row wrote in an excellent 2007 interview with and profile of Winkler for The Oregonian.
“[O]ne day I was looking at art at Blue Sky when I was approached by Bruce Guenther (the Portland Art Museum’s chief curator), who asked: ‘What are we going to do about Blue Sky?’,” Winkler told Row. “What he meant was: What happens to Blue Sky if its rent escalates or if it experiences some financial stress – Blue Sky is, of course, a nonprofit art gallery, not a commercial one.
“That caused me to think about the galleries in general: What would happen if they had ownership options as opposed to just rental options? At that time, few galleries owned their spaces. Then I made a comment to Bruce: We ought to generalize the idea, take it to a certain scale, see how many galleries can take advantage of a critical mass. So, the notion was: Could we create an opportunity for the galleries, and could we do it in a location that was interesting, that could, perhaps, catalyze a neighborhood? And could we do it in a way to make purchasing or financing somewhat easy?”
What emerged was an art district that included Augen Gallery, Blue Sky Gallery, Charles Hartman Fine Art, Froelick Gallery, and the Museum of Contemporary Craft. There has been some turnover in the years since, most notably from the death of the Museum of Contemporary Craft, which had held the development’s most prominent space. The craft museum was soon replaced as a centerpiece by the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education.
Winkler, whose Polish parents survived the Holocaust and came to Portland when he was a child, was active in the city’s Jewish community; in 2013 he received the 14th Annual Rabbi Joshua Stampfer Community Enrichment Award.
Among his many public roles, Winkler was a trustee of the Portland Art Museum. “Jim was steadfast in his support of this institution and our city’s arts ecosystem, and his leadership is unmatched,” museum Director Brian Ferriso said in a memoriam statement. “He served as trustee for over twenty-five years, as Chair of the Board from 2012 to 2013, and as chair of numerous committees, most recently the building committee that led to the successful signing of the Rothko Pavilion Guaranteed Maximum Price agreement.
“… Jim’s biggest motivation was the presentation of important works of art and the support for artists in our city, creating deep friendships with many. ‘Art will be central to our community’s transformation, and the Museum’s project is really our bridge to connect us from our past to our future,’ Jim once said at a Board meeting, speaking about the importance of the Connection Campaign [to connect the museum’s two buildings]. ‘We are about making a big change for Portland. We can’t lose hope or conviction.’”
Winkler is survived by his wife, Susan Winkler; children Jordan Winkler (Crstin Campbell), Julia Winkler (Jonas Jacobson) and Jacob Winkler (Edith); grandchildren Maxwell Jacobson, Miriam Winkler, Margo Winkler, and Talia Winkler; siblings Victor Winkler (Korina), Bernice Skoro (Carl), Beverly Greenfield (Chuck), and Fern Schlesinger; and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his sister Velma Almo.
Donations in his memory can be made to Cedar Sinai Park, the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, or a charity of your choosing.