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Jordan Schnitzer gives $10 million to PSU’s school of art

The gift, which continues the Schnitzer family's longtime support of Portland State University, will help fund a new home for the School of Art, support PSU's Schnitzer Art Museum, and provide outdoor art and other enhancements on campus.

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Real estate developer and philanthropist Jordan Schnitzer has donated $10 million to Portland State Universiy's School of Art, which will be renamed the Schnitzer School of Art + Art History + Design. Photo courtesy PSU.
Real estate developer and philanthropist Jordan Schnitzer has donated $10 million to Portland State Universiy’s School of Art, which will be renamed the Schnitzer School of Art + Art History + Design. Photo courtesy PSU.

Jordan Schnitzer, the Portland real estate developer, art collector, and philanthropist, and his family foundation have donated $10 million to Portland State University’s College of the Arts, the university announced Tuesday. The college will be renamed the Schnitzer School of Art + Art History + Design.

“This is a banner day for our college!” Leroy E. Bynum, Jr., dean of PSU’s School of the Arts, said via email. “… The gift will help us to construct a wonderful new arts building, to support operations of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, and also to enhance our campus with outdoor art and lighting.”

Schnitzer’s new gift is a continuation of his support of Portland’s downtown public university. A previous gift helped the university establish the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at PSU, which has free admission and is open to the public, on campus in 2019. Schnitzer has also given significant gifts to two other university museums that bear his name, at the University of Oregon in Eugene and Washington State University in Pullman.

The Schnitzer gift is seen as part of a push to revitalize downtown Portland, which has been hit by pandemic shutdowns, homelessness, an open drug crisis, failing small businesses, and the highest rate of office vacancies in the nation. “This is a welcome investment in Portland’s future that will provide significant resources toward revitalizing downtown Portland through arts and educational infrastructure,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a prepared statement.

Orgon Gov. Tina Kotek added: “Last year, I launched the Portland Central City Task Force to bring together business, civic and educational leaders in a call to action to help revitalize downtown Portland. The success of Portland State University is integral to the vision we share for downtown, and I greatly appreciate Jordan Schnitzer for his commitment to the arts, to PSU and to the City of Portland, the economic engine of the state.”

Schnitzer’s $10 million gift breaks down three ways:

  • $5 million will support construction of  a new home for the Schnitzer School of Art + Art History + Design, which is scheduled to open in 2026 at the southern edge of the South Park Blocks. It also helps unlock $81.7 million in public bonds approved by the Oregon Legislature for the capital project.
  • $4 million will support operations of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at PSU.
  • $1 million “will help PSU enhance its urban campus through additional signage, lighting and outdoor art.”

Sponsor

All Classical Radio James Depreist

Jordan Schnitzer’s gift continues a family tradition of supporting PSU. His late parents, Harold and Arlene Schnitzer, as the university’s announcement notes, “created at PSU the James DePreist Visiting Professorship in Art, the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies, and the Arlene Schnitzer Visual Arts Prize. In 2013, Arlene Schnitzer supported construction of the glass tower at Lincoln Hall to provide space for studios, an art gallery and a black box theater in honor of her husband. Together, the Schnitzer family’s total philanthropic commitment to PSU tops $21 million, making them PSU’s most generous benefactor family overall.”

“My grandparents, my late parents Harold and Arlene Schnitzer and I believe in the importance of education,” Schnitzer said in the university’s announcement. “Education not only helps us have a great quality of life, but helps us get better jobs and build our communities. An arts education is the best background to think creatively, to learn to be innovative, to help build our workforce and economy, and most importantly, help solve society’s great challenges! My hope and the hope of my late parents is that this gift is also a sign of our commitment to downtown Portland, and Portland State University! In my opinion, this is a worthy philanthropic investment to help PSU continue to be an active part of a thriving downtown Portland. This is not only for students but everyone in the region.”

He added: “In 1905, my grandfather, Sam Schnitzer, came to Portland from Ukraine. As an immigrant he came to America with dreams of having a family and building a business. Renting a small one-bedroom home, two blocks from the site of the new Schnitzer School of Art + Art History + Design, he, along with my grandmother Rose, raised seven children, all of whom attended Shattuck Grade School two blocks away and Lincoln High School, now Lincoln Hall at PSU. My family is fortunate today to be able to help financially fund the new Schnitzer School of Art + Art History + Design at Portland State University.”

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."

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