Lincoln County Historical Society

PNCA, Willamette U. will merge

ArtsWatch Weekly: The Portland art school and Salem private university join forces; reading is the new going out; deaths in the arts family

THERE’S A NEW-OLD SCHOOL IN TOWN: Two high-profile Oregon private colleges, Portland’s Pacific Northwest College of Art and Salem’s Willamette University, have announced plans to merge, The Oregonian/Oregon Live reported Thursday morning. The boards of the two schools approved the merger on Wednesday, and PNCA’s faculty, staff, and students were told in a general announcement at 9:33 Thursday morning. The Oregonian’s Jeff Manning reports that the two schools have been discussing a merger off and on for five years, and the talks turned more serious 18 months ago. The Covid-19 crisis and PNCA’s failure to meet enrollment goals played into the agreement, The Oregonian said. The merger still “needs approval from regulators and the accrediting agencies of the two schools,” which is expected in 2021, Manning reported.

Pacific Northwest College of Art straddles Portland’s Old Town and Pearl District. Photo: PNCA

The two schools will maintain their own campuses and names. It hasn’t been so long since PNCA considered taking over the late Oregon College of Art and Craft, which folded after PNCA and other potential suitors decided against merging. PNCA also, after taking control of  Portland’s venerable Museum of Contemporary Craft in 2009, closed the museum down and took charge of some of its collections in 2016. Willamette University has been expanding quietly, Manning reported, including last year’s addition and move to the Salem campus of California’s Claremont School of Theology with its faculty and 300 students. This week’s announcement doesn’t define what this newest merger might mean to Willamette’s existing art department, or whether it will have any effect on Salem’s Hallie Ford Museum of Art, which comes under the university’s wing.

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Ill wind blows good wood for Newport museum

A theater in the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center is being trimmed with old-growth Douglas fir blown down in the 1962 Columbus Day Storm

The Lincoln County Historical Society scored big time in 2004 when it bought a historic, French chateau overlooking the Newport bayfront. The 30,000-square-foot building with gabled roof needed work — one of the reasons the Newport nonprofit was able to buy it at a bargain-basement price — but that view, that setting, the history.

A member of the volunteer team of “old guys” works, sander in hand, at the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center. The rough-sawn wood behind him will be sanded just enough to leave a rough texture to match trim work throughout the building. Photo courtesy: Steve Wyatt

It wasn’t just the historical society that scored, so did the county. In what became the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center, it gained a museum, retained a piece of history, and saved a structure that otherwise might have faced demo crews.

Another layer of history is being added to the story. Wooden finish work is about to begin in the 2,000-square-foot Doerfler Family Theater. This is not just any old wood, but old-growth Douglas fir from trees downed atop Cape Foulweather by the 1962 Columbus Day storm. The trees were recently helicoptered out of the grove and milled at Siletz River Lumber.

Historical Society board member Bud Shoemake knew about the salvage operation and helped broker the deal for the wood. Oregonencyclopedia.org reports that after the storm, during which winds in Newport hit 138 mph, Congress passed special funding to accelerate salvage of the 11 billion to 17 billion board feet of lumber that was blown down so it wouldn’t rot. How this grove survived earlier salvaging or rot is a question to which I haven’t yet found an answer.

“It’s just amazing, gorgeous,” said Steve Wyatt, executive director of the Historical Society, describing the wood. “Just straight grain. There is not a knot of any kind in this beautiful wood.”

The 1,524 board feet of lumber will be used for extensive trim work, wainscoting, door casings, and grid work on the theater ceiling.

“In keeping with this historic property, the finish work will be similar in style to the trim work already completed on the main floor of the museum, only with a higher level of refinement,” Wyatt said.

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