PNCA

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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Resourcefulness and resilience: Local thesis shows in a global pandemic

Graduating art students pivot from in-person thesis shows to an array of virtual offerings

By BRIANA MILLER

There is a lot going on in the world right now, and in the midst of it, a newly minted class of fine art and craft students is setting out into the world. The timing couldn’t be better – we need their hope, creativity, resiliency, and ingenuity now more than ever. Equally, the timing couldn’t be worse – nearly all of their final in-person thesis shows were cancelled because of Covid-19 related closures. But art and artists are attuned to change, and as the pandemic forced colleges and universities across the Portland Metro area to close their campuses, their art departments moved swiftly to adjust expectations and find meaningful ways to culminate their degree programs. 

“Our role was to be responsive to the moment and work with the circumstances and not despite them,” said Jess Perlitz, who teaches sculpture at Lewis & Clark College and is the co-chair of its Department of Art. “Something about the arts is to be prepared and resourceful and resilient. We got to model that.”

For many schools, delaying or postponing the thesis exhibition wasn’t an option. Students left as campuses closed in mid-March, and because they were graduating, any plans to return were uncertain. As a result, institutions pivoted to thinking of the final exhibitions as virtual, building new online galleries or substantially enhancing existing web pages. 

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The Unknown Exhibition

A show exploring anonymity, craft, and art takes on new meaning amidst social distancing

The Unknown Artist, a group exhibition curated by Lucy Cotter at PNCA’s Center for Contemporary Art and Culture, is an investigation of the value of art and its intricate relationship to authorship and visibility. Cotter brings together ceramics and textiles from the collection of the CCAC (formerly held by the now shuttered Museum of Contemporary Craft) along with work by contemporary artists from Portland and around the globe. The show reveals new patterns of meaning and deep connections between seemingly disparate practices. 

The Unknown Artist at the Center for Contemporary Art and Craft, installation view, image courtesy CCAC and Mario Gallucci

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VizArts Monthly: Fill March with art and sunshine

March is abuzz with shows, events, lectures, and more

Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and things are happening! There have been some real shakeups in Portland’s art world lately, from reorganization at RACC to the uncertain future of PSU’s Littman and White galleries. But in case you are worried that your busy art-viewing calendar is doomed to dry up in the wake of these changes, have no fear! This month is absolutely overflowing with art shows and events to take in. To paraphrase my new favorite comedian, Julio Torres, I have a lot of shows and not a lot of time, so let’s just get started.

A light silver-pink mylar balloon in the shape of a heart, partially deflated and mounted on a gallery wall.
Work by Sam Noel, image courtesy 1122 Gallery

Sam Noel: but, how does one eat an elephant?
February 27 – March 21
1122 Gallery
1122 SE 88th Ave

Portland artist Sam Noel presents her lush sculptural works in a solo show at 1122 Gallery, her first since graduating from the final MFA cohort of the now closed Oregon College of Art and Craft. Noel’s practice is rooted in textile crafts, but her works include a range of unexpected materials including foam, ribbons, and mylar balloons, through which she examines the experience of inhabiting a fat, female body in contemporary culture. Glitzy pastel surfaces are complicated by slumping forms and haphazard construction, evoking the angst and confusion of adolescence with compassion and humor. 

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This June, the arrival of summer isn’t the only big transition on the horizon. Bullseye Projects exhibition space closes after twenty years on NW 13th Ave, Adams and Ollman will relocate to a nearby space on NW 8th Ave, and Nationale announces a relocation back to Burnside where it will share space with Beacon Sound and enjoy a larger, more detached exhibition space. Blue Sky’s Executive Director Lisa DeGrace will step down to become the development director at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. DeGrace goes out on a high note with the En Foco Fellowship shows (featured below). Whether you enjoy the late sunset for a First Thursday art crawl in town, hit the Portland Art Museum, or head down to Eugene to check out a set of compelling shows at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, there’s plenty to see this month!

Daniel Robinson – Open Road, 2019
Recent Paintings: Daniel Robinson
Through June 15
Charles A. Hartman Fine Art
134 NW 8th Ave

Robinson’s finely-detailed paintings glow with a love for Oregon scenery and light. From industrial riverside docks to scrubby, golden hills in Eastern Oregon, these paintings capture vistas that balance conjuring an Oregon of the past and rendering it with a modern crispness. Grain elevators, bridges, farms, and boats mark human presence in the natural landscape.


Open During Construction: PSU BFA showcase
Through June 14
Littman + White Galleries
1825 SW Broadway

With a title that captures the current conditions for PSU art students, the Littman Gallery celebrates a new crop of graduates. MK Gallery and the AB Lobby Gallery, in PSU’s Art Building host the other parts of the show not represented by Littman’s selection. Artists this year include: Anastasia Bubenik-Hartley, Coral Cloutman Tabitha Copeland, Courtney Gallardo, Linneah Rose Hanson, Allison Jarman, Jake Johnson, Patricia Kalidonis, Safiyah Maurice, Kira Paragon, Tiffany Adele Peterson, Vinh Pham, Timothy Tran, and Zach Whitworth.


PNCA 2019 MFA Exhibition
Through June 11
PNCA Glass Building 2139 N Kerby Ave.

The first twenty-six PNCA graduate students to study in the new “Glass Building” exhibit their work in the cavernous, beautiful former Bullseye Glass building in the North Industrial district. Thesis and capstone projects from three different programs will be on display. The MFA in Collaborative Design is represented by Amber Marsh and Ophir El-Boher; the MFA in Print Media by Devyn Park, Emma Flick, Heather Coleman, Jaynee Watson, Jessi Presley-Grusin, TK Yoeun, Lauren Goding, Russell Wood; and the MFA in Visual Studies by Julian Adoff, Shokoufeh Alizadeh, Jen Bacon, Kelly Brand, Heather Boyd, Sarah Cabbell, Robin Cone-Murakami, Alexis Day, Josh Hughes, Jess Iams, Diego Morales-Portillo, Lauren Prado, Rhonda Tuholski, Brittany Vega, Brittany Windsor, Yuyang Zhang.


DE May Untitled (Finish a Piece A Day)
 Artworks by D.E. May: Dan May
June 5 - June 29
PDX Contemporary 
925 NW Flanders

Discussing the work in this show, Hallie Ford Fellowship recipient Dan May said “If there are five steps to building something, I am interested in steps two and three.” May passed away in February of this year. Indeed, May’s use of ledger paper, continuous form paper, and used cardboard communicates a sense of mid-project work, issued from some parallel universe office where blocks of color stand in for numbers. The visual language of templates, diagrams, and plans form a peculiar, playful conceptual framework. 


Mark Aghatise, What Men Do We Know, 2017
2018 En Foco Fellowship Exhibitions: Study One: Mark Aghatise 
and The Soft Fence: Gioncarlo Valentine
June 6-30
Blue Sky Gallery
122 NW 8th Ave

Blue Sky hosts two arresting, personal solo exhibitions by Mark Aghatise and Gioncarlo Valentine. Both artists are recipients of the prestigious En Foco fellowship. Founded in 1974, En Foco’s mission is to support photographers of color and diverse cultures working in contemporary, fine art, and documentary photography. Aghatise’s manipulated and collaged photographs take on the “bifurcation of self that occurs in contemporary urban life,” according to the artist. After moving to New York City, he developed a keen awareness of the tendency of cities to split an individual’s persona into public and private versions. The work in Study One is the result of working with his subjects to capture reflections of how they present in public and at home. Gioncarlo Valentine’s show, The Soft Fence, seeks to explore the performance of masculinity in Black culture. Valentine, who grew up queer and femme-presenting, calls the photographs “a series of questions about access, performance, proximity, Black manhood, and Black brotherhood.” Aghatise will give an artist talk before the main opening at 5pm on Thursday, June 6. Valentine will speak at 3pm on Saturday, June 8. 


Assessed valuation of of all taxable property owned by Georgia Negroes, from W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Georgia Negro: A Study (1900). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Color Line
June 15 - October 27
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Ave

Activist, sociologist, historian and overall polymath W.E.B. Du Bois created an incredible exhibition for the 1900 Paris Exposition to communicate the conditions of race in America in systemic, poetic, and personal terms. The exhibit won a gold medal in 1900 and later became part of the Library of Congress’s permanent collection. It will be shown at the Portland Art Museum in June along with the Paris 1900 City of Entertainment exhibition. Color Line includes more than 300 photographs of African-American citizens along with exceptional charts and graphs – what we would now call data visualizations or infographics. The colorful diagrams and charts communicated statistics and other measurements of the stark inequalities and injustices of the racial divide in post-Civil-War America. The photographs, taken in collaboration with Booker T. Washington and Thomas Calloway, show the strength and humanity of African-Americans at the time. Defying stereotypes, the photographs show the businesses, universities, homes and professions of the first generation of African Americans to rise after abolition. This multi-faceted exhibit is both historically significant and personally affecting, and should not be missed.


Exhibitions at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
University of Oregon Campus
1420 Johnson Lane
Eugene, OR

Phillip Haas
Sculpture Breathes Life Into Painting & Music: Philip Haas
Through June 9

Philip Haas’s new work will have its world premiere at the JSMA before it embarks on a year-long tour in the U.S. and abroad. For two weeks, an series of eclectic performances will intersect with the life-size sculptures representing the arts of painting, music, and sculpture. Motorized sculptures, totems, found objects, film, spoken work and other strategies form Haas’s unique artistic vocabulary, which he describes as “sculpting by thinking.” During the performances at JSMA, Haas will wear his sculpture while delivering a commentary to the audience. This promises to be a unique experience!

Jonathan Roensch, Braxton Williams, 2019, Photogaph, 11 x 14 inches. 
Common Thread: Reflections on Aesthetic Culture
Through September 8

Following on the success of 2018’s student-organized show Don’t Touch My Hair, this revealing, personal exhibition addresses many of the same themes. This time the conversation centers on clothing and other wearable expressions of identity and aesthetics. Organized by the UO student curatorial team of Taite Stull, Cassidy Shaffer, and Kristen Clayton, this exhibition aims to provide a glimpse into the diverse culture of the University of Oregon’s student body.

Video Still from “Passage”
Passage: Mohau Modisakeng
Through August 4

Previously shown as South Africa’s entry in the 2017 Venice Biennale, this affecting, three-channel video meditates on two different meanings of the term “passage.” In Setswana, the experience of being alive is referred to as a passage, with the Setswana word for life, botshelo, meaning to “cross over.” Then there is the far more tragic history of the word, referring to the legacy of enslavement that caused a “dismemberment of African identity,” in the words of Modisakang. Dreamlike, a birds-eye view of a passenger in a small wooden boat on a vast black body of water fills each projection as the water begins to rise.

Wayne Coyne’s ‘King’s Mouth’: From PNCA installation to Flaming Lips album

The new Flaming Lips album is deeply connected to an installation earlier this year at PNCA's Gallery 511

By SHAWNA LIPTON

The Flaming Lips’ latest album King’s Mouth: Music and Songs was released April 13 in a limited-edition gold vinyl pressing of 4,000 copies for Record Store Day and will receive a worldwide release in all formats (digital, CD, vinyl, etc.) through Warner Bros. on July 19. Although music critics are heralding the album as a return to form that recaptures some of the magic of the Lips’ most lauded albums—The Soft Bulletin (1999) and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)—the record has an unconventional origin in an interactive art installation that was featured prominently at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland.

“The King’s Mouth” was on display at The Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at PNCA from November 2, 2017 to January 6, 2018. During that time people of all ages came to have a transportive experience inside the school’s 511 gallery.

The walls surrounding the exhibit were lined with Flaming Lips creative force Wayne Coyne’s illustrations depicting the mystical story of a King, his giant silver head, and the rainbow denizens of his imaginary realm. Each of these images would go on to inspire a song on the album.

Wayne Coyne’s “The King’s Mouth” inspired the new Flaming Lips album—and was installed at PNCA’s 511 Gallery late last year./Photo courtesy PNCA

“The King’s Mouth” itself is a giant silver head with a gaping mouth and a pink, spongy tongue. You are invited to crawl inside into a cozy cavern where you can lay back and gaze upward at strands of lights synched up by Sachem Arvidson, a multimedia artist specializing in digital LED lighting design, to music masterminded by the multi-instrumentalist and core member of the Flaming Lips, Steven Drozd. The music builds from rhythmic and pulsing, to booming and rousing, with mesmeric lighting to match. If you stay for the duration, “The King’s Mouth” provides a phantasmagoric journey lasting around ten-minutes from start to finish.

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Breaking: Tuski leaves PNCA

Donald Tuski, president of Pacific Northwest College of Art since 2016, will take a similar position in Detroit

Don Tuski, president of Pacific Northwest College of Art, has quit to become president of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. His announcement Thursday morning took PNCA faculty, staff, and students by surprise. Tuski had come to Portland in 2016from the Maine College of Art.

Donald Tuski: leaving for Detroit. Photo courtesy PNCA

Watch for more news and analysis as the story develops.

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Text of the PNCA press release:

PNCA President Donald Tuski Headed Home to Michigan July 1, Accepts Position as President of Detroit’s College for Creative Studies

The Board of Governors has begun the transition planning effort to identify an interim president, and ultimately a new president

PORTLAND, Ore. — Don Tuski, PhD, president of Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), announced today that he has accepted a new position as president of the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit. Tuski’s decision will take him home to Michigan, where he was born and raised, and where his two brothers and his sister live. It will also bring him closer to his children, who live in New York and Texas.

“This was a really difficult decision for me to make given the love I have for PNCA’s students, staff, faculty, donors and supporters of the college, and Portland’s art community,” says Tuski. “Over the past three years, I have been fortunate to call Portland and the college my home, and I will miss it greatly. When I was approached by CCS through their recruitment agency, it was clear to me and my family that this was an opportunity I had to explore, given the chance to return home and help support art and design education in Detroit.”

Tuski has led PNCA since 2016 and previously served as president of Maine College of Art. Prior to that, he spent 25 years in various roles at Olivet College, a private liberal arts college in Olivet, Michigan (and Tuski’s alma mater), where he served for nine years as president (2001–2010).

“Don has been integral to PNCA’s success over the past few years, helping grow the college’s enrollment, increase its program offerings, support arts education in the area, and solidify PNCA as a cornerstone of Portland’s higher education art and design community,” said PNCA Board Chair Scott Musch. “Our board is thankful for Don’s work and dedication that has helped PNCA thrive. We wish Don all the success and a bright future as he starts this next chapter.”

Musch, who was formerly serving in the Board’s vice chair role and has a long-established professional business career, was appointed to the board chair position earlier this spring.

PNCA’s Board of Governors Executive Committee has launched the planning process to find an interim president to lead the school through this transition. The overall transition planning process for the new president will follow the school’s shared governance model to include input from students, staff and faculty, in addition to the Board of Governors.

“This is the nature of higher education,” says Musch. “We are not alone in experiencing a change in presidents. When I look around Oregon, I appreciate that we are in good company with Reed College, Lewis & Clark, Linfield, Concordia, PSU, and Oregon State University. They all have either recently or are in the midst of going through a similar process.”

During Tuski’s time at PNCA, his work with the Board of Governors under its shared governance model has been fruitful: enrollment has grown by nearly 100 students; faculty, staff and students collaborated to develop an ambitious strategic plan; the school welcomed the largest first-year class in its 110-year history last fall at nearly an 18 percent increase over two years; and recruitment efforts were expanded to reach 600 high schools, both in Oregon and nationally.

“While this news is hard, we understand this is what’s best for Don as he looks forward to the next chapter of his career,” said Kate Copeland, Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs. “Don’s impact is long-lasting with a positive growth trajectory and a deeply committed group of faculty and staff. While we will miss Don deeply, PNCA is poised for an exciting new chapter thanks to his leadership and legacy.”

PNCA continues its commitment to higher education in art and design in Portland, and under new board leadership has taken an active approach to ensuring the city’s higher education art and design community continues to thrive. The college recently welcomed the Master of Fine Arts in creative writing program from Marylhurst, developed a teach-out program for former students of the Oregon College of Art and Craft, and has added new programs emphasizing design and technology. Tuski, along with his PNCA Management Team, also made operational improvements to achieve significant cost savings.

Tuski will succeed Richard L. Rogers, who is retiring from CCS after 25 years. Tuski’s appointment at CCS becomes effective on July 1, 2019.