THE ART GYM HAS LANDED. The crucial center for Northwest contemporary art has been hunting for a new home since its host, Marylhurst University, decided to shut down. Marylhurst and the Portland Art Museum announced on Friday that the museum and its Crumpacker Library will take over The Art Gym’s important exhibit catalogs, historical documents, trademarks, proprietary rights and website.
The agreement does not include, at least for now, arrangements for continuing programming or a curatorial position. But the vital records have a solid and accessible home. There is some hope that funds will be found to continue in some form The Art Gym’s style of Northwest programming at PAM, although not in a separate Art Gym gallery: It is likely, if it happens, to be folded into the museum’s own contemporary programming. Marylhurst released this statement: “Under state law, Marylhurst needs to seek court approval for the distribution of some endowments, like the Eichholz fund, and it is in the process of doing that. The university remains hopeful that all of the funds will eventually serve to preserve the legacy of The Art Gym at the Portland Art Museum.”
The Gym has been looking for a new home since May, when Marylhurst announced its impending closure, and had struck a tentative deal to move lock, stock, and barrel to the Oregon College of Art & Craft, complete with curatorial and programming provisions: The Art Gym’s curator, Ashley Stull Meyers, was to have transferred to OCAC. But that deal fell apart in October, and the hunt continued. OCAC, meanwhile, entered into merger negotiations with the Pacific Northwest College of Art. PNCA’s board voted this month against a merger.
Today’s press release, issue jointly by the museum and Marylhurst:
Portland, Oregon – December 28, 2018 – The Art Gym, long located in a former gymnasium on Marylhurst University’s campus, will be transferred to the Portland Art Museum, the institutions jointly announced today.
“The Art Gym has opened up an opportunity for so many artists in our region, representing hundreds of emerging artists’ catalogs and presenting innovative, thought-provoking ideas to the community for 38 years,” said Marylhurst University President Melody Rose. “While Marylhurst University will formally close at the end of 2018, we’re thrilled that The Art Gym’s legacy will live on at the Portland Art Museum.”
The Art Gym, a non-collecting, nonprofit gallery, has built a reputation for showing up-and-coming artists from the Pacific Northwest in a historical building on Marylhurst’s campus. Its mission is to support a diverse group of artists working in experimental, thoughtful and critically engaged ways through exhibitions, performances and publications.
“I’m thrilled that the Portland Art Museum will continue The Art Gym’s work of increasing public understanding of the art of our region,” said The Art Gym co-founder Terri Hopkins, who led the gallery for 33 years before her retirement in 2013. “I believe the museum’s commitment to producing significant exhibitions for Oregon artists will prove important for our artists and the Museum, and I am happy that The Art Gym is helping make that future possible.”
Under the new agreement with Portland Art Museum, The Art Gym’s exhibit catalogs, historical documents, trademarks, proprietary rights and website will be transferred. The Art Gym archives will join more than 35,000 volumes of work in the Portland Art Museum’s Crumpacker Family Library and research center. The Library’s collection includes current and historical periodicals, art archives and resources specific to the Museum’s history and encyclopedic art collection. This agreement ensures that The Art Gym’s legacy will be available to researchers and artists throughout the Pacific Northwest for years to come.
“The Portland Art Museum is honored to preserve The Art Gym archives. As one of the foremost sources of information about the history of Oregon visual arts in Portland, our research center is well positioned to steward these important materials, and to ensure their access for many generations,” said Portland Art Museum Director Brian Ferriso. “Our curators also look forward to incorporating the vision of The Art Gym’s programming into exhibitions dedicated to Oregon artists.”
The Art Gym’s transfer marks the successful transition of yet another of Marylhurst’s programs since the University’s closure was announced last spring.
Previously, the University partnered with other institutions to transfer students as well as entire university programs, moving its food systems and society program to Oregon Health & Science University, art therapy program to Lewis & Clark College and music therapy program to Pacific University. While Marylhurst initially negotiated an agreement to transfer The Art Gym to the Oregon College of Art and Craft, that decision was terminated through a mutual agreement in the fall.
The Marylhurst Board of Trustees voted in May 2018 to close the university, and classes ended after the summer 2018 term. Since then, officials have been carrying out a formal closure process, and no staff will remain after December 31, 2018.