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Tuesday 10.23.07

« PORT in Art in America November 2007 | Main | Ongoing Installations »

PNCA and Portland an opportunity for growth

Potential site for PNCA

After almost a week in California I'm back in Portland and I've been putting a lot of thought into PNCA potentially moving onto the North Park Blocks at 511 NW Broadway.

Clearly the Pacific Northwest College of Art is very interested in the property as they currently rent their space, which does nothing for their financial stability. Being denied the opportunity to build equity they are subjected to the market forces of condo development in the Pearl and the situation needs to be addressed soon.

I consider PNCA to be one of only 2 indispensable Portland visual art institutions (things are young here, PAM is the obvious other)… everyone else from RACC to PADA to PSU, even Reed is still pretty much still proving themselves and building a track record in the art community, which is fine… being hungry presents opportunities. Whereas, PNCA has nearly 100 years of history and is the chief cultural anchor of the Pearl District. With numerous free non-commercial galleries, huge public meeting spaces and numerous (often free) talks, not to mention the buzz of art students... PNCA is the Big Kahuna of cultural life in the Pearl. This civic engagement might allow the school to be gifted the site for free from the Federal Government as a "public benefit transfer." Such a transfer would allow the school to spend more on the actual project and better build their endowment, both of which greatly serve the city in ways mere business development does not.

It would also build upon the recent 15 million dollar Hallie Ford gift to the school creating critical momentum of space and philanthropy.

PNCA's proposal is very different from Melvin Mark's proposed Farmers Market and condo development, which isn't a bad runner-up situation but hardly provides these opportunities:

1) Cultural concentration and institutional critical mass for Portland:

A PNCA move to the site consolidates a unique concentration of cultural destinations on the North Park blocks, which also includes museums like Bluesky Gallery and Museum of Contemporary Craft plus commercial galleries like Charles Hartman, Augen and Froelick galleries. The Everett Station Lofts are across the street on Broadway as well. After looking at LA and San Francisco recently it is clear that none of their art schools have such primacy of place in the urban fabric. Artists are flocking to Portland partly because of this less corporate urban fabric and it will only redouble PNCA's pull. PNCA's enrollment has skyrocketed as of late based mostly on Portland's attractiveness so it makes sense that what is good for PNCA is good for Portland and vice versa.

Brad Cloepfil's Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis

2) Site a Sight:

Several new site options for PNCA have included local starchitect Brad Cloepfil in their plans and it's a great opportunity for Portland to make a big architectural statement. The proposed site swings into view just as you come off the Broadway Bridge traveling westbound and it could further rehabilitate the NW portion of Broadway which started in 1989 with The Everett Station Lofts and now the Desoto building just this year. Adding PNCA along with Cloepfil's rising star would make this one hot spot on the west coast, besides Cloepfil needs a good project in Portland and an art school might be even more interesting than his reputation making Weiden and Kennedy building.

Overall, there is a synergistic moment of opportunity for PNCA and Portland as a serious art city here. Yeah, everyone loves food in Portland but I think the farmers market will find another option that might be even better, food is a necessity and art as a harder sell simply requires more foresight... like the GSA public benefit transfer can provide. PNCA might not have another option that is better and I hope the GSA see's fit to give the site to the school… (that is if it's feasible for PNCA to redevelop it, a study will be completed this month).

Look the GSA gave Eugene a Thom Mayne building and this opportunity could give Portland its single most exciting cultural addition since we hosted the Armory show in 1913. It would leverage and makes good on the enormous cultural growth which has been taking place here for the past 15 or so years. We should know in the next couple of months if this great opportunity is going to come to fruition.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 23, 2007 at 12:44 | Comments (3)


Amen! It's ridiculous that Cloepfil gets to build these amazing, internationally acclaimed art spaces in St Louis, Seattle, NYC, et al but not his own hometown. He's certainly one of the finest museum architects working today. Having him designing a space on the park blocks for PNCA is a grand opportunity for Portland.

Posted by: brett [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 23, 2007 02:56 PM

Okay, wow...

I consider PNCA to be one of only 2 indispensable Portland visual art institutions ... PNCA is the Big Kahuna of cultural life in the Pearl.

Posted by: pink_artist [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2007 01:36 PM

Okay, wow...

I consider PNCA to be one of only 2 indispensable Portland visual art institutions ... PNCA is the Big Kahuna of cultural life in the Pearl.

Posted by: pink_artist [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2007 01:36 PM

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