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Sunday 02.08.09

« Art & Culture: Urbanism & Politics | Main | Worksound's White Noise opening »

Better late than never on the MoCC PNCA merger

Looks like at least someone at the Oregonian is finally willing to start asking more questions about the PNCA/MoCC merger. Good, but is it too little too late? (PORT asked these questions and more on the 1st day)... and essentially Row is reversing his earlier rather wishy washy approach with a slightly harder line? (something I've been grousing about and wish I didn't have to) These are basic questions that should have been asked weeks ago by everyone, not just PORT.

Besides, the thrust of this new article seemed to be a complaint that nobody would talk to Row... well maybe if he took the trouble and the care to develop more respect in the local art community that would happen more easily. I'm not bashing here, I don't question whether mr. Row can write, but it's not a secret that many key people do question his commitment to art in the city and this is an ultra sensitive situation where the boards might possibly be stretched to their limits... so do they have time for his questions? (maybe if he pouts more) On a personal level, I screwed up by not noticing the "no endowment" problem before MoCC's move... so I'm not letting anything slide.

OK so let's now look at how the University of Wisconsin, University of Washington and Univeristy of California Berkeley all got their top notch university museums and collections too. These university museums somewhat define the schools they exist within, and it would be doubly true for an art school. Depending on the choices made, PNCA could really enhance or screw itself up... but without a separate endowment and serious autonomy for the museum it is definitely even more difficult to get it right.

Here are a some more things to consider, 1st off the MoCC board in charge of the move to the the Park Blocks had a different composition than the current board... That is a very important distinction and treating them monogenically isn't confidence building. To date, PORT is still the only place that has looked at the delicate nature of this merger (one where MoCC has little if no leverage making it especially tricky).

Also, though I seriously doubt if any of them will go on record, many key local arts professionals in Portland feel heartsick about this situation, noting it's forced situation in a way that makes them rather uncomfortable. PORT itself feels split, because that's what we do with so many individual writers. For instance, I'm taking a cautious stance and Arcy is outright against this. Another issue, there are opportunity costs here even for PNCA, which is basically acquiring a museum with no endowment instead of the normal way of having a donor give the college a collection and an endowment (endowments give the museum autonomy but even in the case of Brandeis University that isn't always enough). Frankly, I want both PNCA and MoCC to be healthy either separately or together. But let's not gloss this over, combining the two is no simple feat and yes Portland (it's press, philanthropic base and government) does owe something to the 72 year old institution to make certain all other options have been explored. Long-standing civic institutions are the organs of the city and it is incredibly shortsighted to let them dissolve in this very serious economic crisis just because it's the easy way.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on February 08, 2009 at 18:35 | Comments (1)


Thanks for the update/link to the D.K. Row post.

If there is a general silence on the blogs, it may be because it seems like there's nothing to do...the takeover is being presented to the public as a done deal, in which case it feels like the only option left, heartsick or not, is to roll out the cliches about spilled milk and barn doors.

For my own part, "heartsick" is a good way to characterize how I feel, as is "apprehensive". MoCC was poised to become a sui generis national-level establishment, a feat that can be achieved by an independent institution, but is rarely done with a university museum. If there are other options on the table, I hope PORT will let its readers know with all haste.

Posted by: BG [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 8, 2009 10:14 PM

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