It was announced today that Tom Manley will be stepping down as President of PNCA to take over Antioch College
. Manley leaves December 31st. It suffices to say, that of all the leaders in Portland over the last decade+ Tom Manley has had the most impact on the Portland cultural scene, period. Leaders are in demand and like any championship team Portland's top cultural players are sought after elsewhere.
During his tenure at PNCA he arrived just in time to save the school from immanent loss of accreditation then expanded enrollment riding the wave of Portland's popularity with young artists. One crucial coup was a successful bid to be gifted the 511 building through the Federal Government's GSA
. That gift helped secure major gifts, none more transformative than the Hallie Ford Endowment
. That endowment helped PNCA greatly expand programs
including multiple Masters Degree options. Sometimes it felt like PNCA was adding a new MFA program every week, but it just illustrated Tom's willingness to try new partnerships.
Tom Manley (center) with the the 511 civic team
Yes there were trials like the Museum of Contemporary Craft takeover/bailout
but even that was done because it was the right thing to do, rather than empire building (which Portland despises).
Thus, this news isn't surprising as PNCA just finished a major capital campaign and new building this year
. Typically, leaders of large institutions leave after long fundraising and building projects and in many ways he saved PNCA and helped Portland grow up.
Here is Tom's official statement via PNCA:
"From where I stand. . . . PNCA is a genuine bright spot, shining the
light of Portland style creativity and collaboration farther in every direction year after
year. It has been a joy to be a part of a community of such dedicated artists, designers,
writers and scholars and to witness how through their acts of invention, subtle and
audacious, culture is enriched and lives transformed. My family and I feel very fortunate
to have played a part in this remarkable college's story and we will be excited to watch
what great things come next."
He will be missed but I knew this was coming, Portland was lucky to have him and the next era will be one of consolidation rather than exponential growth. Personally, I consider Tom a friend and in the early days we would run into each other in the cereal isle of Fred Meyer and chat. There were longer sessions as well and what strikes me was the way he integrated PNCA into the waves of new ideas and practices that hit this city first. He seemed to seek out partnerships, a rare trait among institutional chiefs and that collaborative spirit is what made his time in Portland so remarkable. He saw waves and like no other instituional chief, rode them. Congratulations to Tom and this is an important opportunity for PNCA to enter a new phase.