Portland art blog + news + exhibition reviews + galleries + contemporary northwest art

recent entries

Resist: Inauguration at Una Gallery
Early February links
First Thursday Picks February 2017
Dead tree media & dead horse flogging news
Post Snowpocalypse Weekend Picks
More Disjecta'd
New Year opportunities
Monday Integrity Links
First Thursday Picks January 2017
Jason Berlin + Alanna Risse at Rainmaker
Saying goodby to 2016
Mid December Links

recent comments

categories

 

Book Review
Calls for Artists
Design Review
Essays
Interviews
News
Openings & Events
Photoblogs
Reviews
Video
Links
About PORT

regular contributors

 

Tori Abernathy
Amy Bernstein
Katherine Bovee
Emily Cappa
Patrick Collier
Arcy Douglass
Megan Driscoll
Jesse Hayward
Sarah Henderson
Jeff Jahn
Kelly Kutchko
Drew Lenihan
Victor Maldonado
Christopher Moon
Jascha Owens
Alex Rauch
Gary Wiseman

archives

 

Guest Contributors
Past Contributors
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005

contact us

 

Contact us

search

 


syndicate

 

Atom
RSS

powered by

 

Movable Type 3.16

This site is licensed under a

 

Creative Commons License

Thursday 02.04.16

« First Thursday Picks February 2016 | Main | Celebrating James Archer »

Thoughts on Museum of Contemporary Craft dissolution

Herrick_exhibition_sm.jpg
MoCC Exhibition view: Laurie Herrick Weaving, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (2011) Photo Jeff Jahn

Yesterday PNCA announced that it will sell the property which currently house the Museum of Contemporary Craft and transfer the collection to its new headquarters building at 511 NW Broadway just down the street creating a new Center for Contemporary Art and Culture (a name that could mean anything). It has provoked strong responses ranging from anguish to relief and PNCA's leadership is getting a lot of blowback (some fair, some is simply hurt finger pointing). We could use some deeper and more nuanced thinking regarding this sad news as PNCA's hand was simply forced after years of subsidies. The troubled museum, which began life as craft oriented social/professional club simply had difficulties making the transition as it tried to become a museum. In fact, it has always been on life support from PNCA since the merger in 2009, which PORT covered extensively. It's the sort of thing that old newspaper journalists have difficulty covering if they don't have cultural board experience (I'm a cultural historian and have sat on boards, and was advising key people during the merger). It's also something that artists with ties to this artist focused museum cannot be expected to be objective about. Basically, it all comes down to three things:

1) endowments (discussed here in depth)
2) finding/serving a constituency
3) and more endowments

In terms of endowments, they simply never materialized in the short window of patronage they had from 2009-2013 (The Great Recession and some recovery) and the complication of PNCA already raising money for the 511 building. Endowments were absolutely essential for institutional leverage/independence. The fact that they never developed meant they were on life support from PNCA who is beholden to its students and alumni constituents first and foremost. The only reason it went on so long is PNCA could not afford to torpedo itself during a very long capital campaign for the 511 building. This was also a time when there were pay reductions and general dissolution of the Museum's independence accelerated after interim director Jeffrey Thomas left. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing as lately PNCA has updated the museum's scope significantly with more design and focus on social phenomena like Alien She last year... but something had to give and budgets are unforgiving. Maybe there is a third way if a savior appears to decouple the institutions... otherwise existing as a teaching collection and an initiative at PNCA is better that wiping out the craft legacy completely. I remind people that PICA came from the defunct Art On The Edge program at PAM.

In terms of constituency the MoCC after the merger suddenly had to serve too many masters, specifically PNCA students and the hand made craft that curator, eventually former director Namita Wiggers favored (foregrounding a dialectic of hand Craft vs Design when such craft is simply a subset of design). There was promise there with an early Ai Weiwei exhibition at the museum but the makers she favored alienated other growing communities of makers in Portland like computer coders and the ever expanding design community here (all involve technique and therefore craft, art schools like PNCA and OCAC all approach it that way). Some exhibitions like the Laurie Herrick retrospective were great but similar shows were often so overhung that the design crowd was put off (the typical northwest hoarder way of exhibiting too much needs to die). Overall, the resources were simply stretched too thin and PNCA had their own growing pains to adapt too. It would have taken additional personnel and fundraising initiatives that PNCA alone could not undertake at the time. Still, PNCA's plan is to still display the collection in the 511... something that was decided upon years ago.

This may not be the final chapter but if it is the issue has lingered unnaturally long. The decision by PNCA may trigger a response to save the museum, perhaps a Deus ex Machina where a savior donor or deep pocketed consortium of donors could offer to buy the property and collection from PNCA? If they do, remember an endowment is still required and it would make sense to refine the institution's mission. I will have more on this in a larger article I've been working on (new developments of bad news keeps making it longer). PNCA isn't the villain here but they may have overstepped their reach long ago and they have carried the institution on life support from the outset. Last year, before former President Tom Manley left he formed a committee to look into all possible alternatives. This course of action was the result of the recommendations from that committee. There may yet be a third way and I'll have more on that situation in a more extensive think piece. The biggest question is who or what is the best custodian of the MoCC's legacy? Surely existing in some form is better than nothing but in this time of real estate prosperity it also seems like this is not the ideal situation, maybe a spinoff of this merger could happen? ...otherwise this is far from the worst scenario. Artist's live and breath ideals, institutions are more pragmatic so lets see how this plays out. Portlanders generally want/need to voice concerns before anything final happens but this is perhaps where PNCA had to make a unilateral decision?

Posted by Jeff Jahn on February 04, 2016 at 14:06 | Comments (0)


Comments

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)


Remember me?


s p o n s o r s
Site Design: Jennifer Armbrust   •   Site Development: Philippe Blanc & Katherine Bovee