OCAC student using the Jean Vollum Drawing, Painting and Photography Building (Photo Jeff Jahn)
The Art Gym has announced that it is moving to the Oregon College of Art and Craft
. PORT was the first to point out the program could move. *Update
: There are complications with moving the endowment that supports the Art Gym in that Oregon's Attorney General must act on what to do with the funds when the Marylhurst University dissolves? Specifically, the AG will take input from the endowment's donors like the lead patrons the Eicholz Foundation. There are many other donors as the endowment campaign was a matching gift challenge by the Eicholtz Foundation. Now all of the donors are being contacted, and I encourage them all to support the move. Also, programming will resume on October 1st 2018 when the existing OCAC Hoffman Gallery space will become the Art Gym. Importantly, phase 2 of OCAC's already scheduled renovation process will eventually double this exhibition space in the current John Storrs designed style.
The current Hoffman Gallery at OCAC is a nice jewel box gallery
but perhaps the Art Gym's biggest niche was that it had the size to mount retrospectives for area artists, even at double its size the New Art Gym wouldn't be able to accomplish that. Thing was the art Gym often did a sub par job on those retrospectives, perhaps leaving the past to other venues they can focus on regaining relevance. The newly minted curator/director is showing she's capable of just that.
What is important is that a longstanding program isn't just being thrown into the dustbin. Perhaps the Art Gym wasn't at its highest point of influence over the past decade (Portland's art scene grew way beyond just one venue and a hosting religious college seemed to blunt its edge) but before that it was the key player in the local arts ecology. Perhaps now under a new umbrella with a University that is all about the nuances of art and design the Art Gym can once again become a leading arts program? With a forward looking view this could be great for OCAC too as it would give them a stronger community showcase? The Thing about OCAC is it is the most focused of all of Portland's art schools. They have an identity based in technique (old and new) and by acquiring this historical showcase it could ultimately propel both institutions.
This is a golden opportunity for OCAC and the Art Gym to enhance their exhibition space, which was always a bit too large and full of very distinct windows, being a recommissioned gym. If indeed this is a situation where the Art Gym brings its endowment (depending on the wishes of the donors and the Attorney General) I see this as a much better situation than when the Museum of Contemporary Craft was absorbed by PNCA
without an endowment and closed. Currently OCAC lacks a a larger formal library and a new Art Gym space in conjunction could help make the case for some expansion without losing institutional focus. Taking the Art Gym without support of its endowment is somewhat of a risk but we dont even know the state of that endowment. So though fate of the endowment is in the Attorney General's hands, the fact that the staff and exhibition history are all moving to OCAC make a stronger case.
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