I've been traveling for nearly a month
but some big things are afoot. Time to catch up.
The biggest story in Portland right now is the proposed merger of PNCA (Pacific Northwest College of Art and OCAC (Oregon College of Arts and Craft),
but it doesn't seem to have received much press besides this Oregonian piece
(with their characteristic lack of critical thinking). Well, that changes now. I've worked with both schools extensively and even served as a mentor for their joint MFA in Applied Craft and Design
, so they have shown they can combine forces effectively. Thus, on the surface it seems like another one of Portland's typical, let's combine forces
, moments but I wonder what is really driving it? OCAC's President stepped down September 10th
so that means that its really OCAC's board driving this. I have a lot of questions as both schools are so different and am suspicious of a march towards monoculture and inherently prefer different types of schools with autonomy. That said higher education currently has major systemic problems. Here are a few starter questions:
1)Why the short time frame for such a major decision? How dire is this?
2)Is the current board at OCAC and interim President's administration still fundraising?
3)It seems like PNCA and OCAC share the exact same problems regarding enrollment and the inherent issues all higher education seem to be awash in. I dont see how this improves either's situation except short term, so how?
4)We have seen a lot of institutional mergers and like the Museum of Contemporary Craft with PNCA they havent resolved optimally
. How is the vision here different? How to ensure the identity of each is preserved? (hint it takes an endowment but if that's the case OCAC should just do an endowment drive itself... perhaps the board doesnt feel up to the challenge and is just being expedient... that isnt a good reason to do it).
On Friday night a meeting with concerned OCAC Alumni and OCAC's Administration took place. By all reports it was one of those tough meetings that everyone was glad reconnect to each other with such dire news. Ive heard conflicting reports that attendees were, "asked not to discuss it with those who were not at the meeting ,"(they simply cant ask that and yes people are talking). Another report indicated they were encouraged to share info with other alums and the community. (so far there has been no official position for me to refer to, but both sides seem pretty clear in their own understanding). Apparently the meeting was open to press but was not indicated as such and those that understood it as a closed discussion, along with the timing drove many away that wanted to attend. I've also heard that OCAC never really indicated what was driving this rush to merge. More importantly, only one option "Merger" was presented as an inevitability. Many alumni and I myself question the lack of options and creativity in the situation. At this point both OCAC and PNCA probably need to make a public statement (that Oregonian article doesnt count) and my questions for OCAC's board remain.
How engaged is OCAC's board? It seems like only one option is being pursued... which seems like a board giving up on fixing it themselves and counting on PNCA to be a deus ex machina
to save the school. Portland has seen a lot of that lately and lost too many crucial arts institutions like the Museum of Contemporary Craft, Marylhurst University, the art institute of Portland, The White Box at the U of O, etc (all without a proper fight to save the institutions). I also think City Hall should chime in on this and this is Chloe Eudaly's first test as the New Arts Commissioner. Mayor Ted Wheeler also needs to show an interest. If PNCA is the only way to save OCAC Id be behind that, but the case and details for it have not been made. Also, I worry about PNCA's health if a merger takes place (both schools share the same problems). Overall, Portland's very active residents are in no mood to lose or weaken the very core arts institutions that help make Portland what it is. It appears there is some crisis driving this, but a crisis creates special fundraising opportunities. There has been the customary talk of "transparency" but a lack of official statements and a limited meeting without key information indicate something else and this needs to be handled better. I do think everyone involved is acting in good faith but the main questions regarding vision, current situation and options are main questions for OCAC's board.
There will be more press on PORT and elsewhere
The Manny Farber exhibition and Helen Molesworth's final curatorial contribution
at MOCA look invigorating. Why are museums so adverse to strong curatorial presences these days? So often today the major museum curators just subcontract out to guest curators and though I enjoy a good guest curated show as the next person I also see a lack of curatorial backbone with a preference for ingratiation in the practice.
Bruce Nauman reappears and the NY Times pays attention.
What Nauman does best is create a kind of crisis of attention, what could be more current than that?
David Anfam reviews a new Pollock book that is too academicized
. Odd how being arch academic has become anti-intellectual, but it has been the trend for years now. Every artist who goes to art school to rationalize their use of hanging sausages, spray foam, stained tarps (dropcloths?), grotty ceramics and or raw plywood shelves, tables or plinths is also a product of this drive to out humblebrag eachother and its a wasted effort in a world that has so much serious stuff going on.