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Tuesday 11.06.18

« Spooky reviews | Main | November Reviews »

Early November Links

Weve got a huge amount of stuff coming for you including reviews and Portlandageddon. But first lets look at some news:

One time Portlander and long time PORT pal Paul Middendorf has re-launched the institution he started in Portland and continued in Houston. Paul is the best kind of person and a hero of the Portland (artists into the city) and Houston (real water) floods... but some well known Portland art scene figures didn't support him (you know who you are, I'm talking institutional people and it wasnt simply money). Well he's proven himself in Houston (just like Portland) yet he's been appreciated more there. Portland's City Council and other leaders who are looking at Portland's art scene need to ask... huh, what could we have done better and apply it to those who are still in Portland? Sometimes Portland's art scene politics are detrimental in their parochial character. That said lots of new, great things have sprung up since, Open Signal, Carnation Contemporary, regime change at Disjecta etc. (History lesson = Paul was Disjecta's first and last non guest curator and the only male staff curator ...though Cris Moss did curate a biennial.)

Daniel Nord's almost skeletal sci-fi might seem a bit unsettling but it is exactly the kind of work that is relevant now.

Perhaps the art world might be sick of laughing at the same old jokes about itself?

Chicago's Mayor does the right thing and pulls a Kerry James Marshall mural from a Christies auction. Look, public art isnt just some asset to flip when the street repair fund is low. Think of it as a public museum collection that enriches the city, not a rainy day fund. The artist said as much in an interview today. Essentially these are civic treasures held in trust by government... the fact that this was actually considered shows how atrophied civics have become in the quantification of assets as some sort of portfolio to manage.

Speaking of civics, the biggest story in Portland right now outside of the elections is the now planned merger of OCAC and PNCA. This is hardly a done deal though it is being presented as such. There has been precious little info with no public statements but Im of two minds on this and nothing has changed since my initial assessment. For history's sake I'll point out how I worried far more about the previous Museum of Contemporary Craft merger than any other media, which sadly turned out to be correct so take that into account. PNCA has informed their staff and students more than OCAC has, and OCAC is operating in a leadership vacuum with an inexperienced interim president and a board that likely got spooked by something after the State of Oregon's Attorney General started looking into the Art Gym's move to OCAC (timing suggests this). Non profit boards in Oregon tend to be That means a weak bargaining position. The thing is(just like the MoCC merger, and I was the only media to mention this) is they need a kind of autonomy and checks and balances that come from an endowment. I've heard numerous times about a 5 million dollar endowment drive, which is needed whether or not the schools combine. That's good as higher education is broken, with only endowments to support general fund, teaching positions and scholarships as the only protection. The thing is this merger really only makes sense if it produces an institution with greater vision than PNCA and OCAC already have. Considering the way committees seem to run higher education Im deeply suspicious of happening (which means Id love to be wrong/surprised). The way we are hearing only 1 narrative seems to be building suspicions among staff and alumni for both schools... and the way OCAC staff, students and alum are very wary of reprisals now is not ideal (all stemming from a weakness in the board and placeholder interim president (not slight intended she's been thrust into this and would be difficult for a seasoned pro). All that said the best MFA program in the state is the joint OCAC+PNCA Applied Craft and Design and a new combined school that keeps the core mountain village community that OCAC represents, with a more focused PNCA all under a new name (please no Portland Institute for the Arts and Crafts aka "PIAC") could be good if it has vision. Instead, right now I see something akin to a human relationship where both schools are afraid to be alone in some drive for 1000 students as a quorum of safety? So what happens after the holidays?

Some ideas:
If this does happen, try to find a way to put the Craft Collection on better display (OCAC has a small but important collection too) and an exit strategy if it doesnt work out as planned because ultimately both schools problems are brought on by a broken higher education system. Otherwise I cant see how that narrative gets redirected to something more positive without some real visionary planning and some clear checks and balances (OCAC needs its own senior fundraising officer if it merges). Still waiting on details and a whole public mea culpa for OCAC's board has to be done just as it was for the MOCC, which held public meetings. It is delicate, I appreciate that but Portland is in no mood to lose another crucial institution without some transparency and it would be smarter to release some basic statements that set some expectations because with the MOCC failure most will assume similar outcomes. I personally dont believe that but as I speak to others that's the tone things have mostly taken. Of all the conversations Ive had only a few have expressed great faith in preserving what makes OCAC so special.... that's a failure in the rollout of this story, though it is correctable.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 06, 2018 at 10:14 | Comments (0)


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