The new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University opened Thursday November 7. The museum is named for the real estate magnate and art collector who donated $5 million to the project.
Six hundred people stopped by according to the organizers, many of them spilling out into the lobby of newly renovated Fariborz Maseeh Hall while Schnitzer cut the ribbon with PSU Foundation CEO Bill Boldt and Mayor Ted Wheeler.
Schnitzer talked of being inspired by meeting artists at opening at his mother Arlene's Fountain Gallery in the 1970s, and playing with the artists' children.
He also said how he liked visiting artists' homes, because even though he grew up a child of privilege in a nice house, their homes had "skulls and cool stuff."
Art for all
The 7,500-square-foot space is on two levels at Fariborz Maseeh Hall (this alum's name is also on the engineering school) at Harrison and Broadway.
Boldt told the crowd that in many ways it was easy to get Schnitzer involved. Since Schnitzer already had university-based museums that are open to the public in Eugene and Pullman, Boldt sold him on the idea of 28,000 students passing through the building several times a year, since it is an administrative center, plus 20,000 leisurely people at the farmer's market on weekends.
"It was very easy because he really loves art, his life is trying to share art with all."
Thirty members of the Portland State chamber choir began singing in the crowd and danced their way to the front, singing a Caribbean-sounding song.
Ethan Sperry, the choirmaster, said it was a song from Haiti called Papa Loco (crazy father).
"They wanted something festive, and Papa Loco is the father of all priests, the gatherer and spreader of all wisdom. Jordan was talking about how that's what art's job is, to spread that so it seemed like a nice, fun, happy way to do that."
Schnitzer emphasized that he wanted art to be accessible to all. The opening show, Art For All, is prints and paintings from his collection.
It is a museum because it has an educational arm, which will include student work as well as events for the public and for school children. But it is not a museum in the sense that it has holdings. Schnitzer's collection remains his own to lend where he chooses. He has loaned work to over 110 exhibitions and has exhibited at over 150 museums, according to Boldt.
The match to renovate the concrete box that is now called Fariborz Maseeh Hall was $10 million. $5 million came from renovated Fariborz Maseeh. Of Schnitzer's $5 million, he asked to put $1 million towards endowing a museum director (currently Linda Tesner). The final $1 million came from another donor, and the match was in.
All other costs for running the gallery will be picked up by PSU, as though it were any other educational department.
"Jordan's donation went for the museum for a curator for the museum and a curator, a director and also for the building. So, it really had three purposes: staffing, the museum itself and then helping the rest of the building because we needed a $10 million match in order to unlock the bond funding from the state."
Boldt told Pamplin Media that Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University will not have a budget to buy art. "The university is not in a position to buy art. So that's my job, to look for donations."
There is very little storage space for art anyway. Schnitzer keeps his own in a warehouse in Northwest Portland, but there won't be stacks at the JSMA at PSU.
"He wants to make sure others have the same joy that he has gained from the art, his children and then the public in general. What he said is 'I'll be disappointed if we don't have a big K-12 program that brings students in from around the metro area, as well as all the PSU students."
However, Portland State University, which has over 1,000 art and design students, is expanding its art school, which is scattered over six buildings.
"We are looking down the road at creating another art and design building," said Boldt. "And that that is necessary because our art and design students, were turning them away. It's one of the areas that is most popular at the university. So, we're turning those away we need more space."
PSU competes with Oregon's other public universities for public money raised by bonds. Boldt expects the proposed new art building to be part of a bond measure in two to three years.
"We have to have our match in. So, we're hoping to get approval from the legislature in this next session."
Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday.
1855 S.W. Broadway.
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