PNCA Campus Background
—Anna B. Crocker
Anna B. Crocker, the first curator and principal of the Museum Art School, was, by all accounts, a determined and ambitious visionary. “It’s better to have more ideas than funds,” she was famously known to say. Through dedication and hard work she laid a solid foundation for two dynamic institutions—the Portland Art Museum and Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), and in doing so helped to indelibly shape the visual arts landscape that characterizes the city of Portland today.
Museum Art School building on SW 10th and Madison circa 1940s. PNCA Archives.
In 1905, before there was PNCA, even before there was a Museum Art School, there was the Portland Art Association. This group of devoted Portland artists met weekly in a small building on SW Fifth Avenue and Taylor Street, donated to the group by businessman and arts supporter W.H. Corbett. Four years later, with growing enthusiasm from the city and steadily increasing enrollment, the Portland Art Association opened the Museum Art School (now PNCA)—the first school of its kind on the West Coast. The institution continued to grow, and in 1914, trustees of the Museum Art School negotiated for property on the South Park Blocks in order to found a Museum and Art School that could accommodate the increasing student body.
Today, the Portland Art Museum occupies those original buildings. Over the next 75 years, the School and Museum continued to grow in square footage and stature. In 1994, the College, then 84 years old, formally separated from the Portland Art Museum. The Oregonian compared the event to “a sprout moving from the greenhouse into the open air.” With financial independence and administrative freedom came a new location: PNCA moved into to the Goodman Building in 1998, its current 68,000 square foot campus headquarters at 1241 NW Johnson Street in the Pearl District.
PNCA’s Main Campus Building. Photo: Matthew Wilson
PNCA’s campus currently occupies approximately 150,000 gross square feet in six buildings centered primarily on a three-block area around its current main campus building on NW Johnson Street. Approximately half the campus currently operates in leased facilities (65,000 gross square feet) that house undergraduate and graduate studios, the Sculpture, Illustration, and Communication Design departments, as well as administrative offices.
The PNCA Campus Master Plan, drafted in August 2005 with the help of renowned architect Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture, recognized that the growing institution could make more efficient use of resources by purchasing rather than leasing facilities and by consolidating the campus around a single node. Under the direction of Board members Laura Hill (SRG Partnerships) and Al Solheim (AWS Real estate), the College created an ad hoc committee to identify and purchase the facilities that would become the building blocks of a permanent campus.
With the help of community members Mark Edlen, Tad Savinar, and Larry Dully, the Campus Master Plan committee retained the services of Colliers International to help broker the purchase of its Main Campus Building (previously the Edith Goodman Building). Concurrent to that process, PNCA submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Education to apply for control of the federal surplus property at 511 NW Broadway.
511 NW Broadway building exterior. Photo: Matthew Miller ‘11
In 2008, the College purchased its Main Campus Building, an initial step in stabilizing the College’s home in the Pearl District, with the long-term vision of creating a concentrated urban-based campus organized on the North Park Blocks. That same year, PNCA was approved by the U.S. Department of Education and General Services Administration (GSA) to acquire the federal building at 511 NW Broadway.
Museum of Contemporary Craft. Photo: Basil Childers
PNCA continued to establish itself along the North Park Blocks in 2009 when it entered into a partnership with internationally recognized Museum of Contemporary Craft, the anchor of the DeSoto Arts Building at NW 8th Ave and Davis Street. Since then, the two organizations have established a strong connection between students of fine art and the museum experience.
Creativity Works Here
PNCA is now embarking on our boldest venture yet: a $15 million campaign to transform not just a college, but a city, by establishing the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design as an anchor for the College’s vision of a new campus home on Portland’s North Park Blocks, thanks to a lead gift from The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation of $5 million to name the historic former post office at 511 NW Broadway.
Exterior rendering of PNCA’s Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design. Courtesy Allied Works Architecture.
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