Building Community coincides with Portland State University’s 75th anniversary and highlights the work of over 50 current and former faculty members from PSU’s School of Art + Design. Curated by Linda Tesner, Building Community displays the depth of talent at PSU as well as the faculty’s role in developing the rich arts community in Portland and throughout Oregon.

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Curatorial Statement:

As Portland State University celebrates its 75th anniversary, it is a thrill to exhibit work by past and present Art + Design faculty in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at PSU. It has been a great pleasure to look at the work of the 54 artists in this exhibition, and begin to understand how Oregon’s expansive arts community has been built, in significant part, by the traditions of teaching at PSU. The School of Art + Design has both deep roots and a far reach. It is clear that the department has been nimble in its response to the shifting formal and aesthetic concerns of each decade and that there has been a dedicated commitment to embracing each new generation of students.

The history of PSU starts with humble beginnings. The university started as the Vanport Extension Center in Vanport, the city slightly north of Portland built by Henry Kaiser to house wartime shipyard workers during World War II. The Extension Center was established to serve returning WWII veterans who were eligible for a college education thanks to the GI Bill. During its first summer session, the fledgling university enrolled 220 students, 94 percent of whom were veterans ranging in age from 18 to 47. The profile of the “average” PSU student has changed considerably over the past 75 years!

As far as I can tell (though records documenting the earliest studio programs are exceedingly slim), art has been taught at PSU for all 75 of the preceding years. In researching the individual artists in this exhibition, it became obvious how interpersonally connected—and influential—this community of emeriti and current faculty are. PSU art students have evolved into PSU art instructors; lifelong friendships and collaborations have formed. From Robert Colescott, who was the first African American to represent the US with a solo exhibition at the Venice Biennale, to Mel Katz, who was a founder of the inordinately influential Portland Center for the Visual Arts, to Harrell Fletcher, who established the relatively new and revolutionary program of Art + Social Practice—these and many other PSU faculty have had a hand in shaping the art ecology of Oregon and, in fact, the trajectory of American contemporary art.

I have curated exhibitions in academic institutions for the past twenty-two years and I have had a front row seat observing the challenges faced by my colleagues in studio. I experience, over and over, the generous spirit required of those teaching art. Every art professor is simultaneously also a working artist, invested in studio output and the demands of building a career as an exhibiting professional. In short, every art professor has two full-time jobs, one in the classroom and one in the studio. This takes enormous dedication, energy, focus, and commitment. Every student who has taken an art class has benefited from their professor’s determination to address two fairly diametrically opposed goals: to educate and to create. A balancing act if ever there is one.

Tracking down artwork to include in this exhibition was a treasure hunt—I discovered many wonderful works to ponder. But it was not easy. I originally thought that it would be fairly straightforward to borrow artwork from the private and public collections that are known for deep holdings by Oregon artists, but holdings by PSU faculty were very rare. Similarly, I could only find one documented faculty exhibition over the span of 75 years. It was Currents in Northwest Art: An Exhibition of Works by the University’s Emeriti Art Faculty, curated by Donald P. Beebe and Mary A. Constans in 2001. (The fifteen artists in that exhibition are again represented in this one.) I discovered that PSU artists have not been collected or exhibited to the degree that is deserved. PSU’s faculty, past and present, represents some of the most significant artists in Oregon; they should be recognized, celebrated, their works preserved. It is my ardent hope that Building Community: PSU Art + Design Faculty, Past + Present will shine a light on the rich history and current achievements wrought by our colleagues.

A last comment: It was my intention to be as inclusive as humanly possible in curating the list of artists exhibited here. I deeply apologize if I have inadvertently overlooked a professor whose work should have been included. And, finally, I would have liked to have included the dates for each faculty member’s tenure at PSU in the didactic material, but privacy regulations prevented me from accessing this information.

-- Linda Tesner

Gunnar Adamovics

Susan Agre-Kippenhan

Bettye Lou Bennett

Joe Biel

Pat Boas

Horia Boboia

Kate Bingaman Burt

Elisabeth Charman

Craig Cheshire

Robert Colescott

Mary Contans

Eleanor Erskine

Tia Factor

Harrell Fletcher

Walton Fosque

Byron Gardner

Erik Geschke

Ray Grimm

Jean Kendall Glazer

James Lee Hansen

Susan Harlan

Sabina Zeba Haque

Alison Heryer

Frederick Heidel

James Hibbard

M. Michelle Illuminato

Lisa Jarrett

Robert Kasal

Mel Katz

Leonard Kimbrell

Fred Kline

Michihiro Kosuge

Solange Kowert

Stephen Lee

William LePore

Briar Levit

Frederic Littman

Elizabeth Mead

Robert S. Morton

Richard Muller

Louis Ocepek

Julie Perini

Daniel Pirofsky

Craig Pozzi

Richard Prasch

Ralph Pugay

Rita Robillard

Laura Ross-Paul

Sean Schumacher

Isaka Shamsud-din

Margaret Shirley

Judy Vogland

Donald Wilson

Emily Young