A contemporary art museum for Stumptown?

At Portland Architecture, Brian Libby has posted an intriguing piece (citing an original story by Nathalie Weinstein in the Daily Journal of Commerce) about a possible contemporary art museum in a proposed gateway tower to the Pearl District.

At this point the proposal, developed by a group of Portland State University graduate students, is something of a pipe dream: there’s a recession going down, and developers are still pretty much in hunker-down mode.

John Baldessari, “Stonehenge (with Two Persons) Blue,” 2005. Mixographia print on handmade paper. Jordan Schnitzer CollectionBut as Libby points out, the museum part of the proposal gets interesting when you consider two things:

1. The new museum’s collection would be built from the holdings of Portland arts patron Jordan Schnitzer.

2. Schnitzer is president and CEO of Harsch Investment Properties, which owns the two parcels in question, between West Burnside and Northwest Davis streets and Northwest 13th and 14th avenues.

Schnitzer is a significant arts player on the Portland scene, and more and more, along the West Coast. His name is on the University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. His primary focus as a collector is contemporary prints, and he’s serious about it. (Libby’s post includes interesting passages from an interview with Schnitzer by The Oregonian’s D.K. Row). The son of important regional patrons and collectors Arlene and Harold Schnitzer, Jordan Schnitzer has displayed genuine enthusiasm for getting his own continually evolving collection out to museums and educational institutions around the Northwest: He wants people to benefit from what he’s pulled together.

Obviously this is a “soft” report: Nothing concrete is happening. But who knows what might be going on behind the scenes? Portland has longed for a contemporary art museum for a long time, and Schnitzer has both the collection and the educational interest to get something kick-started. In general, metropolitan areas with multiple museums have stronger art scenes, so a viable contemporary art museum would have a ripple effect. Right now, Portland has the Portland Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Craft. Our nearest big-town neighbors, Seattle and San Francisco, have much more diverse museum scenes, and that’s made a big difference to their entire arts scenes.

So. Pipe dream or not, let’s keep an eye on this one and see if anything develops.


ILLUSTRATION: John Baldessari, “Stonehenge (with Two Persons) Blue,” 2005. Mixographia print on handmade paper. Jordan Schnitzer Collection