Hallie E. Ford's gift to the Pacific Northwest College of Art will bring world-class artists to Portland for residencies
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Hallie E. Ford, a 102-year-old philanthropist, is giving the Pacific Northwest College of Art $15 million, the largest single donation to an Oregon cultural group.
The gift signals an important turnaround at the once-struggling art school and marks its growing role as a hub for the city's creative economy.
The college will use most of the money to create an ambitious program that will bring world-class artists, performers and designers to live and teach in Portland. Under the program, the college's 3,000 full-time and continuing education art students will be able to study painting, design, computer graphics and the like, with the artists.
"To endow a program that brings important artists to this community will change everything," says architect Brad Cloepfil, an internationally known Portland architect and one of a small group of creative executives who have been advising PNCA on its future. "It changes not only the school but this city."
The gift reflects Ford's desire "to see a globally recognized center for visual art and design education located in Oregon," she said in a written statement.
The gift dwarfs PNCA's largest previous gift, $530,000, from late artist and PNCA faculty member Gordon Gilkey. The college's budget this year is $7.5 million.
The Ford Family Foundation, which Ford and her husband founded in 1957, confines its gifts primarily to rural and southern Oregon communities, though Ford herself has been the major benefactor of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University in Salem, among other cultural institutions.
In February, the college and Allyn Ford, CEO of Roseburg Forest Products and son of Hallie and Kenneth Ford, began direct conversations that culminated in the $15 million gift. Christine D'Arcy of the Oregon Arts Commission confirms is the largest such donation made in Oregon.
For PNCA, the gift punctuates an extraordinary administrative turnaround. Four years ago, the college was struggling with issues regarding its financial health, faculty and staff morale. The future of its Pearl District campus, owned by the family of the late Edith Goodman, was uncertain.
But since taking over in 2003, Manley, who came to Portland after a stint as a fundraiser at the Claremont Colleges in California, has helped stabilize the college. It's now debt-free. Staff morale has turned sharply positive, and the college has just begun its first master of fine arts program.
Above all, Manley aggressively pushed the college to pursue relationships with several of Portland's world-class creative figures and companies, such as Cloepfil of Allied Works; Sohrab Vossoughi, founder of the design firm Ziba Design; and John Jay, a partner in the ad agency Wieden+Kennedy.
Those networking principles were the foundation of the new institute, which will be called the Ford Institute for Visual Education, and the ambitious artist-in-residence program. The college hasn't developed a short list of prospective visiting artists or even a launch date for the program. But it envisions bringing five to seven world-class artists, designers and performers to live and teach students in Portland for residencies lasting from six months to three years. Ford's gift, $10 million of which is designated for the institute, would pay for the artists' extended housing as well as a generous living stipend.
The influence and presence of these artists would not be restricted to the PNCA campus, according to Manley and Cloepfil. Those visiting teachers, in turn, likely would collaborate with Oregon artists, arts institutions and businesses, creating a wave of activity in Portland, PNCA officials say. The artists-in-residence would also bring their own network of contacts to visit and interact with Portlanders.
After contemplating the possibility of moving to another part of the city, possibly Old Town, the college now wants to stay in its Pearl District site, where it would continue to be just blocks from Ziba, Wieden+Kennedy and other creative companies.
"We don't want to be isolated or feel we are on an island," says Manley. "We want to be integrated in the River District."