Tom Strini, Editor and writer of the Corvallis Review, profiles the reception for the new exhibition at Oregon State University, Cultural Conversations, as well as Portland art collector and philanthropist, Jordan Schnitzer.
Jordan Schnitzer, a Portland businessman, art collector and philanthropist, has contributed vast amounts of money and time to Oregon arts organizations. (In this, he followed the lead of his parents, Harold and Arlene; the Oregon Symphony Orchestra plays in Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.) The superb campus art museum at the University of Oregon bears Jordan Schnitzer's name, as do the museum of the University of Washington and the new Japanese Arts Learning Center at Portland's Japanese Garden. He heads the Jordan D. Schnitzer Family Foundation, repository of over 11,000 prints. The foundation has organized exhibitions in more than 100 museums.
Decades of Schnitzer philanthropy passed Corvallis and Oregon State by -- until April 3, when the Cultural Conversations show of Schnitzer Foundation prints opened at five OSU campus locations. The show runs through May 3. Admission is free to all.
On April 5, about 350 students, faculty, administrators and community art lovers crowded into the large common room at Bexell Hall for the opening celebration. OSU President Ed Ray, Liberal Arts Dean Larry Rodgers, OSU art history professor Kirsi Peltomaki and Schnitzer addressed the gathering.
Ray noted that Schnitzer, a U of O grad (BA, literature, '73), had donned an orange tie for the occasion. Ray, who had met with Schnitzer for over an hour earlier in the afternoon, hinted that the print show might mark the beginning of an ongoing relationship between the philanthropist and Oregon State. Ray also underscored his personal commitment to raising the arts -- historically, a poor relation of OSU's scientific, technical and agricultural divisions -- to equal footing.
Peltomaki, in curating the exhibition, spent hours in Portland browsing through folder after folder to find just the right work for OSU. She marveled at the opportunity, for herself and for the students who get to see this rare, important work.
"Look at it and think about it," she told the crowd, which would shortly split up and trek the half-mile art walk to all five locations. "And think about it again a month from now, or 10 years from now."
Schnitzer seconded Peltomaki's advice.
"Just look at it, just feel it," he said. "Let yourself explore it." He also touched on a related theme, that the influence of the arts tends to permeate both personal and professional life, no matter the field of endeavor: "The idea that we can live in silos is over."
Schnitzer and his division of students, professors, administrators and art fans visited Hung Liu's portraits at the Asian and Pacific Cultural Center and then Joe Feddersen's work at the Native American Longhouse Eena Haws. They ended their tour at Centro Cultural César Chávez, to see Enrique Chagoya's prints. Schnitzer spoke with fervor about all of these artists and their works.
"I don't have an art history degree," he said, later, at a joint interview with President Ray and Dean Rodgers. "I guess what I do is talk from the heart about the way the art speaks to me. I want to be down-to-earth, to help people shed their fear and experience and embrace art.
Schnitzer, who had expressed surprise and delight at the large, enthusiastic turnout, appeared exhilarated after the tour.
"We may be rivals on the athletic field," said the life-long Duck, "But we want all our colleges and universities to thrive. I'm so impressed with Ed and what he's done to see the university through its transition. It's remarkable how Ed Ray has kept the university growing."
Ray, Rodgers and Schnitzer agree that the arts are integral to education, not expendable ornaments.
"The jobs of my parents and grandparents are basically gone," Schnitzer said. "More than ever, we need people who can think in a creative way. The challenges of the past are not the challenges of the future. We must evolve our institutions. The arts can help us do that. The arts are the vehicles that open our minds to new ideas.
"I love art, and I love sharing it even more. I would hope that every student will make going to an art museum a part of daily campus life."