The Art of Community

There are more ways than ever to tap into PNCA’s creative energy.

Preteens creating costumes during a smARTworks summer youth camp, adults engaged in classes on picture book illustration or etching, acclaimed multimedia artist Wendy Red Star—who grew up on Montana’s Crow Reservation—lecturing on her work. These are just a few of the hundreds of experiences open to the public year-round at Pacific Northwest College of Art (511 NW Broadway, 503-226-4391,

Established by the Portland Art Museum in 1909, this highly regarded institution now headquartered in the masterfully transformed century-old federal post office building infuses the Pearl District with both vitality and diversity. Its 600 undergraduate and graduate students hail from 12 countries, and 21 percent of the student body self-identify as persons of color. Many students live in the strikingly contemporary ArtHouse at NW Park Avenue and Couch Street, and PNCA will open a new residence hall later this year at 1111 NW 16th Street.

But you needn’t be enrolled full-time to partake of the school’s countless workshops, lectures, and exhibitions, and the school’s Community Education classes are available to people of all ages and experience levels. “We continue to expand our programming,” says Lisa Radon, PNCA communications manager. “Although we’re keeping a strong focus on visual arts, we’re also moving into different design programs.

For example, PNCA’s undergrad Graphic Design program runs a lecture series that brings innovative designers to campus. And the Make+Think+Code workshop, “kind of a school within a school,” she says, offers courses on understanding and using different technology tools, from projection mapping to artificial intelligence.

PNCA is also a great resource for viewing art. On First Thursdays, in addition to exhibit openings in the public galleries, you can see performances, art installations, and pop-up shops of student work for sale.

The public can get an up-close look at the creative process during the Graduate Open Studios in November, and “see work by our alumni all over town,” she says, noting several galleries owned by former students, including Williamson | Knight, Chingada, First Brick, and Third Space.

PNCA continues to expand, most recently with the Glass Building, opened recently just across the Broadway Bridge in a soaring warehouse-style space. It houses the school’s sculpture workshops for wood, ceramics, glass, metal, and soft sculpture, and it contains a street-level gallery. “It’s so beautiful,” says Radon, “I call it an industrial cathedral.”

— Andrew Collins | Photos courtesy of PNCA