Jordan Schnitzer's new Art Museum, which is located at on the first floor of the Fariborz Maseeh Hall, officially opened on Nov. 6, 2019. Alex Wittwer/PSU Vanguard

PSU’s first on-campus art museum opens to the public, free of charge

Free of charge, backpacks allowed and talk as much as you want. Welcome to Portland State’s first on-campus museum—the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State. 

The museum opened on Nov. 7 with a morning ribbon cutting and remarks, followed by an evening First Thursday exhibition. Around 1,300 visitors gathered for the grand opening on the 7,500 square-foot floors of the Fariborz Maseeh Hall, formerly Neuberger Hall, to enjoy a wide range of paintings, prints, sculptures and installations. 

The pieces were handpicked by Linda Tesner, the museum’s director and curator, from more than 13,000 objects making up the collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his family foundation. 

The motto of the opening exhibit is “Art for all,” with the goal of having “at least one work that resonates at a profound level with every visitor.” Tesner further stated that the goal was to use the arts to connect different fields of study—“providing rich creative, educational and collaborative opportunities across disciplines. Everyone is welcome here, no matter what interests you have or what you do.”

Entering the bright spacious atmosphere, framed by the unique glass window facade on SW Broadway, many engaged visitors were taking in the exhibit. Viewers are greeted by a large canvas immediately upon entry—a piece by Robert Colescott—“Mother Nature.” Colescott, who in addition to being a personal friend of the Schnitzer family, was also an instructor at PSU from 1957 through 1966. 

“I hope that this is an opportunity for Portland to remember that Robert Colescott taught at Portland State University before traveling to Cairo to investigate his African American roots,” Tesner said. 

The museum, curated by Tesner, former gallery director of Lewis & Clark, and the rest of her team, features works by local, national and international artists, all exhibited with a sense of detail.

The lower floor of the museum is larger and more softly lit. The wall furthest back in the room consists of a collection of photographs. Crossing the basement floor, the viewer faces some of the more socially critical work: pieces that possess the embedded power to spark debate. Sarah Kenney, the operations manager, pointed out—“Everything you see here tonight is supposed to be a launchpad for the museum and its goals.” If the goal is to assemble people of different backgrounds and different ages, the collection has, so far, done the job.

In addition to PSU’s new showcase, Schnitzer—who has indulged himself in the “creativity of the human spirit” since he bought his first piece of art at the age of 14—also sponsors museums at Washington State University and the University of Oregon. The investor and collector is in the possession of one of the country’s largest collection of prints. 

“Many people view museums as a place for someone else,” Schnitzer said. “But I firmly believe art is for everyone. I’m trying to take down those perceived walls.”

The museum is open on weekdays from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Thursdays 10 a.m.–8 p.m.