“Not That Kind of College”

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Before I write any more about my years at the Museum Art School, I thought I better clarify what kind of a college this was. The photo above, taken around 1980, shows almost the entire student body, faculty and administrators on the floor of the art museum. The man with glasses in the front is a printmaking teacher. I am obscured by my legs in the air on the left margin.

We were part of the Portland Art Museum who handled the financial details. As for us, we had three administrators for many years: a dean, a secretary/registrar, and a financial aid worker. The rest of the college was run by the faculty. We had a faculty council which was chaired in successive years by elected full time faculty. I say elected, but really it was a rotation so that everyone had a turn at the work. The faculty secretary was in a similar rotation. Three faculty committees handled admissions, curriculum and personnel and tenure. The council met once a month with the committees meeting once a month between the council.

While we were an opinionated and vocal bunch, we hammered out our disagreements and nearly always reached consensus on decisions. So the college was really more of a collaboration than an institution, and it remained that way for many years. Eventually the college was renamed the Pacific Northwest College of Art, gained independence from the museum, built its own building and built up a multi-layered administration. When I look at their website now, I recognize almost nothing of the place I called home for 25 years. As with so many colleges, a majority of faculty is now part-time and a group of “professionals” run things. But while it lasted, the Museum Art School was an unlikely anomaly in academe. And it fit me perfectly.

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