YU is artist-driven and will engage artists in experimental modalities that challenge institutional conventions. Some of the most prestigious contemporary museums around the world, from Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art to the New Museum in New York, began by artist initiative and continue to this day to be responsive to artists and contemporary life.
YU is not a museum and will not house a permanent collection. Drawing on Portland’s history, YU fills the need to revive and reimagine the legacy left by the Portland Center for Visual Arts. PCVA, cited as one of the most seminal contemporary arts spaces in the United States, produced and presented installations and performances from 1972 to 1987.
Akin to European kunsthalles such as those in Berlin and Munich, Zurich Migros Museum and Palais de Tokyo in Paris, YU’s industrial building and context bring to mind Dia:Beacon in upstate New York and MASS MOCA in North Adams, MA.
The Contemporary Art Center Cincinnati, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston and the Blanton Museum in Austin demonstrate that cities of comparable size can support contemporary art institutions like YU.
YU is now entering the planning phase of its artistic program and the exploratory phase of determining the feasibility, scope, timing and funding for undertaking its capital program. Artists, curators, philosophers and writers will be invited to YU to tour the building and participate in shaping the vision and ideas of YU’s program.
PROGRAMS PLANNED AT YU
- Multiple-gallery exhibitions of contemporary art
- Performance, screenings, music, lectures and conversation
- Artist residency program
- Community engagement
FACILITIES at YU
EXISTING AND ANTICIPATED
- Two galleries dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary art
- Virtual wing dedicated to the exhibition of new media, hosted in the safe
- 100 seat flex-space for lectures, performing arts, screenings, readings and more
- Four resident spaces for guest artists
- Café, bookstore and adjacent open-air courtyard
- Offices, work and meeting spaces, and storage rooms
- Audio recording studio
- Letterpress and small offset printmaking studio
- Wood and metal production shop
- Library reading room
- Large kitchen
- Sauna, steam room and laundry facilities
- Large freight and ADA accesible elevator
YU will produce and present contemporary art exhibitions, performances, public programs and events by regional, national and international artists. YU’s artist residency program will host guest and visiting artists and YU will engage the community in arts and educational activities. Each artist at YU will contribute to the program and impact the cultural, academic and artistic life of Portland and beyond.
MULTIPLE GALLERY EXHIBITIONS OF CONTEMPORARY ART
YU’s two primary exhibition spaces—one on the main floor and another, a city block-long space on the upper level, provide over 14,000 square feet for exhibitions, installations, multi-media productions and more. A virtual space for the display of online content will be conterminous with the two galleries and the flex-space will serve IRL. Contemporary artists across generations and disciplines will produce new work for YU’s exhibitions, explore exhibition-making, and, in some instances, create works that evolve over time at YU.
FLEX-SPACE FOR PERFORMANCE, FILM, MEDIA, PUBLIC PROGRAMS AND EDUCATION
YU’s 100 seat flex-space will be adaptable for performances, lectures, readings, music, multi-media presentations and education activities. YU’s public programs aim to explore the most challenging issues in contemporary art and culture today; be spontaneous and changing; and be multivalent in engaging diverse audiences.
Artist Residency Program
YU houses a guest artist residency program with four studios. To develop this model, YU researched international residency programs. Crucial ingredients in the programs to which YU aspires are the provocation of continual dialogue among artists, a library of artist's publications, production and wellness facilities, and funding for developing projects.
YU’s artist residency program will have no strictures on specific output and production, though it is anticipated that the artists’ research, ideas and activities will extend into YU’s exhibitions, performances, public programs and publications. YU is building networks and affiliations with local arts organizations, art schools and universities, and cultural and community organizations. These relationships can provide a public interface through talks or studio visits with YU visiting and guest artists.
Publishing in print and online is an extension of, and integral to, YU’s artistic programming. Publications will include catalogs, essays, audio and video recordings, editions and other compilations. These publications will complement the active energy of the space by providing scholarly feedback and an expanded context of critical dialog to YU’s exhibitions, events and residencies. At YU, there will be a library–reading room and a public bookstore. As books are produced and printed at YU, they will also be studied and sold.
YU’s community engagement and educational arts programming will be connected to its exhibitions, performances, film and online programming. Buckman Elementary, an arts magnet school, is within walking distance of YU: special initiatives will be developed to bring contemporary practices to these students and their families. Consistent with YU’s experimental approach, activities for younger audiences, teens and families will be radical, performative, interactive and extend beyond YU’s artistic programs into the city and civic life.
City officials, the press, arts patrons and the community at large often cite a gap in Portland’s cultural landscape. D. K. Row, art writer for the Oregonian says: “The one crucial planet missing from Portland’s expanding art universe: A nonprofit contemporary art center…that immerses the public and the local art world in the most challenging national and international art currents...and offer(s) the public razor-sharp devotion to the most cutting-edge contemporary art.” (The Oregonian, August 31, 2008).
We enter from the north on SE Morrison Street between SE 10th and 11th Avenues, where through a two-story glass façade—we see the open-air courtyard punctuated by the water tower pedestal. South through the courtyard, flanked by catwalks, is located the main entrance to YU. To the left of the entry, a café operates, serving through the window to the courtyard and to the lobby inside. Adjacent to the café is the YU bookshop, an outlet for YU multiples, editions and other publications. Westward, across the lobby and receptionist area, is the knuckle, providing access to the flex-space, main floor gallery and architectural stairway rising through the light well to the upper floor. Walking up the stair, we see amber light flooding through the aperture and into the grand gallery. This gallery is the full length of a city block and has too many windows.
On the upper floor of the east wing are located two of the four studios to be occupied by artists in the residency program. A library and reading room are adjacent to these spaces. A surprising kitchen with an enormous table is also found here. This room is the heart of YU.
On the intersecting mezzanine—through an indiscrete entrance from the libraryçare two more resident studios with low ceilings and large windows.
The tension between public and private spaces energizes visitors, staff and residents alike. Looking up through the glass ceiling in the print shop, we will see visitors walking in the main floor gallery. In the basement with the print shop are the production facilities and sauna. Finally, on weekends, we convene in the speakeasy—the building’s old boiler room—and drink.