The Museum of Contemporary Craft will close its doors

PNCA shutters the craft museum to re-direct resources to the college

Pacific Northwest College of Art announced today that it will be closing the Museum of Contemporary Craft space on Northwest Davis Street and absorbing its programs into a new Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at PNCA.

UPDATE: Part Two of our ongoing coverage of the closing of the Museum of Contemporary Craft has been posted. Based on an interview with PNCA’s Casey Mills and Mack McFarland, it explains the college’s decision-making process and the plans for the center that is absorbing the museum’s collection and programs.

“Relieving the obligations of the Davis Street space will enable PNCA to refocus those resources on programs and assets that truly engage our students, alumni, and faculty and enhance students’ preparation for lives of creative practice,” said Casey Mills, PNCA’s interim president.

The Museum of Contemporary Craft is closing its doors for good.

The Museum of Contemporary Craft is closing its doors for good.

PNCA took over the Museum of Contemporary Craft in 2009 after the museum experienced serious financial difficulties after moving into the current space at 724 Northwest Davis from its old home on Southwest Corbett St. At the time, the combination looked promising, a way to keep the museum, a central player in Oregon’s active craft community, going. PNCA saw the museum as a potential training ground where its students could work with curators and faculty on staging exhibitions. It also fit into then-president Tom Manley’s ideas about making PNCA and the museum a meeting ground for Portland’s extensive “maker” community—designers, artists and craftpeople of all sorts.

“Despite the focused efforts of the Museum of Contemporary Craft staff, commitment of PNCA administration, and work of a Board of Governors-led task force, the original vision of transforming the museum into a dynamic, student-centric educational resource was not fully realized. In the meantime, the financial cost to the college has remained high,” according to PNCA’s press release announcing the change.

The Betty Feves retrospective at MoCC restored a beloved Oregon artist to the city. Betty Feves, "Six Figures," date unknown. Raku on wooden base. Collection of Feves Family. Photo: Dan Kvitka

The Betty Feves retrospective at MoCC restored a beloved Oregon artist to the city. Betty Feves, “Six Figures,” date unknown. Raku on wooden base. Collection of Feves Family. Photo: Dan Kvitka

The new Center for Contemporary Art & Culture will be led by Mack McFarland, who is the director or PNCA’s exhibitions program. “I look forward to building out the Center for Contemporary Art & Culture’s programming and community, together with my colleagues at PNCA, including the students, faculty, staff, and alumni,” McFarland said. “The Center offers us an opportunity to enter into dialog with committed partners, interested parties, and new audiences to reflect on our perpetually changing world and our role in that change.”

PNCA intends to sell the museum space on Davis Street, and the museum’s craft shop, which sold a substantial amount of work by Oregon craft artists, will be closing, too. PNCA will keep the museum’s substantial collection of craft work, especially ceramics.

We’ll be talking about the ramifications of the closing of the museum in coming days. Stay tuned.


I reviewed the history of Museum of Contemporary Craft when Namita Wiggers resigned as director and curator in 2014.

I have written about the merger between the museum and PNCA several times over the years, mostly when it was happening and I was writing for The Oregonian. I won’t list them all, but here’s a sampling.

Read more by Barry Johnson.

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10 Responses.

  1. Lynne Duddy says:

    The end of an era…

  2. Jerry Ketel says:

    I never understood why Manley wanted MoCC so badly. It never seemed to fit. I think the then Board of Governors were too much in love with Tom to say no.

  3. Dan Wasil says:

    This is sad. Given the high expenses for the new space, it’s not entirely unexpected, but….dang. The collection needs to be protected. The concept needs to be protected. I salute Tom for taking bold, brave steps to make this work.

    Dang. Portland deserves a space like this. I hope PNCA, or someone, can see their way to take up this huge slack.

  4. Kim says:

    My Mom volunteered at the Corbett location – a sad ending.

  5. Sandra Haynie says:

    The shows in general lacked a positive uplifting focus.

    The museum gift shop prices were too high. Could never find something beautiful and useful for under $30.00.

    It should have been open on Sunday.

    • Craig says:

      Something made locally by a craftsperson for under $30? That is a tall order I’m afraid. Typical retail pricing models follow this structure: if it retails for $30, it wholesales to the retailer for $15, the maker’s costs are typically half again that amount $7.50.

      How many hours would you spend hand making something that you can sell for $7.50? Could you pay your bills doing so?

      • Jane says:

        Well said Craig. I don’t complain that I can’t afford to buy high-fashion clothing. I’m simply not their market. I’m not even the market for my own jewelry!

        There are people who want to want to, and can, spend more money on something than the next guy. Many people don’t want a cheap mass-produced item. And even if you can find inexpensive handmade items, one never knows that craftsperson’s story. Do they have a trust fund? A sugar daddy? Is it just a hobby? Are they drowning in debt?

        I personally don’t expect any kind of art exhibition to be uplifting, but instead, to make me think and to challenge me. Thank god MoCC did that.

      • shawn says:

        yes!!! that was my exact thought! I guess there were cards for sale for under 30 dollars. anyone making a statement like that must surely not be a craftsperson. expecting handmade well- crafted work for less than 30 dollars is very unreasonable. i am a jeweler and i don’t even sell a pair of earrings at that price point, nobody does that i know of.

  6. Joan says:

    Such a great Portland tradition, this wonderful craft museum. I hope they can regroup and provide a glorious space as in the old NW area where I used to take the bus from SE Portland just to see the great ceramics and such.

  7. Shannon says:

    Such a great loss to Portland’s arts & crafts culture. I wish more outreach had been made to the crafts community before this decision. Granted, it is a lot of money to keep a museum going, but perhaps it could have been moved to a smaller location or reincarnated as a nation-wide exhibit exploring NW craft. Truly the end of an era.

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