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The New College of the Arts
Author: Kathryn Kirkland
Posted: May 22, 2013

Left-to-right, from the top: PSU Symphony Orcestra, costume shop, Time Arts Club exhibit, musical Urine Town, campus foundry, taiko drum performance, architecture design class.

Student demand, growing prestige, and support from the community has led to a new name and designation for the arts on campus.

THE FACE OF CHANGE is about to appear on Lincoln Hall.

It’s a new $3.6 million glass tower that will be built this year on the Southwest Broadway side of Portland State’s oldest building. The tower will house a dance studio, acting studio, and an art gallery, all prominently visible from the street. This glass addition is the result of a $2.3 million gift from Portland arts benefactor Arlene Schnitzer, and will be the final phase of a more than $30 million renovation of the hall itself.

But the tower is just a physical symbol of a larger change: the evolution of the entire arts spectrum at the University. In February, the School of Fine and Performing Arts became the College of the Arts. The name change is a reflection of the growth in prestige, enrollment, and research dollars that the school—now the college—has been undergoing for years.

“The college name reflects the stature of our programs, the outstanding work of our faculty, and the vital support of the arts community in Portland,” says Barbara Sestak, dean of the college.

The new college is made up of the School of Architecture, School of Art & Design, School of Music, and School of Theatre & Film, and is home to some of the fastest growing programs at the University. More than 2,800 students are majoring in arts programs at PSU. The College of the Arts is one of only a handful of institutions in the world to bring this variety of creative disciplines under one umbrella.

Here’s a look inside.

School of Architecture

Shattuck Hall had its own major renovation three years ago, which transformed the 1915 building into a naturally lit, open, dynamic facility for Portland’s next generation of architects. Last year it opened the Ecological Learning Plaza featuring vertical gardens, a green roof system, and original furniture designs.

Rethinking spaces is what architecture is all about, and the work coming out of the School of Architecture is an expression of that idea. A recent PSU project redefined modular classrooms, transforming them from stuffy bungalows into bright, sustainable, healthy learning spaces. Faculty and students have worked all over the world, from helping the rebuilding efforts in post-Katrina New Orleans, to designing schools in Nepal.

Recently, the school’s Master of Architecture degree received accreditation from the national Architecture Accrediting Board. This allows its graduates to pursue professional licenses.


Architecture studio

School of Art & Design

Students from a variety of backgrounds interact, exchange ideas, and expand their aesthetic boundaries in the School of Art & Design. it boasts more than 1,400 students taught by a faculty of internationally recognized artists, designers, and scholars. Graphic design is one of the school’s most popular programs, and its unique Art as Social Practice master’s program brings interactive, collaborative art to the public.

Fine arts class

Art and design students have easy access to the Portland Art Museum, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, and major downtown galleries and design firms. This gives them a great opportunity to gather inspiration for their own developing expression.

In March, the Harold and Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation announced the creation of the Arlene Schnitzer Visual Arts prize, awarding a total of $9,500 annually to two outstanding PSU art students. it will be the largest cash award offered in the School of Art & Design, and is recognition of PSU as a major player in the arts in the Pacific Northwest.

School of Music

Take a walk through Lincoln Hall, and you’ll hear a jazz combo rehearsing in one room, a student practicing violin or trumpet scales in another, and a guitarist or bass player working through arpeggios in a hallway. The building is brimming with glorious sounds.

The School of Music provides an outstanding forum for the training of students seeking professional music careers, preparing for advanced degrees, or pursuing non-major study in the areas of performance, composition, conducting, jazz studies, theory, history, music education, pedagogy, music technology and ethnomusicology.

The school also presents top-notch performances throughout the year, from full-on orchestral and choral concerts to solo recitals. This is where grammy-winner Esperanza Spalding got her start. PSU is also one of the few universities in the country that produces a full opera with orchestra every year, and many of the singers and musicians are undergraduate students.

Jazz studies class

School of Theatre & Film

Whether in front of an audience or behind the stage or camera lens, PSU theatre and film students get a chance to stretch their performing and production skills.

The Servant of Two Masters

The theatre arts program puts on performances throughout the academic year, from Shakespeare to modern musicals. The film program has one of the fastest-growing majors at the University. More than 300 students are enrolled in the program and over 100 students graduated in the first five years. Students have found work opportunities with locally filmed shows such as Portlandia, Leverage, and Real World.

Headquartered in Lincoln Hall, the School of Theatre & Film features dedicated rehearsal and design studios, screening rooms, production offices, scene and costume facilities, and computer labs.