Oregon Legislature approves funding for new home for the School of Art + Design

Architectural concept rendering for planned PSU Art + Design Center
Architectural concept rendering of planned PSU Art + Design center

The Oregon Legislature has approved funding for a new center to house the Portland State University School of Art + Design, a modern facility that will bring together all the Art and Design programs under one roof, creating a central hub for the school.

In the final days of the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers approved funding of $68 million through state bonds. The university will raise an additional $5 million through philanthropy to complete the $73 million project, which is expected to be finished in 2024.

The new Art + Design center will provide new teaching spaces, digital labs and maker spaces, materials storage, and gallery/exhibit spaces for the school’s nearly 1,100 students, addressing a deficit in art teaching labs and collaborative learning spaces identified by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission’s Strategic Capital Development Plan. New student spaces in the Art + Design center will serve as a “collaboratory,” facilitating interactions across disciplines both within the School of Art + Design and with other academic units. 

The School of Art + Design’s students and programs are currently operating in five non-contiguous locations across campus, without a unified space to gather as a community or a central site to seek advising and peer support. The new building will provide these much-needed facilities while freeing up space in other buildings for academic programs.

Located in the University District, the new project will increase the School of Art + Design’s space capacity by 15,000 square feet and also increase efficiency of use by uniting the school’s programs under one roof. 

With a focus on increasing retention and completion among students and nurturing partnerships with community partners and employers, the new center will also offer spaces and facilities that are better situated to serve the needs of underrepresented minorities within the School of Art + Design. PSU educates the most underserved students in the state, and 43% of the students in the School of Art + Design identify as underrepresented minorities (URM). 

“I am grateful to our partners at the Higher Education Coordinating Commission and in the Oregon Legislature for recognizing the importance of this project and the impact it will have both on Portland’s downtown core and on our students’ lives,” said PSU President Stephen Percy. “As we celebrate our 75th anniversary, we are leaning into our calling to better serve the needs of all members of our community and this project will beautifully support the vitality of just and diverse programs.”  

“The new home for the School of Art + Design will help us fulfill our mission of serving and supporting our diverse population of students, and working relentlessly to inspire creativity, excellence, growth and service to the community among our students, faculty and staff,” said Lis Charman, director of the School of Art + Design. “We are so excited to finally bring all of our students together in one central hub, a place that embraces the power of creativity and interdisciplinary collaboration. We envision this as a place where everyone, regardless of background or identity, is encouraged to dream and make.” 

“The School of Art + Design is a shining example of the ethos of the College of the Arts, where faculty and staff work hand in hand with students and industry partners to lift each other up, using the arts as a means to understand our shared human condition and create opportunities for equity and compassion,” said Leroy Bynum Jr., dean of the College of the Arts. “The new Art + Design center will enable the creation of a brand-new kind of collegiate arts complex – where scholars from many disciplines work together to envision a hopeful future, unleashing the power of curiosity, service, economic opportunity and problem solving.”