Portland Art Museum Receives $10 Million From Philanthropist Arlene Schnitzer

By Donald Orr (OPB)
Portland, Ore. Jan. 22, 2020 3:15 p.m.

The Portland Art Museum announced Tuesday a $10 million gift from philanthropist Arlene Schnitzer – the largest contribution ever from an individual donor in the museum’s 127-year history.

Brian Ferriso, director and chief curator for the museum, said the gift will help shape the future of the Portland arts community.


“This extraordinary gift is a profound investment in our role as Portland’s museum for art and film, but also in the future of the arts in our region,” Ferriso said in a statement.

Related: Rothko: Life Beyond The Abstract

Schnitzer's gift supports the museum's ongoing "Connections Campaign" intended to bring together the two buildings on its campus through the new Mark Rothko Pavilion. Named after the famous 20th-century painter who grew up in Portland, the museum aims to use the pavilion to improve public access and bolster its endowment through the campaign.

“The pavilion will allow for us to have any person or anybody enter at the same location, [and] move through our facilities in any way they’re able to,” Ferriso said. “It’s connecting us not only to the city, but building to building, people to art and people to people.”


Ferriso said the museum has about $25-30 million left to raise in the next two to three years.

Jordan Schnitzer, Arlene’s son, announced the contribution at the museum Tuesday morning. The heir to one of Oregon’s top philanthropic families, Jordan, his mother Arlene, and his late father Harold have made substantial gifts to the museum and other arts institutions in Oregon.

“The intent was to show our family’s confidence — my mother’s confidence in the importance of this new Rothko Pavilion,” Schnitzer told OPB.

“Art is the best of what we do in society. In the complicated lives we all have, we all need to be inspired — and art is inspirational.”

Gov. Kate Brown joined Schnitzer in celebrating his mother’s dedication to the Portland arts.

“Everyone in this room knows Arlene Schnitzer has truly been the heart and soul of Portland’s art community for over half a century,” Brown said.

“She has recognized that the arts are not a luxury — they are absolutely a necessity. Access to the arts builds community and culture that make Oregon a great state to call home.”

Along with Schnitzer’s gift, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, announced a $750,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of the museum’s campaign.

The donation and grant come six months after the museum announced staff cutbacks, eliminating 14 positions from the museum's 244 full- and part-time staff.