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Byline: Bob Keefer The Register-Guard

Portland philanthropist and art collector Jordan Schnitzer kick-started the ambitious renovation of the University of Oregon Museum of Art with a multimillion-dollar gift and got a special honor in return Tuesday:

The museum is now the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

"I am deeply honored," Schnitzer told a roomful of well-wishers who gave him a standing ovation. "I am humbled by the recognition. And I pledge to keep working on behalf of the university."

Closed since September 2002, the museum is in the final stages of a $14.3 million renovation that will more than double its size and give it room to display more art from its collection as well as traveling exhibitions.

It's set to reopen the first week in October. An open house is scheduled Saturday to give the public a preview and a rare chance to see behind-the-scenes areas such as the museum vault and workshops.

The gift, kept under tight wraps until now, guaranteed the issuance of $6.36 million in state bonds at a time when the fund-raising for the remodeling had bogged down just over a year ago.

UO President Dave Frohnmayer called Schnitzer's donation "a transformative gift that has made this all possible."

Museum officials wouldn't say how much money was involved, except to describe the gift as "multimillion-dollar."

The gift includes money for the renovation itself and a financial commitment that will guarantee ongoing support of the museum, said Christie McDonald, director of development and external affairs for the museum.

Fund-raising literature for the museum in 2000 said it would take a $3 million donation to name the building.

Schnitzer, a 1973 UO graduate, was honored along with his parents, Harold and Arlene Schnitzer, at a reception amid construction debris in the museum building.

He has been involved in fund-raising for the art museum since joining the Museum of Art Council in 1978. In 1979-80, he worked on a $500,000 campaign to upgrade the building's accessibility to people with disabilities. Four years ago, he donated money to name the museum's Schnitzer Gallery of Northwest Regional and American Art.

A little more than a year ago, the museum told him it still needed substantial help in its fund-raising for the renovation to guarantee getting the state bonds, he said. "I told them I would back them up," he said.

Art is an essential, not a frill, said Schnitzer, the president of Harsch Investment Properties in Portland.

"The importance of art in our lives - and especially for students and children - is that art is nonjudgmental," he said.

"When you come through these doors and see the paintings, sculpture, prints and antiquities, each individual is given the freedom to like the work or dislike the work."

One of the first exhibits the museum will mount after it reopens is 90 Andy Warhol prints from Schnitzer's personal collection of contemporary prints.

His mother, Arlene Schnitzer, also is an art collector and prominent patron of the arts. For years the owner of an influential Portland gallery, the Fountain Gallery, she has collected such Northwest artists as Carl Morris and Morris Graves.

Last year, Jordan Schnitzer won the Oregon Governor's Arts Award for his support of art institutions across the state, including the Oregon College of Art & Craft, the High Desert Museum, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, the Art Gym at Marylhurst and the Pacific Northwest College of Art.

The museum remodeling, designed by architect Thomas Beeby of Beeby Rupert Ainge of Chicago, follows closely the original vision of Ellis Lawrence, dean of the UO architecture school when the museum opened in 1932 to house the Murray Warner Collection of Oriental Art.

Designed as a private study center not open to the public, the museum suffered from poor traffic flow in dead-end galleries and was hampered in its efforts to mount traveling shows by an outdated heating and humidity control system.

The remodeled museum will include nine galleries - one nearly 4,000 square feet - along with a cafe, gift shop, educational center and special events hall.


What: Tour the renovated museum - no paintings on the walls just yet, but the building is nearly done.

Where: 1430 Johnson Lane, on the UO campus

When: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Admission: Free


When remodeling is complete, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon will house nine galleries, a cafe, a gift shop, an educational center and an events hall. Thomas Boyd / The Register-Guard A worker on Tuesday hauls materials around the University of Oregon art museum, which will be named for philanthropist Jordan Schnitzer. "I am humbled by the recognition. And I pledge to keep working on behalf of the university." - JORDAN SCHNITZER, PORTLAND ART COLLECTOR AND PHILANTHROPIST
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Title Annotation:Higher Education; Jordan Schnitzer will be honored for a "multimillion dollar" project donation
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 5, 2004
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