Where Will Right Brainers Thrive?

You have likely been reading many articles and editorials recently about how the gentrification of Portland's downtown and neighborhoods has forced artists out of once inexpensive creative spaces. City Hall is poking around at some remedies. But now we learn that the beautiful Southwest Portland campus of Oregon College of Art and Craft is for sale. Who knows who will buy it, but, when sold, it is a decent bet that it will not continue as a haven for fine artists, craft people, and performance space.

In 2008, Daniel Pink released his pivotal book, A Whole New Mind, in which he argued that the U.S. economy has entered a conceptual age. He warned that if this economy is to thrive, right brain skills will distinguish its leaders. Necessary skills for managers and workers will be those that can neither be exported to Asia nor automated into robots or computer code. Artistic, creative thinkers and inventors will define those who excel. The MFAs will surpass the MBAs among top executives.

About this same time, I became involved with a program that would become the Right Brain Initiative, its goal to provide high quality arts education and creative thinking skills in Portland area elementary schools. Educating for 21st century skills is one of RBI's goals. Another, of course, is teaching art for art's sake: inspiring future makers, apparel designers, and fine artists.

Where will those young artists and creators go to hone their skills and practice their craft? Art Institute of Portland—gone; Marylhurst University and its Art Gym—gone; Oregon College of Art and Craft—closing soon. We must all pray for the Pacific Northwest College of Art to continue to thrive.

Portland prides itself not only on weirdness, but also on its outside apparel and footwear design sector. Many company founders in this industry have given generously to Oregon educational and cultural institutions. Why aren't they fully endowing institutions that can feed them the local talent they need to continue to thrive in the 21st century? I suspect OCAC could still be saved by an eight figure donation, but it will have to happen very quickly.