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History of The Art Gym

In 1980, few institutions took the art of the Northwest seriously. The Portland Center for the Visual Arts focused on national and international work, while the Portland Art Museum mounted infrequent regional shows and published only rarely. The handful of commercial galleries and artists' spaces concentrated, as they do now, primarily on recent work by individual artists.

The Art Gym began as the vision of Kay Slusarenko (Chair of the Art Department from 1978-1998), who saw the potential of the unused college gymnasium. In collaboration with faculty members Terri Hopkins and Paul Sutinen, the decision was made to dedicate the space to exhibitions and publications featuring art of the Pacific Northwest.

Sutinen supervised the initial physical transformation of gym to gallery, and the community donated $1,500 and 400 hours of volunteer labor to the cause. Under the direction of curator Hopkins, The Art Gym opened its first show of contemporary Northwest art and published its first catalog in September 1980.

Since 1980, The Art Gym has shown the work of more than 300 artists, produced more than 60 exhibition catalogs, and sponsored numerous roundtables and public forums.

Today, The Art Gym collaborates with artists, writers, guest curators, and other Northwest arts organizations. Exhibitions have toured to such museums as Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, the Schneider Museum of Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon and the Museum of Northwest Art in Bellingham, Washington..

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