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Art Gym Fernanda DAgostino exhibition
About The Art Gym

The Mission of The Art Gym-

Since 1980, The Art Gym has been recognized as a venue exhibiting some of the most significant and timely art of this region.  The mission of the gallery is to increase public understanding of contemporary art of the Pacific Northwest through exhibitions, artists’ projects, publications, and public engagement.

Exhibitions and Projects-
The Art Gym is a non-collecting, non-commercial gallery that supports artists in creating ambitious and risk-taking projects at various stages in their careers. As an art space working within an academic venue we are committed to providing artistic and intellectual freedom.  The diverse exhibitions and projects produced for The Art Gym provide a context for the region’s art as well as each individual’s art practice.  Examples include: large scale projects, the production of new bodies of work, group exhibitions that broaden and deepen connections for regional artists, and the presentation of work in a retrospective of an accomplished artist.

Publications and Public Engagement-
The Art Gym catalogues continue to be one of the greatest historical records of contemporary art of the Pacific Northwest, contributing to the discourse on contemporary art and representing the region. This creates a body of knowledge that can be accessed by scholars, students, and the public.  In addition to producing printed catalogues for each exhibition and project, our website includes free downloads of all publications.  The Art Gym is committed to making knowledge accessible and connecting artists and community. We host public receptions, lectures, forums, and tours to create a platform for viewers to engage in discussions of contemporary art led by professional artists, curators, and critics.  

Image above by Brian Foulkes, Fernanda D'Agostino – Method of Loci 


About the curator

Blake Shell is The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Director and Curator of The Art Gym and Belluschi Pavilion at Marylhurst University, providing the artistic direction and leadership of the organization. Shell is a contemporary art curator and artist with over twelve years of experience in directing nonprofit and educational galleries. She received a BA in art from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and an MFA in photography from Savannah College of Art and Design. Her curatorial work has gained regional attention and press in the Pacific Northwest, as well as a national review on’s Critic’s Picks. Shell is currently a panelist for the Visual Chronicle of Portland, managed by Regional Arts & Culture Council.


Art Gym 1980

History and Audience

Founded in 1980, The Art Gym has produced hundreds of exhibitions, hosted even more public conversations, and published more than seventy exhibition catalogs and books available in print and online. The gallery has been recognized as a venue exhibiting some of the most significant and timely art of this region; and in 2005, The Art Gym was honored with a Governor's Arts Award. Recipients are selected on the basis of dedication to the advancement of the arts in Oregon, length of commitment to the statewide arts community, highest level of artistic contribution and extent of reputation in the county, state and nation.  The Art Gym is a member of Portland Art Focus, a collaborative venture designed to increase cultural tourism to the region.  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.  We have been reviewed in national and regional publications and online resources, including Art in America, Artforum, Sculpture Magazine, Artweek, The Oregonian, Portland Mercury, PORT and Oregon Arts Watch.  

The gallery is a prominent contributor to the arts community as well as the university; over half of the attendance of the gallery is by viewers outside of Marylhurst.  Artists, educators, students, arts professionals, and the public make up the audience of The Art Gym. We are well known as a venue for challenging programming and documentation of the region’s art, making our catalogues the single greatest record of regional contemporary art since 1980.  

The Art Gym organizes exhibitions and publications for artists at various key stages in their careers. The Art Gym publications are often the artists’ first catalogues, supporting their pursuit of artist fellowships, grants, residencies, and exhibitions at other institutions.  The Art Gym has a strong history of serving as a springboard that launches the careers of emerging artists and providing future opportunities, as well as being a landmark destination for artists’ retrospectives later in their significant careers.

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 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 gymnasium 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 catalogue in September 1980.

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