PORTLAND, Ore. — On Straight Talk this week, Portland businessman and philanthropist, Jordan Schnitzer, discussed his foundation’s $150,000 Black Lives Matter artists grant program.
It’s a partnership between the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University and the JSMA museums at the University of Oregon and Washington State University.
Each university will award $2,500 to 20 artists for a total of 60 artists. Artists who live in Oregon and Washington can submit artwork or projects created in response to the current Black Lives Matter movement. Artists can apply here.
“In my view, artists have always been the chroniclers of our time,” he said.
He said when the museums fully open, the artwork will be displayed, and the universities and Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation will hold symposiums to facilitate discussions.
“We will fund symposiums and artist talks to shift the conversation to solid, steady action steps that the artists will lead. To try to, once and for all, deal with these issues and make progress for the next generation,” he said.
Social justice and racial equity are not new themes for the foundation.
Schnitzer’s mother, the late Arlene Schnitzer, founded and directed Portland’s Fountain Gallery for 25 years.
“She promoted a number of African American artists, as well as others. So, it was natural for me to grow up with a variety of art in our household,” he said.
He pointed to a large paper silhouette by world-renowned Black artist, Kara Walker.
“We’ve had Kara Walker shows in Laramie, Wyoming, Springfield, Missouri, Boise, Idaho. In those cities, we’ve held symposiums on Black/white relationships and how we treat each other,” he said.
Schnitzer said he and everyone at the foundation were anguished by the killing of George Floyd and wanted to help raise the visibility of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I can’t wave a magic wand and change every community, but at least in the three communities where we have these museums, maybe they can serve to bring together artists for a community discussion to convert that passion and anguish to a better understanding and action,” he said.
Schnitzer: If I were mayor
Schnitzer also has some advice for Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler about the protests, and talked about what he would do if he were mayor.
He had a number of suggestions and concluded by saying he doesn’t want to let the Black Lives Matter movement and the issues it has raised to fade.
“We need to tackle this together and look at our values and be the city, neighborhoods, and community we want in this state,” he said.
Straight Talk airs Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 4:30 p.m., Sunday at 6:30 p.m., and Monday at 4:30 a.m.