Undergraduate Studies

BFA Majors

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At PNCA, you learn to see the world more thoughtfully, thoroughly, and from different perspectives. This enables you to better understand the work you make—and how your work can make an impact in the world. You hone your skills and learn a wide range of new ones. You are introduced to entirely new ways of making, and just as importantl y, you learn to think critically about your work and that of others through a robust critique process where you give and take constructive feedback on a regular basis.

Justine Highsmith and Anita Spaeth perform for First Thursday at Pacific Northwest College of Art

By studying related histories and broadly exploring the contemporary, you expand your ideas around the scope of possibility for your own work. This prepares you to make new, original, and authentic work which is central to an art and design education. This is all done in a supportive community of fellow students, faculty, and staff who care deeply about art and design. Class sizes are small, so you get to know your professors, and they get to know you. All of our faculty are working artists and scholars who focus on students first.

In your four years here, you will develop creative, technical, and professional skills, productive studio habits, and the abilities to communicate, collaborate, and think critically, all of which will fully prepare you for a fulfilling and sustainable creative life full of possibility.

PNCA graduates are successful artists; committed educators; public intellectuals and community activists; creative small-business owners and entrepreneurs; designers and animators working for top firms; freelance illustrators with high-profile commissions; directors of artist-run spaces; and commercial and editorial photographers. At PNCA you will develop the skills and abilities to personally and professionally thrive in a world that needs and wants more creativity. And it begins in one of the most creative cities in the United States: Portland, Oregon.


The classes in my Foundation Year gave me the tools, experiences, and vocabulary to be a successful student. They also allowed me to build artistic relationships and friendships. Those friends I met that first year have been vital as peers and fellow artists. They have not only pushed their own practices but mine as well by making amazing work and having a real working knowledge of my artistic practice over the four years.

Each year at PNCA, education builds off the one before, and it all starts at the foundation. The foundation classes are designed and taught so that anyone at any level can learn something new. And just like every class taught at PNCA, it is what the student does with it that determines how hard, challenging, and meaningful the class was. 

Troy Matthews '17



In your Foundation Year, you’ll be immersed from day one in media and making of all kinds, from drawing and two- and three-dimensional design to digital tools and time-based media. You’ll delve into the histories of art, culture, and ideas to develop a toolkit for critical thinking you can apply to your own work as well as the work of others.

Like every new student you’ll take the First Year Seminar which is designed to help you find your way in your new community while developing skills and habits to thrive at PNCA and beyond. Through presentations, hands-on projects, discussions, and field trips, you’ll learn the ins and outs of the college, the city, and all of the resources available to you for your studies and your creative practice.

The classroom and life skills you develop during this first year experience are key to both your success at PNCA and to a lifetime of creative practice. 

Roy Tomlinson

Roy Tomlinson, Director of Foundation 

MFA University of California, Berkeley
BFA San Francisco Art Institute

Tomlinson, a native of Seattle, is a painter and interdisciplinary artist. He was awarded the Eisner Prize from the University of California at Berkeley, and is the recipient of a Gottlieb Foundation Grant. His work has been exhibited at the Oakland Museum, Mills College Art Museum, Oakland Art Gallery, San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, and Friesen Gallery in Seattle. His solo exhibitions in San Francisco include Stephen Wirtz Gallery, Gallery 16, Miller/Brown Gallery, and SFMOMAArtist Gallery. His work has been published in Eleven Eleven, ZYZZYVA, Inquiring Mind, and Micro Publishing News. Tomlinson lived in the Bay Area for many years and taught in the painting department at the California College of the Arts before joining the faculty at PNCA. 



Your senior year is an exciting time of transition from student to working artist or designer. Along the way, you gather the tools you need to be ready to go on the day after graduation.

The focus of your thesis year is conceiving a project of your own design and producing it with the support of faculty, including a mentor who works with you one-on-one, and your peers. This culminates with you installing your thesis work and making a presentation before a panel of professional artists and/or designers during Focus Week. Throughout this process you gain a deeper understanding of who you are as an artist while creating lasting bonds with faculty and peers.


Linda Kliewer

Linda Kliewer, Director of BFA Thesis Program

BFA University of Virginia (Studio Art/ Photography)

As a queer artist, Linda has spent much of her life pushing against the current of misinformation to make herself and others visible. Sharing her own truths through images.

Linda is an award-winning queer filmmaker and photographer who has been making film, video and still images for over 30 years. Her passions are social documentary and teaching. Her art centers on self-portraiture, social comment and most recently swimming pools.

The body of her documentary photography is one of the largest photographic collections of Portland’s queer community. Kliewer’s work is part of the Visual Chronicle of Portland, has been screened in the Sundance Film Festival, NW Film and Video Festival, the Portland Documentary and Experimental Film Festival, and has been published, exhibited and screened nationally and internationally (Portland, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Paris, and Belgrade, Serbia).