Continuing Education Blog

PNCA offers evening and weekend classes for adults and young people. For adults we offer courses in art, craft, and design, as well as professional development classes. For children we have Saturday classes during the school year and week-long camps during the summer. In addition to our regular teen classes, we also offer immersive summer Pre-College Studios. Our blog below gives you an idea of some of the goings on, and you can see our full course catalogue online here.

Lines and Space

Damien Gilley, a lead-instructor in our Media Arts and Illustration program, is a Portland-based artist with an impressive record of exhibits and transforming environments. In fact, you might have walked “through” one of his current projects, Skywalker, if you have recently been at the Portland International Airport. Skywalker certainly electrified me when I came ambling down the carpeted hallway from the airport’s central hub into concourse A. Gilley’s work activated my experience of this space at the airport in surprising ways given the challenges this uncompromisingly transitional environment presents the installation artist (and others before him) with. Usually, this is quintessential airport non-space.

When preparing for our spring quarter, I inquired with Gilley about his now five-year-long teaching practice in our program.

With so many projects and engagements, what nourishes your passion for teaching?
Conversations with students are priceless. I love learning about all the professional paths my students have, and how they arrived at my class. Dialog is key in education, expanding both student and instructor knowledge continuously. Eventually I see students in creative contexts after the course and realize my network, and theirs, gets bigger in such an organic way through the classroom experience.

Participants in your classes say that they have built much strong skills illustration and desktop publishing, but that they are also come away with something they had not expected: a more acute sense of design and a stronger confidence in their creative abilities. How do you make this happen in your classes?
I really make sure that students are learning concrete skills that apply directly to creative production. But it’s so important to discuss all avenues these skills come into play, and how the design process is necessary. I try to make students confident to approach a creative problem and solve it from the ground up: research, conceptualization, execution and revision, revision, revision…

Have you noticed any changes over the past years in the needs and expectations of adult learners and professionals in your classes?
Many people realize the power of the tools we use and that the creative process can enhance their profession in dynamic ways, especially in such a media saturated visual culture. Design is everywhere. If you don’t engage in that critical creativity everyday you’re not really connecting with contemporary culture. So I make it a point to connect the course to real life applications, and the students appreciate that.

To learn more about Gilley’s work, visit his web site, spend time with Skywalker, online or at the airport, and read Sabina Samiee’s recent essay covering Gilley’s career.

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End of Winter Youth Classes

It has been a rather eventful 7-weeks on campus with PNCA’s Continuing Education Youth Program. From finger puppets to hand crafted books; we’ve had some great moments making art with students this term. Each class term with the Youth Program is super fun, but this one has seemed more so than usual. Our students have been very dedicated, and worked especially hard in their respective classes to make their artistic visions come to fruition. Below are a few images from this term that speak to the awesomeness of the last 2 months.

Art Explorers

Art + Storytelling: Puppets

Drawing Studio

This coming Saturday marks the end of another round of Winter classes. If you would like to see some of the artwork we’ve made you can do so by visiting our Exhibition Set on Flickr. If you want a peek into our classrooms, visit our Winter 2013 Classroom Set.

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Contemporary Fiber Art

Kim Lakin has been teaching with PNCA Continuing Education four years. For the first time, we are excited to offer a class on Contemporary Fiber Art, a great passion of Kim’s. A professional artist, her work uses fiber in many different contexts.

Can you talk about what drew you to creating fiber art?
I was always interested in fibers, textiles, whatever you want to call it. Whether it was the crinkly fabric of my grandmothers dance dresses or the fine wool of my mother’s suits, I like fabric because it is tactile. I was a lousy sewer as a student in home ec classes and never thought I would become a sewer of any kind! Fiber art is cool because it combines the hands-on construction techniques with the fine arts form. I like the combination.

What can students expect to make in the class?

We will be making a series of samples utilizing different construction techniques. We will be hand and machine sewing and using fusibles. We will use different fabrics to see how they work with different manipulations. Students will have a sample book to take with them at the end and one small finished piece.

What are you working on right now?
I just received an Artist-in-Residence award from Recology. Myself and four other artists will be making art from stuff gleaned from the transfer station (dump) in NE Portland. We have 5 months to make art that is 99% recylced materials. We will be having a showing of our work in the September at Disjecta. I am really excited to be doing this. It is proving very challenging for a number of reasons. I look forward to sharing my experiences with the class, Who knows what I might bring to class for us to work with! 

What are good resources for people interested in learning more about Contemporary Fiber Art?
I strongly recommend joining Surface Design Association.  Their journal is excellent. They always include cutting-edge fiber art. Also, there are several recent good books about fiber arts. PNCA has a good selection in the library. I am very impressed with the new Japanese fiber artists and encourage people to “google” them online. They are doing some amazing work. 

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Design + Social Media


Digital communications strategies and their transformative impact on design and marketing practices continue to provide a key focus of our program for creative professionals. I am pleased that our workshops and courses have been taught by industry leaders and have also engaged voices from Portland’s most innovative agencies and studios. Jessica Williams, a Social Media Strategist at the NORTH Social Lab, visited a recent session of our Digital Marketing class as a guest presenter where she spoke about evidence-based, best practices for social media marketing. Jessica also shared with us her insights into the dynamics of the creative workforce.

What advice would you offer to someone embarking on a career in communication and marketing?
I would say to explore job titles from job sites, agency websites, and company websites to see what is out there besides the “typical” job titles you see and hear about throughout school. It is also possible to create your own job title. Take the skills and things that you love and find a way to best communicate that to your audience or future employers.

What do you see as special opportunities or characteristics of Portland’s creative industry?
Portland is unique in that it is a small big city. Portland offers many opportunities to mingle and learn from top influencers in the industry (and often for free). The start-up market is huge here too, giving creative people in all aspects of the industry to utilize their skills in many different ways, and with many different people.

What keeps you motivated and engaged?
Working in the digital and social sphere of the industry, things are changing and improving everyday. Learning, alongside of working, keeps me motivated to stay ahead of the curve, and captivates my attention even after the workday is done.

At the NORTH Social Lab, Jessica Williams provides thorough and specific analytics to develop content strategies and to increase engagement for clients’ social channels. You can reach Jessica at jwilliams [at] north [dot] com.

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Scholastic Art Awards - 2013

It’s that time again! Work from this year’s Portland Metro Scholastic Art Awards is on view at PNCA. Individual Gold Key winning artwork can be found in the commons of PNCA’s Main Campus building. There is so much to see in this astounding exhibition. Here are a few of the works currently on display that have caught our eye in Continuing Education.

The exhibition runs from February 3rd through February 22nd, 2013. If you plan to check out the work while it is up you should set aside a good chunk of time. There is a great deal of work on display and the caliber is such that you will want to spend some time really looking at everything.

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Hot Air Balloons!

This week the Art Explorers class started on their hot air balloon project! This is going to be a sculpture project with several phases, the first of which is using papier-mâché over regular balloons to make a hard surface for the students to paint on. Now… I know what you’re thinking… isn’t the 4 to 6 class a little young to be doing a papier mâché project. No way! This is a great age to integrate soft, flexible sculpture material into a child’s art curriculum. Was it messy… yes. But, the mess will be worth it once our students are finished!


One thing that our instructor did to make sure everything went smoothly in class was to ensure there was an adult at each table. In the picture above you can see our Teaching Intern, Elizabeth, helping prep materials and assisting a student with their project. We also had our new Program Assistant, John, on hand to help! If you would like to see more images of our stellar Art Explorers making some amazing hot air balloons this week, you can do so by visiting our flickr site.

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Winter 2013 Classes!

That’s right! We are up and running for the new year. We had our first session of the Winter term on Saturday. There are so many lovely projects already in the works, and we are only just getting started. The Program has 4 classes running, including Art Explorers (4-6), Drawing Studio (7-8), Art + Storytelling: Puppets (9-11), and Creativity Labs: Design Studio. Here is a look at our first day.

Drawing Studio
Art Explorers
Art Explorers
Drawing Studio
Design Studio

Yeah, Saturday… It was awesome! As always, stay tuned for kid art and PNCA Youth Program goodness over the next 8-weeks. Click the jump for more images of our first day! —>

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Drawing a Foundation

Drawing is foundational to a fine arts education in our program, and our instructors excel in practicing and teaching drawing as a means of apprehending and representing scenes from observation as well as from imagination. Hayley Barker, Anna Fidler, Harriet Fishman, Nathan Goldstein, Jef Gunn, Kurt Hollomon, Lynn Kitagawa, Paul Missal and Jerry Sumpter make up what sure is one of the finest group of artists and teachers of drawing and painting in the country. Their convictions and expertise have affirmed drawing as a critical perceptual and procedural skill, especially in the age of digital reproduction of art, and informed the launch of our Endorsement program in Drawing earlier this year.

During our ongoing discussions about the place and value of drawing in our program, Nathan Goldstein declared emphatically: “Every work of art is, in a way, an essay. We simply cannot say everything about a subject. What we choose to include and exclude tells the viewer how we understand our world. And how we draw tells the viewer how well we see and understand our world. Rudolf Arnheim, the great psychologist, was correct when he pointed out that ‘an inability to draw is to some extent an inability to see.’ Our ability as teachers of Art should be based on our ability to teach the student how to see, and a large part of seeing has to do with drawing.”

I know our teachers are doing just that. Our participants’ responses and evaluations are overwhelmingly positive. When recently visiting one of our drawing classrooms, a class participant discretely shared with me: “This class was transformative for me. I have studied art for many years, but the instruction here was different than anything I had experienced elsewhere.”

And just to be sure that I am not simply referring to the important skill of naturalistic representation, but to individual perception and creative expression, I quote again Nathan Goldstein: “Drawing also plays a vital role in abstract, and even non-objective imagery. It is no accident that two of the twentieth century’s most gifted artists, Matisse and Picasso, drew so well. They were well trained in drawing and it shows. A knowledge of drawing informs and influences the judgments in even the most abstract works. A well-trained artist can visit an exhibition of abstract and non-objective art and point out those artists who can draw and those who cannot. The works by artists who understand drawing are invariably better.”

When you are considering your personal and artistic growth, accord drawing its appropriate place and remember that you find an outstanding and committed group of artists and educators at PNCA to enrich and deepen your creative path and practice.

Arnheim, Rudolf. Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. 50th ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004. (ISBN 0520243838)
Goldstein, Nathan. The Art of Responsive Drawing. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2006. (ISBN 0131945610)
—. Figure Drawing: The Structure, Anatomy, and Expressive Design of Human Form. 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2010. (ISBN 0136031919)

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Creativity Labs: Design Studio (12-14)

Amy Steel is teaching Creativity Labs: Design Studio for the second time. Amy spent some time talking about the class and what to expect in this iteration.

Can you talk about how you conceived this class and what your students accomplish.
This class was based on a college class I taught a few years ago.  Last year the students did a lot of really fun projects including designing skate decks.  I think the most rewarding project was where we partnered with the humane society and students designed posters for animals that needed homes.

What tools will you be using in the class? 
We used hand techniques like drawing, painting, cutting, and pasting.  We also used the computer lab.  The students learned basic photoshop techniques to create wall paper and poster designs. 

Why do you like working with this age group?
This age group knows that they are interested in art and they sign up for this class because its something they are passionate and enthusiastic about.  Someone in the class last year had met the artist Shepard Fairy which was one of the artists we were learning about in class and was able to to share that story with the class.   Its really exciting when students connect what they are learning to their personal lives.  Its exciting to discuss notions of design with youth.   From billboards to candy wrappers design is something that teens encounter everyday its and I enjoy having thoughtful discussions with teens about how they might look at everyday objects more critically or from an artistic point of view.   

What are some of your favorite projects from past offerings of the class?
The students made Adopt an Animal posters from the Oregon Humane Society website for animals that needed a home.   This was based on Shepard Fairy’s adopt a dog series.   We actually partnered with the humane society to do this.  I think it was rewarding for the students to engage a meaningful project that was for a social cause.  We also designed skateboard decks which was a fun hands on project for the students.  

Creativity Labs: Design Studio (12-14) starts January 26. To learn more about this class and our entire Winter Schedule visit Ce-Reggie.

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Online Portfolio Class

Online Portfolio has become one of our most popular workshops. Emphasizing quality content in a condensed time frame allows students to make big steps forward in creating their site. We spent a bit of time chatting with instructor Sarah Moon about the class.

Can you talk about how you conceived this class and what your students accomplish.

I developed the digital portfolio class after teaching PNCA’s Web Design Tools course. I had a number of students who enrolled in that course because they needed a personal website, but had little interest in learning web design as a profession. They simply needed to have a professional web presence. It seemed silly to me that people were taking an intense, eight-week course just to create a simple site for themselves.

So, I created the online portfolio class to serve the needs of people who want to create a high-quality, easy-to-maintain website for themselves without having to learn the ins and outs of web languages like HTML and CSS.

This course, like the Web Tools class, is a bit different than most web classes in that we also focus on creating and structuring quality content. This includes writing a strong, distinctive “about” statement, selecting quality work and considering dynamic content such as a blog or newsfeed. We also talk about using your online portfolio as a nexus for your online presence.

Why is a digital portfolio important?
A digital portfolio is critical for anyone who wants a professional web presence. I love social media, but it is absolutely not a replacement for an online space which you control. With a professional site, you control the look, the content and the presentation. More importantly, you own your content. There are numerous stories of businesses utilizing Facebook, for example, for their primarily web presence only to have their page taken down because they’re unknowingly violated the company’s ever-changing terms of service. When that happens, the online relationship with customers or clients is eliminated and it’s tough to rebuild after that.

There’s also something intangible that goes along with having a professional-looking online portfolio or website. If you’re a visual artist, it encourages you to consistently document and archive your work and can help you feel more like a “real” artist or designer. I’ve had students say at the end of my digital portfolio class, “I had no idea I’d produced so much work!”

Additionally, these days most professional contacts (galleries, clients, even graduate schools) expect to see a web presence. They want to take your business card and look at your portfolio on their own time, rather than sit with you and go through a printed portfolio.

Why do you use Squarespace for the class?
I used to use Wordpress for this course, but I discovered that since many people come into the course with zero technical skills, they struggled with the interface and we spent more time than I’d like just getting comfortable with the platform. Frankly, I want my portfolio students to be spending the bulk of their time creating an attractive site with quality content—not fighting a technology learning curve.

As a result, I spent a lot of time researching and testing a slew of content management systems and was incredibly impressed with Squarespace. Squarespace puts content first, which is critical for someone in the arts, design or other creative fields, because ultimately, it’s all about the content.

Not only can a student create an attractive, functional website with no coding knowledge, they have access to 24/7 technical support for the same cost as a no-frills Wordpress webhosting package. They’ve recently released a new version of the platform featuring what’s called “Layout Engine” and I’m excited to see what my students will create with such a robust design platform. Squarespace really is one of the best-kept secrets in web creation.

Online Portfolio runs December 10-19. To learn more about this class and our entire Schedule visit Ce-Reggie.

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