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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