Remembering Arlene Schnitzer

It is with heartfelt respect and admiration that Pacific Northwest College of Art remembers Arlene Schnitzer, who died on April 4, 2020 at the age of 91. A dynamic and powerful, yet quiet and modest voice in Portland’s cultural ethos, her philanthropic legacy has influenced generations of cultural and civic leaders and transformed the artistic landscape of Portland. Arlene, along with her late husband Harold Schnitzer and her son Jordan, have donated more than $150 million to thousands of cultural and civic initiatives and organizations including museums, hospitals, universities, temples, scholarships, awards, endowed positions and Portland’s premier concert hall.

As an alumna of the college, and a recipient of an honorary doctorate from Pacific Northwest College of Art, Arlene’s first immersion into the arts began when she took sketch classes at the college (formerly known as the Museum Art School) in the 1950s. From there, she opened the Fountain Gallery of Art in 1961, which she ran for 25 years. The gallery has long been recognized as a significant influence on many of Portland’s celebrated artists. Arlene’s association with Pacific Northwest College of Art continued throughout the years in support of numerous projects and initiatives. Most significant was a $5 million gift from The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation, created by Arlene and her son Jordan, to name the College’s main campus building, the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design. The gift was the largest from an alumna or alumnus in the school’s 103-year history.

Her influence as a philanthropist has been transformational to Portland’s cultural landscape. Her legacy as a patron, a friend and a mentor to thousands of artists is immeasurable. Our community has much love for Arlene, and we will miss her greatly. We extend our deepest condolences to the Schnitzer family and to those who worked closely with Arlene at the CARE Foundation and Harsch Investment Properties.

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