Admin now loves UO’s educational museums, wants you to visit

1/21/2020: An email sent to campus today, from Pres Schill and Prov Phillips, out of the blue. I’m not complaining, but I imagine there’s a backstory to this 180. If you know it, please post a comment:

Dear University of Oregon Community,

We are fortunate to have two nationally accredited and award-winning museums on our campus: the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (JSMA) and the Museum of Natural and Cultural History (MNCH). As winter term unfolds, and you perhaps seek a terrific indoor activity on a wet day, please consider a visit to each of these gems.

The JSMA boasts extraordinary permanent collections, but also has rotating exhibitions. A solo show just opened featuring the work of Carrie Mae Weems, a celebrated Oregon-born MacArthur Fellow. There is also a stunning exhibition featuring three-dimensional compositions created by South Korean artist Kwang Young Chun. In addition, the JSMA has a program called Masterworks on Loan, which brings internationally recognized work to our community for limited visits. Picasso and Warhol are among the artists on display now. In addition to its galleries, the JSMA provides studio and family programs, summer camps, and tours.

As noted on its website, the MNCH is “a place for digging into science, celebrating culture, and joining together to create a just and sustainable world.” This is a perfect encapsulation of the exhibitions, collections, research, and community engagement of the MNCH, which was formally established in 1935 but has roots back to the founding of the UO in 1876, when Thomas Condon arrived with large fossil and artifact collections. Permanent exhibits cover archeological, cultural, geological, and paleontological aspects of Oregon’s deep past. Current temporary exhibitions include “Racing to Change: Oregon’s Civil Rights Years—The Eugene Story” and “Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo.”

Both museums welcome thousands of visitors each year and provide educational opportunities to thousands of K-12 students across Oregon. Admission is free to UO students, faculty, and staff, but each museum also offers membership opportunities. We invite you to join us in visiting and becoming members of both of these wonderful museums; you will not be disappointed.


Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law

Patrick Phillips
Provost and Senior Vice President

It’s all true. Every year I take my SAIL summer economics camp HS students to the museum, to give them a break from economics and so I can look at the masterworks. The docents do a great job – despite the complaint of one of my students that “I came here to learn economics – not look at a bunch of pictures!”

4/18/2019: Arts on the Chopping Block

Bob Keefer has the story in the Eugene Weekly, here. Some snippets:

The University of Oregon plans to solve its budget crisis by cutting money for the arts and culture.

That’s the message conveyed by a series of major budget cuts quietly proposed for the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, the Oregon Bach Festival and the Museum of Natural and Cultural History.

… The university needs to cut its overall budget by $11.6 because of falling enrollment and other revenue losses, UO President Michael Schill has said.

Despite the university’s culture of secrecy, word of the arts cuts — which had not been publicly announced — leaked out when former Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy posted the news on Facebook April 10.

Apparently on orders from above, arts administrators declined to talk about the cuts to Eugene Weekly, referring questions to Molly Blancett, the university’s interim spokesperson. …

Why isn’t UO cutting subsidies for Duck sports instead?

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14 Responses to Admin now loves UO’s educational museums, wants you to visit

  1. No more Ducks says:

    Is it possible they’ve figured out that the number of CA parents willing to pay out of state tuition for a football party-school is not going to be increasing?

  2. Not Faculty says:

    What a catastrophe! You might have to find a new venue for the Faculty Club.

    • uomatters says:

      Please explain

      • Arts-lover says:

        I can’t speak to what the above poster was referring to, but I am struck by this line re. Museums and OBF: “All of these units have additional revenue sources, such as grants, contracts, sales and services, and gift funds.”
        That seems to me to be a setup to saying that because these units have outside resources they don’t need to be funded to the same extent as academic departments. But this is disingenuous—academic departments get grants and gift funds, too. And in the case of museums, grants usually go towards exhibitions, while gift funds tend to go towards collections, programs, or exhibitions—in other words, not operating expenses or staff salaries. Ideally the museums would be soliciting gifts to endow positions—that’s one way they could ensure staff positions. But you can’t take funds restricted to buying art, for example, and use that towards paying someone’s salary.
        The larger issue is that the administration is painting the museums as not contributing too the university’s core mission, which simply isn’t true. Both museums engage students in research and share faculty research with the wider public. As a member of the general public, you can’t just stroll in to a classroom and hear what the professor has to say about their area of expertise, but you can stroll into one of the campus museums and do so—right now at the JSMA, there are several exhibitions that tie directly into faculty or student research—not to mention curatorial research. The community needs to join together to voice this point to Johnson Hall.

      • Arts-lover says:

        I should add that the one thing that these units do have in common is that they don’t directly generate tuition dollars. But there are many elements of a university campus that contribute to student learning that don’t generate tuition. That doesn’t mean they aren’t vital to the health of the campus. The elite universities know this, as many of them have recently or are currently investing in their campus museums and arts facilities. As I said above, short-sighted.

  3. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    Maybe the Bach Festival would be better off becoming independent of UO, like most other Eugene arts institutions. Look how UO has botched the Festival. I imagine the OBF advisory board has been thinking about this.

    • Inquiring Minds says:

      Yep, maybe partner with Shedd Institute. But I suppose they rely on the newly constructed high quality music halls on campus. Could be some kind of deal worked out.

  4. Arts-lover says:

    The JSMA is in the middle of a search for a new director, and now the news comes that it will lose 15.2% of its budget, or $314,000? How in the world are they going to be able to attract candidates with that kind of devastating cut? They are already understaffed—they lost their senior curator position a couple of years ago due to budget cuts. The statement in the article about the arts not contributing to the university’s core mission. Both the JSMA and MNCH actively contribute to the research profile of the university. This seems so horribly short-sighted.

  5. Amy Adams says:

    Cutting or otherwise absorbing the festival’s executive director position would just about do the job for OBF, in addition to removing an obvious barrier to a successful search for an artistic director.
    As it is now, the current executive director of the festival reports to the newly-endowed Berwick Dean of the School of Music and Dance, who herself reports to provost Jayanth Banavar, who is stepping into the physics department in July, right during the 2019 Oregon Bach Festival.

    • In the no says:

      Because nothing says “come work here” when there’s zero leadership and a massive budget cut. I don’t understand your point. Isn’t someone from the outside leading the search?

      • Amy Adams says:

        My point, “In the no,” is that:
        1. the current executive director is personally responsible for the loss of artistic director Matthew Halls and the disastrous, abandoned “curated festival” plan
        2. while she’s there, it is difficult to imagine any qualified artistic director candidates jumping at the chance to work with her,
        3. given that she is paid a hefty six-figure salary but demonstrates little actual *leadership* by all accounts, and
        4. there is ample administrative infrastructure to absorb that position (unlike the missing artistic director, which had to be replaced by an advisory committee), and…
        5. It seems possible to me that the festival can have a future, like a damaged tree, if it’s pruned back correctly. Maybe not.

        Yes, Roger Saydack is chairing the search committee. He has a pretty good track record.

        • In the no says:

          You are not understanding the issue clearly. Take JSMA… a retiring ED, a curator cut, and a big budget cut. By your logic, do you expect them to carry on and be successful in finding new leadership? It’s not like one unit can cut an ED without the others being required to.

          MNCH is a better example. They provide student experience and research, both values stated by the President. They have a reporting infrastructure that should be able to absorb big cuts in leadership, if I’m using your argument. These institutions on campus serve our students too.

          Focus your passion on the injustice of the these poorly executed cuts rather than your personal feelings about one particular person. If you want to get angry, imagine a community with no museums or festivals. Who will live here? What’s the value of relocating to go to school or to work here? Think recruiting is hard now?

          These cuts can come from other sources. Maybe Athletics should start paying for the marching band again.

          • Amy Adams says:

            You are quite literally preaching to the choir, “In the no” …and you’ve misunderstood.

            I am speaking only, quite specifically, to the OBF situation, and have commented plenty on the organization’s situation on this blog since news broke of the artistic director firing debacle back in August 2017. There’s no reason to apply anything I said to the JSMA, so the “by your logic” comment is unnecessary.

            These cuts, speaking generally, are egregious and harmful to the university and community. As a member of the arts community, you don’t have to sell me on the economic value of the arts, not to mention what they contribute to the university’s mission.

            I am already plenty angry about these cuts, and other university issues, thanks.

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