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PNCA supports the revitalization of Portland’s North Park Blocks through art and community with expanded First Thursdays

by Paul McKean,

On Thursday, Oct. 5, Willamette University’s Pacific Northwest College of Art will throw open its doors and welcome the Portland community for the first of a series of exhibition openings, performances, live music, drop-in activities, and food.

With support from a grant from the City of Portland, PNCA’s Center for Contemporary Art & Culture is revamping the signature neighborhood event series that had been a highlight of art and culture in the Pearl District and North Park Blocks. Now called First Thursdays in the North Park Blocks, the monthly events will feature food, music, and celebration while highlighting Portland’s distinctive art scene. After kicking off on Oct. 5, the expanded First Thursdays events will continue into 2024.

The initiative’s mission is to revive the First Thursday Art Walks centered at PNCA and the North Park Blocks, increase cultural connection, and elevate arts practice, arts schools, and arts businesses as central to economic revitalization.

“Arts and culture play a critical role in community development and redevelopment and PNCA is proud to be collaborating with our friends and neighbors in Portland to reinvigorate the First Thursdays events which have been a staple of the Pearl District for decades,” said Jennifer Cole, Jordan Schnitzer Dean of PNCA. “This newly-expanded series will open up our front porch to the city, benefiting our students, Portland’s working artists and our entire community.”

Cole hopes that PNCA students will find opportunities to connect with local galleries and other artists through the expanded First Thursdays series. The events will feature exhibitions of student artwork, art sales, artists talks, and more — all ways for students to gain exposure and valuable connections within the Portland arts community.

With the expanded First Thursdays, PNCA joins an all-hands-on-deck effort to revitalize Portland’s city center.

Through arts and culture events like First Thursdays, PNCA is helping to bring foot traffic and public engagement back to a core area of downtown Portland through partnerships with galleries, studios, neighborhood groups, and community organizations.

“Arts and culture speak to the spirit and soul of our community. We are excited to partner with PNCA on furthering the arts in the North Park Blocks and throughout our neighborhood,” said Stan Penkin, president of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association.

Learn more about the First Thursday events.

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