Founded by artists, Yale Union is a center for contemporary art in Southeast Portland, Oregon. It is led by a desire to support artists, propose new modes of production, and stimulate the ongoing public discourse around art.
We are a small organization in a large building. At this point in our development stage, it would be disingenuous to say that our building, a handsome brick block, isn’t as much an albatross as it is an instrument. While still in renovation (see PLAN section) Yale Union will demonstrate that a contemporary art center does not need to be architecturally complete to foster culture.
In 1916, an article in the Portland Evening Telegram reported that Yale Laundry (built in 1908) had 125 employees. The majority of the workers employed in the laundry business were women. They worked long hours under harsh conditions. By 1919, the plight of the laundry worker had become symbolic of the need to enforce state labor laws; that year the laundry workers went out on strike. In response to labor trends, several power laundries were consolidated in 1920 to form the Home Service Company in order to share resources and meet new regulations forming around hours and wages. This consolidation was successful and the laundry business boomed.
In 1927, owner Charles Brown sold his remaining interest in Yale Laundry to the Home Service Company; soon after it merged with Union Laundry. The laundry operated until the mid-1950s, when personal washing machines became affordable for middle-class families.
The building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its ability to convey information about American industrialization and the industrial laundry business of early 20th century America, the women’s labor movement, and the rise of the middle class. In 2008, the Yale Union Laundry Building was purchased for the creation of YU. It would be easy to cheat with a building this pretty, but in our minds, sometimes nothing feels more antagonistic to being sans-serif in our thinking than a 100-year-old building. That’s an un-lasting sentiment; one of the chief functions of Yale Union is simply to turn dead matter into a living contribution to Portland.
By public transit, YU is situated near the intersection of the 15 & 70 bus lines. Vehicle and bicycle street parking in the neighborhood is traditionally easy. Entrance to exhibitions is free.
Access to visitors with physical disabilities is not limited, but please call 503 236-7996 once you arrive for assistance.
Curtis Knapp, Director
Yoko Ott, Deputy Director
Hope Svenson, Curator
Morgan Ritter, Artist & Preparator
Mark Lewis, Curator
Gary Robbins, Manager of Print Production
Emily Johnson, Letterpress Printer
Andrea Glaser, Volunteer Coordinator
Alex Mahan, Web Developer
Marian Rose Lucas, Bookkeeper
Jeff Witscher, Custodian
Scott Ponik, Archivist
Nic Tammens, Curator
Brandon Phuong, Shop Manager
Aaron Flint Jamison, Chair
Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
Fields Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation
The Martin Family
Henry Lea Hillman, Jr Foundation
The Autzen Foundation
Foundation for Contemporary Arts
The Jackson Foundation
Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation
Oregon Arts Commission
Oregon Community Foundation
The James F. and Marian L. Miller Foundation
And with crucial and continuing support from our MEMBERS