was a center for contemporary art in Southeast Portland, Oregon. It was led by a desire to support artists, propose new modes of production, and stimulate the ongoing public discourse around art. This website serves as an archive of Yale Union’s programming from 2011 through 2021.

Yale Union acknowledges that it occupies the traditional lands of the Multnomah, Chinook, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla, and other Indigenous peoples.






SELECTIONS FROM THE PCVA ARCHIVE exhibition, programs to revisit and honor the legacy of the Portland Center for the Visual Arts, consider the history of contemporary art in Portland

YU to open its LIBRARY and celebrate its first publication, VENEER 08/18

April 6, 2011 – Through 2012, YU will present a series of projects that will introduce and track the development of the institution and its ideas, values, and interests related to the presentation and practice of contemporary art. The series will be comprised of exhibitions, programs, events, and publications organized around concepts that will guide its artistic development, while exploring the spaces in, and development of, its historic Yale Union Laundry Building.

The first project considers history, archive, documentation, and publication related to YU, its building, the Portland area, and to the expression and presentation of ideas by contemporary artists. Selections from the PCVA Archive will look into a vibrant and important moment in the history of contemporary art in Portland, providing historical context for YU and inspiring a forward-looking vision for a world-class contemporary art center in the city. The exhibition will be presented in the space that is to become YU’s library, the first iteration of which will be opened in conjunction with the exhibition in an adjacent room. At the opening reception for the exhibition and library on May 6, YU will celebrate its first publication, Veneer 08/18, highlighting the way in which the written word and, broadly, two-and-three dimensional documentation in collected form (a book, a library) will be important extensions of the dialogue related to the ideas and issues raised by the initiatives at YU, while being initiatives in their own right.


On view May 7 through summer, 2011, Selections from the PCVA Archive will be the first-ever exhibition of archival documentation of key works by artists such as Trisha Brown, Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, Chuck Close, Ed Ruscha, Sol LeWitt, and Daniel Buren, that were presented by the Portland Center for the Visual Arts (PCVA) during its nearly two decades at the center of contemporary art in Portland. The exhibition will showcase ephemera such as artist sketches and letters, installation images, and press coverage, generously lent by the Portland Art Museum’s Crumpacker Family Library, which has housed the archive since 1988. The opening reception on May 6 will include a screening of Richard Serra’s Railroad Turnbridge, 1976, which was filmed at the St. Johns Railroad Bridge in Portland.

Founded in 1971 by artists Jay Backstrand, Mel Katz, and Michele Russo, the goals of the PCVA were to exhibit the best contemporary art being made in the United States, increase awareness of contemporary art in the area, and bring the artists themselves to Portland to be a part of the process and engage in dialogue with the community. The PCVA quickly developed a reputation among artists as an organization that supported and encouraged the creative process and free expression of ideas. As a result, many of the top contemporary artists in the country worked with the PCVA, the vast majority of whom came to Portland to make or install their work in the exhibition space at 117 NW Fifth Avenue, to give lectures in conjunction with exhibitions, or to attend openings. It had a particularly remarkable period of activity under director Mary Beebe, during her tenure from 1973 to 1981. During that time, in addition to some of the artists listed above, PCVA organized the exhibition or performance of works by Michael Asher, Allan Kaprow, John Baldessari, Vito Acconci, William Wegman, Joan Jonas, Dan Flavin, Robert Smithson, Terry Riley, Eleanor Antin, Phil Niblock, Nam Jun Paik, Robert Irwin, Meredith Monk, and Bruce Nauman, along with numerous Portland and Northwest artists. Artists left lasting imprints on Portland’s cultural landscape including Trisha Brown being credited with founding theDance Department at Reed College, and Michelle Stuart’s Stone Alignments/Solstice Cairns, a site-specific work in the east Columbia Gorge (believed to be extant). The organization is widely regarded as having been one of the most innovative and seminal art centers in the United States, elevating Portland’s artistic consciousness and marking out a place for the city in the contemporary art world.

YU hosted a discussion of the PCVA March 31 that attracted over 200 attendees. The panel included Beebe, Katz, Portland artists Tad Savinar and Paul Sutinen, and was moderated by art critic Lisa Radon. The panel discussion was preceded by a dinner on March 30 in its kitchen for Founding Members in honor of Backstrand, Beebe, and Katz, and featured guest chef John Taboada of Navarre. Details on upcoming public programs are below, with information on additional music, film, and other events to come.


Though it will eventually be located in a larger space adjacent to the upper level galleries, the first iteration of the library is consciously unassuming, housed in the smallest room at YU with a footprint of less than 100 square feet. The immediate goal is to form a selection of books indicative of the interests of the institution that will be foundational to the creation of YU. A customized cataloging system will allow for the assignment of multiple classes to an object, enabling them to be ordered in various ways, rather than in a pre- determined, taxonomic order. The library will be open for use during operating hours of the exhibition or by appointment with the goal of providing an intimate and focused environment for research, education, and pleasure.

Veneer Magazine (Ve) risks classification between technical journal, printed pdf, artist project, and paper swatch book. Ve asks prescient questions about what it means to make a contemporary publication, the channels of content creation and solicitation, and the relationship between form, content, and distribution. Each of the 18 planned issues of Veneer are unique editions limited to 300 copies. Seven previous issues have been exquisitely published by MPH. Issue 08/18 will be published by both MPH and YU. Among many other articles, Veneer Magazine 08/18 includes a transcript of a 12-page speech delivered by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, typeset by hand in Baskerville 11pt and letterpress printed at YU. Veneer is a publishing project of artist Aaron Flint Jamison and previous editions have included work by Adrian Piper, Sturtevant, and George Kuchar among others.


OPENING RECEPTION: SELECTIONS FROM THE PCVA ARCHIVE, YU LIBRARY, VENEER 08/18 Friday, May 6, 6–9pm; at YU Come celebrate the opening of Selections from the PCVA Archive, the first iteration of YU’s library, and issue 08/18 of Veneer. The evening will include a special screening of Richard Serra’s Railroad Turnbridge, 1976, filmed at the St. Johns Railroad Bridge in Portland.

PANEL DISCUSSION: ARCHIVAL METHODOLOGY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY Tuesday, May 24, 7pm; at YU; tickets at the door, sliding scale $5–$10; $3 students, artists What does it mean to archive the activities of a non-collecting contemporary art center and what is the best way to approach this today as an institution is forming itself? YU is proud to feature speaker David Senior, Bibliographer at The Museum of Modern Art Library, who will present a survey of artist publications from the 20th century. Senior will be joined by David Abel, a Portland writer, editor, and the executor of the archive of poet Gene Frumkin. Abel, who is currently a Research Fellow at the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art, will share his thoughts on how an archive is adaptable to history in the making. Christina Olsen will present on the Getty’s Online Scholarly Cataloguing Initiative and also on Object Stories, a project involving an interactive video booth where visitors’ stories are captured at the Portland Art Museum and published to an online digital archive.


OPEN HOURS May 7 through summer: Thursday–Saturday 12–6pm

TOURS Public tours of YU and the Yale Union Laundry Building, the exhibition, and library will be held on Saturdays at 2pm from May 7 through summer 2011. Private and school tours of the exhibition and library are available upon request with one week’s notice. Please call (503) 236-7996 or email yu@yaleunion.org

YU 800 SE 10th Ave (between Morrison and Belmont) Portland, OR 97214 (503) 236-7996 http://www.yaleunion.org