Arvie Smith ‘84 to Deliver 2018 PNCA Commencement Address
April 11, 2018
"We are thrilled to have Arvie Smith deliver the 2018 Commencement Address," said PNCA President Don Tuski. "As both an artist and an alumnus, Arvie exemplifies everything we hope for our students: a rigorous creative practice, a strong sense of social responsibility, and a restless curiosity."
Arvie Smith is an artist, educator, an advocate whose work both in the studio and the classroom aims to build a more just, equitable, and connected community in Portland and across Oregon. Smith spent his childhood in rural Texas and South Central and Watts Los Angles. He received his BFA from Pacific Northwest College of Art in 1984 and his MFA from the Hoffberger School of Painting at Maryland Institute College of Art in 1992, where he studied under Grace Hartigan. Smith also studied at the Studio Art Center International and attended Il Bisonte International School of Printmaking in Florence, Italy from 1983-1984. His work continues to be informed by extensive travel through Ghana, Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso, West Africa.
Smith transforms American experiences and imagery of oppression and marginalization into lyrical and lusciously colored and lyrical two-dimensional master works that reveal deep sympathy for dispossessed and marginalized members of society. Often stridently political, Smith’s subject matter is drawn directly from his African American roots and from a lifetime's worth of observations on our nation's changing social, cultural, and political understanding (and misunderstanding) of race, diversity, and equity. Specifically, his memories of growing up in the American South inform his awareness of the legacy that slavery has had and continues to have on all Americans, regardless of race. Smith’s paintings inevitably spark critical dialogues about race, identity, and history within institutions and across our community.
"I speak unfettered of my perceptions of the black experience," Smith says. "By critiquing atrocities and oppression, by creating images that foment dialogue, I hope my work makes the repeat of those atrocities and injustices less likely."
After graduating from PNCA, Smith returned to Portland and to PNCA to teach painting. He retired from PNCA in 2014 after 25 years, at which point he was named Faculty Emeritus. As an educator, Smith has been passionately dedicated to youth engagement and community impact—working with PNCA, Self Enhancement Inc., Caldera Arts, Portland Public Schools, Rosemary Anderson High School, and youth from Multnomah County’s Donald E. Long Juvenile Center. From 2009 to 2011, he worked with over 110 Measure 11 incarcerated youth at Multnomah County's Donald E. Long Juvenile Detention Center on a public arts project through the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC). The resulting five murals, each 8' x 15', explore the prospect of hope. In September 2012, four of the five murals were installed in the Multomah County Courthouse. The fifth is one display at the Donald E. Long Juvenile Detention Center.
Arvie Smith has exhibited extensively both regionally and nationally including Mark Wooley Gallery, Portland, Oregon; Beppu Wiarda Gallery, Portland, Oregon; Sylvia Schmidt Gallery, New Orleans; University of Oregon, Eugene; Temple University Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; School 33 Art Center, Baltimore, Maryland; 55 Mercer, New York; Brockman Gallery, Los Angeles, California; Oregon Biennial, Portland Art Museum; and Fremont Fine Arts Gallery, Seattle. He was the subject of a comprehensive retrospective at Portland Art Museum in 2016-2017, which critics lauded, writing "Smith reminds us that one of art's noblest purposes is to challenge, to get us to stare at our mistakes, misdeeds and mistreatment of others square in the eye" (Willamette Week), and describing Smith's work as having both a "ribald fierceness" and "tough soberness" (Oregon Arts Watch).
His work is in the permanent collections of the Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art, Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation, Oregon State University, Hallie Ford Museum, Portland Art Museum, Reginald F. Lewis Museum, City of Portland's Portable Works Collection, Multnomah County Courthouse, Regional Arts & Culture Council, and Pacific Northwest College of Art, among other public and private collections including the Nelson Mandela Estate. Smith has had a distinguished teaching career and in addition to his time at PNCA, has taught at the University of Oregon, Maryland Institute College of Art, Oregon College of Art and Craft, and the Studio Art Center International in Florence, Italy. A profile in Portland Monthlydescribed him as “easily one of the city’s most technically skilled painters.” He is represented by Galerie Myrtis, Baltimore, Maryland. Smith maintains an active studio practice in Portland, Oregon.
Following Commencement will be the opening reception for the 2018 PNCA Thesis Exhibition, an exhibition and celebration of works from BFA graduates in Animated Arts, Communication Design, Illustration, Intermedia, Painting + Drawing, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture, Video + Sound, and Writing, as well as from MFA graduates in Applied Craft + Design, Collaborative Design, Print Media, and Visual Studies. The exhibition is open to the public.
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