Farewell to Lee Kelly
April 01, 2022
“Oregon’s Sculptor,” Lee Kelly BFA ‘59, passed away on March 28, 2022, at age 89. Lee was well known for his monumental public sculptures throughout Oregon and the surrounding region – including the recently installed piece “Gateway” on the North Lawn of Willamette’s Salem campus.
“Lee was one of the most recognized and revered artists in the Pacific Northwest and his sculptures have served as focal points at regional institutions for decades,” said Willamette University President Steve Thorsett. “Beyond his artistic and creative contributions, Lee will be remembered and missed for his investment in and education of the next generation of citizen artists.”
Born in 1932 in McCall, Idaho, Lee graduated from the Museum Art School at the Portland Art Museum (now known as PNCA) in 1959. His long and prolific career has resulted in a significant body of work which can be seen in public and private collections throughout the country, including the Portland Art Museum, Stanford University, New Orleans Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum, and the city of Sapporo, Japan.
Lee’s work was heavily influenced by his travels with Susan Hammer JD ‘76, a Willamette Law alumna and his partner of over 30 years who passed away in 2020 after a long battle with cancer. Susan and Lee traveled the world together, including five trips to Nepal and other trips to Asia, Indonesia, and South America.
In 2010, Lee was the subject of a major career retrospective at the Portland Art Museum, and in 2012 one of his most significant works – Memory 99 – was dedicated and installed outside PNCA’s main campus in Portland’s North Park Blocks. Lee also established a residency program in 2015 at his Leland Iron Works property in Oregon City to provide emerging artists an opportunity to experience a studio environment and a space to explore their practice.
Lee exhibited at the Portland Art Museum since the late 1950s and at Portland’s Elizabeth Leach Gallery since the early 1980s. He was appointed as an artist member of the Portland Art Association’s Board of Trustees and Collections/Exhibition Committee in 1979, and was awarded a fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission in 1985 to research traditional bronze casting methods in Nepal. Lee was also the recipient of PNCA’s Sally Lawrence President’s Award in 2020, in recognition of his steadfast commitment to civic engagement and advancement of art and design education.
Oregon’s Sculptor, Lee Kelly BFA ‘59, passed away on March 28, 2022, at age 89.
Pacific Northwest College of Art is offering an affordable and accessible option for transfer students who want to earn a BFA degree.
We are pleased to announce that Jennifer Cole has accepted our offer to become the next dean of the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), effective March 2022, and delighted that she will hold Willamette’s first named deanship, recognizing a generous new gift from Jordan D. Schnitzer.
Willamette University and the Pacific Northwest College of Art today finalized their merger, officially making the Northwest’s oldest school of art and design an integral part of the region’s leading liberal arts university.
Schnitzer family's $2M gift to support Willamette University/Pacific Northwest College of Art merger
Willamette will launch a search soon to retain a nationally recognized educator and leader in art and design to serve as PNCA’s new dean. This $2 million gift from the late Arlene Schnitzer will create the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer PNCA Dean’s Initiative Fund, and provide the new PNCA Dean with resources to test new initiatives, facilitate collaboration between the PNCA and Willamette faculties, and more. Please enjoy this video to learn more about this generous gift.