Inspiring profile of Professor Emeritus Arvie Smith in Portland Monthly

August 17, 2017

Portland Monthly shares the deeply inspiring story of PNCA Professor Emeritus Arvie Smith, who made art all his life and finally went to art school at the age of Museum Art School, as PNCA was originally called. When he was young black man living in a small community in Texas, his grandfather gave him a book on Michealangelo, but one of the teachers in the school his grandmother ran told him, "‘Arvie, draw the people outside the window." That advice stuck, and a later meeting with the venerable Robert Colescott inspired him to confront black experience in America head on. The Portland Art Museum, following his solo exhibition there, purchased his 1992 work Strange Fruit

After high school graduation, Smith reports he had walked in to to Otis College of Art and Design where the artist reports that “The receptionist looked at me and said, ‘We don’t need your kind.’” 

Decades later, Smith's wife, Julie Kern Smith, convinced him to devote himself full-time to art. At Museum Art School he studied with Lucinda Parker, among others while at graduate school at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore—he worked as a graduate assistant for abstract expressionist Grace Hartigan.

Now retired, Smith was an influential educator at PNCA, inspiring students with his work, his mentorship, and his projects in the community, including working with young offenders at Multnomah County’s Donald E. Long Juvenile Detention Center.