Real Estate Developer Jordan Schnitzer Is Putting $10M Toward the Arts at Portland State University

With his donation, Schnitzer—an avid collector of prints—aims to revitalize the university's cultural scene.

Man in suit and tie pictured in crowd
Jordan Schnitzer in 2023. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Portland-based real estate developer, philanthropist and art collector Jordan Schnitzer hopes to boost the arts scene at Portland State University (PSU) with a $10 million gift. In addition to supporting the eponymous museum at the university, the funds will help PSU’s art and design school grow.

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“An arts education is the best background to think creatively, to learn to be innovative, to help build our workforce and economy, and most importantly, to help solve society’s great challenges,” said Schnitzer in a statement, adding that his donation will not only help students but the entire Portland region. “In my opinion, this is a worthy philanthropic investment to help PSU continue to be an active part of a thriving downtown Portland.”

Half of Schnitzer’s funds will pay for the construction of a new building for PSU’s school of art and design, which will be renamed the Schnitzer School of Art + Art History + Design in recognition of the donation. The facility is scheduled to open by 2026 and will let PSU expand its key offerings, including a pioneering art and social practice program emphasizing the relationship between art, community engagement and social justice.

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Another $4 million will support operations at a PSU museum launched in 2019 with another donation by Schnitzer. Known as the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at PSU, it houses 20th- and 21st-century artworks from the philanthropist’s vast collection. The remaining $1 million will reinvigorate PSU’s urban campus through outdoor art, additional signage and lighting.

Schnitzer’s gift is a direct response to a call to action from Oregon Governor Tina Kotek, who earlier this year asked for business, civic and educational leaders to invest in downtown Portland. “The success of Portland State University is integral to the vision we share for downtown,” she said in a statement.

Arts and philanthropy run in the Schnitzer family

Schnitzer’s patronage of PSU follows a long line of family philanthropy. His mother Arlene opened the Fountain Gallery in the 1960s (one of Portland’s first professional galleries) while his father Harold founded Schnitzer Properties, the real estate development company Schnitzer runs today. The duo were generous contributors toward PSU, having established the university’s visiting professorship in art, Judaic studies program and the Arlene Schnitzer visual arts prize.

Their actions largely inspired Schnitzer’s activities in the art world. His collection, which primarily consists of contemporary prints and multiples, contains works by more than 1,500 artists, including Andy Warhol, Jeffrey Gibson, David Hockney and Kara Walker. In addition to showcasing items from his collection at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and art institutions at the University of Oregon and Washington State University, Schnitzer exhibits maintains his own Portland-based gallery and loans out pieces to museums across the globe.

“My parents often said ‘to whom much is given, much is expected,’ but this applies to all of us,” said Schnitzer. “With this significant contribution, one of the largest in PSU’s history, we are joining others who also are thankful for all the opportunities we have had living and working in downtown Portland.”

Real Estate Developer Jordan Schnitzer Is Putting $10M Toward the Arts at Portland State University