New name, new look – WSU’s art museum primed for grand opening

Students walking past the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.
Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

By Linda Weiford, WSU News

Crimson will shine when Washington State University’s new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art opens its doors to the public with a dedication ceremony on Friday, April 6, noon – 1 p.m., followed by a half-day of guided tours.

Nicknamed the “Crimson Cube” for its box configuration wrapped in crimson-colored glass, the structure mirrors its campus surroundings. The one-of-a-kind reflective panels made in the Netherlands are the brainchild of the building’s designer, Seattle-based Jim Olson of Olson-Kundig Architects.

The $15 million — mostly privately funded – project is expected to draw 20,000 visitors annually, in addition to expanding educational opportunities to students, faculty and staff, said museum interim director Anna-Maria Shannon.

The Schnitzer-WSU museum is Washington’s largest public fine-arts facility east of the Cascades, with seven galleries and 14,000 square feet of exhibit space. Its layout includes: the Crimson Cube, which holds the main gallery spaces; and the adjacent former WSU Museum of Art that offers teaching space and a gallery for fine-arts students to display their thesis works.

The Crimson Cube‘s galleries present a diverse art collection, carefully selected to attract audiences of all ages, said Shannon. Exhibits vary from prints, sculptures, fibers and ceramics to interactive sound and video, she explained.

The museum’s namesake is business leader and philanthropist Jordan D. Schnitzer, who helped create the facility by donating $5 million. He worked closely on the project with the late WSU President Elson S. Floyd, who shared Schnitzer’s passion for fine arts and the recognition that art museums can elevate civilizations and transform lives.

Schnitzer is a widely known collector of contemporary fine art prints. By contributing to the museum, he hopes to make art more accessible to the public, especially in the Pacific Northwest, he said.

“Many people view museums as elitist, but I firmly believe that art is for everyone. I’m trying to take down those perceived walls. A university campus is just the place to do it,” Schnitzer said. “The arts are the highest ideals of every society. They are the ultimate legacy we leave for future generations. This new museum will reach out to every student on campus, every young person in the surrounding counties, every adult within hundreds of miles – providing activities that will enrich their hearts, minds and souls,” he explained.

The museum’s inaugural exhibits will include prints loaned through the Portland-based Schnitzer Foundation, a major new work by Seattle sound sculptor Trimpin, and prints by Jim Dine, best known for his artwork featuring colorful hearts. For a complete list of the museum’s opening exhibits and the dedicated artists behind them, go to:

WSU President Kirk Schulz, Jordan Schnitzer and museum designer Jim Olson are among those speaking at the April 6 grand opening, followed by refreshments and guided tours until 7 p.m.

“The new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art-WSU— placed in the heart of the Pullman campus—symbolizes the vital role of the arts at our university,” said President Schulz. “Similarly, the arts are a key part of the Drive to 25, our institutional initiative to become one of the nation’s top 25 public research universities. To fulfill our commitment of providing WSU students with a transformative educational experience, we must have a dynamic arts environment,” he said.

For more information on the grand opening, including parking options, go to:

Other museum highlights include:

  • Admission to the Jordan Schnitzer museum is free to the public.
  • The Crimson Cube is at the site of WSU’s former Public Safety Building along Terrell Mall. The visual essence of fire station doors serve as windows for passersby to view the lobby and experimental gallery inside.
  • Because WSU’s former museum had only one gallery, much of its permanent collection of 3,500 pieces had to be stored in a vault. “Works that haven’t been displayed in years will be pulled from darkness for visitors to enjoy in rotating exhibits,” said interim-director Shannon.
  • The museum is equipped with technology for climate and light control to preserve artwork.
  • Private donors, including Schnitzer’s contribution, provided most of the funds for the $15-million project.
  • This is the second of three art museums that Jordan Schnitzer helped fund for a university in the Pacific Northwest. The others are located at the University of Oregon and Portland State University.

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