The Open Gallery Program

The Cooley Gallery's educational outreach initiative  serving the K-12 community

Gregory MacNaughton '89, Coordinator
To schedule activities, contact Gregory MacNaughton at 503-929-3663 or

Open Gallery Program is the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery's visual arts education outreach initiative. The Open Gallery Program serves the Portland Public Schools and a variety of at-risk youth programs, engaging young people in rigorous, first-hand experiences with exceptional contemporary and historical works of art, free of charge.

Cooley Gallery Director Stephanie Snyder '91 founded the program in 2004, and organizes the program with Cooley Gallery Education Outreach Coordinator Gregory MacNaughton '89. Both Snyder and MacNaughton have extensive experience offering arts education to young people. While in graduate school at Columbia University, Snyder co-founded The Heritage School, an arts-based public high school developed by Columbia University in partnership with the New York City Board of Education ( and Gregory MacNaughton has served as an educator in a myriad of youth programs throughout Portland since 1990.

Gregory Macnaughton and Elizabeth Bidart '12, discuss the work of peter kreider with a group of young students, 2007.The Open Gallery Program (OGP) is distinguished by its intimacy and methodology. During each visit to the Cooley, public school students participate in an inquiry-based discussion concerning diverse aspects of the exhibition—including curatorial practice and exhibition design. Students are encouraged to ask questions and support their opinions with evidence through interpretation of the art. Our pedagogical model is the Reed College Humanities seminar. We are continually impressed by young people's desire to discuss art in an open, yet formal, manner, and we are confident that this model does much more than teach students art history, it teaches even the youngest students what it means to organize ideas based on observation. Over the past four years, MacNaughton and Reed student educators have engaged public school students in the work of artists such as: Faith Ringgold, Kara Walker, Hans Haacke, Jacob Lawrence, and Pirkle Jones; or on topics such as African American art history, Iraqi art history, and contemporary conceptual art and methodologies.

To enrich the educational experience of Reed students, each year Snyder and MacNaughton select and train a group of Reed students to function as OGP educators. These Reed student docents are mentored in the teaching of art and art history to children and young adults. Preceding most visits to the gallery, Reed student educators visit public school students in their classrooms. The Reed educators familiarize students with the current exhibition through conversation and a slide presentation. Educators and students also become familiar with one another, which greatly enhances the experience in the gallery.

Though Portland has a number of arts organizations that offer educational services, there is no other organization with the educational resources to offer students such in-depth and flexible experiences with original works of art. The Open Gallery Program provides a service that extends educational experience, rather than providing a one-time field trip that may be of limited educational value.

Resident Artists, 2006-2010

Léonie Guyer
Peter Kreider
Fritz Haeg
Marc Joseph Berg
Michael Hebb
Marko Lulic
Faith Ringold
Nick Cave
Kianga Ford
Io Palmer

In April 2008, the Cooley conducted a qualitative assessment with participating teachers. Approximately thirty teachers answered detailed questions about their experiences with the OGP. We received very positive feedback, such as:

This kind of experience is so important for all students. To see real art that deals with real issues that they can relate to is the kind of teaching that sinks in and lasts. Even though we saw the pictures before coming, they were nothing in comparison with being in the room, right there, next to the art and learning about the artists.— PPS 5th grade teacher

The Cooley Gallery staff created an environment in which students felt safe to share their ideas and interpretations, and I was impressed by the level of inquiry and critical thinking that these young people displayed. Furthermore, the gallery staff frequently brought the conversation back to issues of social studies, language arts and literature, fully integrating the works of art into the regular classroom curriculum. In the few years since the Open Gallery Program began, Reed College has become an important partner in the effort to integrate visual art education into K-12 classrooms throughout Portland. — PPS Arts Specialist Jeffrey Gilpin

Almost any art experience for students is valuable, but your gallery in particular was wonderful because you engaged them in talking about what they saw and what they thought it could mean/why it is important/etc. I thought that was very important and valuable for them. Only then did you tell of the artist's intentions. Students may get to visit art exhibits sometimes, but rarely do they have someone asking them what THEY think. I appreciated that. — PPS 5th grade teacher

The Open Gallery Program is generously supported by: the Office of the President, Reed College; the Robert Lehman Foundation; the Jackson Foundation; the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC); the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation; the Oregon Cultural Trust; and Shirley Gittelsohn.

Images, Top: Lewis Elementary students study the work of Whitfield Lovell, 2006. Right: Gregory MacNaughton and Elizabeth Bidart '12, discuss the work of Peter Kreider with a group of young students, 2007.