This isn’t just our story - it’s your story, too. From the very beginning, the people of Portland have fought to preserve our arts venues and what they stand for. In fact, it was the citizens themselves who built our very first venue.
It all began in 1917, when Portland citizens opened the city’s first publicly-owned assembly center, the Municipal Auditorium. And as the need for performing and gathering spaces grew, Portland opened another venue called Portland Publix Theatre, later renamed the Paramount Theatre.
In 1971, a prospective buyer of the Paramount proposed replacing it with a parking garage. The people of Portland stood up for this arts landmark, fighting back until Portland City Council declared the Paramount a historic landmark in 1972. Three years later, Portlanders once again showed their fierce love for the arts when they came together to raise over $5,000 dollars to keep the Paramount’s historic marble statue “Surprise” in Portland.
Portland’5 officially joined the story in 1980, when Mayor Connie McCready appointed a Performing Arts Center Committee. The PAC Committee submitted a proposal to City Council for the purchase and renovation of the Paramount, along with the construction of two new theaters on the adjacent block. Portland citizens were right there with us - voters approved a measure that provided $19 million of initial financing for the new Portland Center for the Performing Arts.
In 1983, the "groundbreaking" on renovation of Paramount as a new concert hall was followed with the first of many generous donations from Harold and Arlene Schnitzer. This contribution turned the Paramount into the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, and marked the first of many incredible gestures of support from other art-loving Portlanders over the years.
The next year, Norman Winningstad surprised his wife for their 39th wedding anniversary by making a $500,000 donation to the Center in her name, which dubbed one of the new theaters the Dolores Winningstad. By 1987, the construction of our new Center was completed. The people of Portland came out in droves to join in the opening celebration, with 25,000 on Broadway and Main streets and an additional 300,000 viewers tuning in to the live television broadcast.
Beginning in 1994, nonprofit group Friends of the Performing Arts Center raised funds for improvements within PCPA venues. Later in the 90s, they initiated the Walk of Stars to honor those who had contributed significantly to Portland’s arts, urban design, and environment. The following years saw a bounty of generous donations that gave the rest of our venues the names they bear today. In 1997, a donation of $650,000 from Herb and Jeanne Mittleman Newmark gave the Newmark Theatre its name. In 2000, Corey Brunish’s $350,000 donation in honor of his mother, Virginia, named the Brunish Hall (now Brunish Theatre). And later that year, Richard B. Keller made a $1.5 million donation that renamed the Portland Civic Auditorium to the Keller Auditorium.
Our organization and the work we do has been made possible by contributions from the Portland community itself. Whether it’s a group of citizens coming together to protect a historic space, or a donation from one or two generous people that funds state-of-the-art renovations, the people of the city have always been our driving force. These are your venues. They always have been, and they always will be.