The Ford family made their millions by clearcutting the forests of Southern Oregon, and their matriarch, 102 year old Hallie Ford, has been generous with her pillage with her support of the arts for decades.

See the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, an expensive private college.

She was a student of Carl Hall, who taught at Willamette for nearly forty years. Hall, seen here in plaid and in 1975, now lives in Chiloquin.

Ford just made a $15 million dollar gift to Pacific Northwest College of Art. Now we never speak ill of a major donor, but this gift raises more questions than it answers.

The Ford Family Foundation of Roseburg, has been a challenge for nonprofits for decades. The challenge goes like this, “Gee, it’s one of the biggest foundations in Oregon (with over half a billion in the bank, giving $17 million away in 2005), if we can just get something started in Southern Oregon they’ll give us a bunch. Is it worth it?”

A description of Ford’s gift by D K Row was published in the Oregonian this week.

Measured by the work made by its students and their impact outside of our small pond, PNCA is an expensive trade school for the children of the very wealthy or foolish. The impact of Ford’s gift may bring better models to speak and exemplify success, but it won’t be spent to teach students outside of the current demographic bubble. And I think this is the crux of the problem: mimics of the mainstream art market are silly and boring in the provinces. It’s heart and soul determination which make great art – not pretense and pose.

The bigger, more interesting question is, where will the rest of Ford’s money go, and who will manage it?