By Emily Hancock
After years of putting other artists in the spotlight at Clark, the roles are reversed and the man behind the art is now front and center in shimmering red.
Jim Archer was honored on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. in Archer Gallery with a plaque commemorating his dedication and service as a professor, artist and collector.
The star of the night arrived in style, wearing a red jacket that shined under the lights in the gallery. “We always have to look forward to what Jim’s going to wear,” said Carson Legree, an instructor at Clark for 25 years and a personal friend of Archer’s. “He’s been planning this for a while.”
Archer’s family and friends were joined at the reception by former gallery directors, faculty, staff and President Bob Knight.
Archer grew up in Vancouver and received his AA at Clark. Shortly after completing his BA in graphic design at PSU, Archer received his Master’s Degree in Fine Arts at WSU Pullman and returned to teach as Clark’s instructional designer.
In 1982, during a pivotal moment in the expansion of what was once called Index Gallery, Clark hired Archer as gallery director.
During his 13 years as director, Archer’s goal was to bring the quality of art found in Portland and Seattle-based museums to the Clark community. Many say he accomplished it.
“He has definitely left a legacy,” Legree said. “He brought things to Clark that could appeal to everybody’s point of view of what art could be.”
As the new gallery director and replacement for Archer, Legree befriended him. Archer continued to support the gallery and worked with Legree for six months after his retirement.
“I think it’s just lovely to sort of look back on that legacy, and bring some people back to campus, and also introduce the newer generation to what that legacy has been about,” Legree said.
Lisa Conway, chairwoman of Clark’s Art department, explained Archer’s passion for art. “He wasn’t here teaching students just to get a paycheck and go home and watch TV,” Conway said. “He was here teaching students artwork because he was excited about that, and sharing his ideas. Then he would go home and make his own artwork!”
Clark will continue to honor Archer by integrating his donated works throughout campus. Conway said the pieces will be placed where they are most visible and on aptly sized walls.
Archer donated his art collection when he downsized into a smaller apartment in Portland. “I’m more worried about the art than I am about my clothes,” he said, chuckling. He said he loves that his new apartment has two big closets to fit his remaining artwork in.
Out of the 219 art pieces he donated to Clark, roughly 40 were displayed in the Archer @ Archer event. Senseney Stokes, the gallery director for the past two years, decided which pieces were displayed.
“It was rather shocking to see what she had chosen,” Archer said. “I’m just very pleased.”
Stokes said she just chose her favorite pieces. “A lot of Jim’s work is in the show, which I sort of did on purpose, but I also just really liked a number of his works.”
Though Stokes never had the chance to work with Archer, she said he has left a legacy for the gallery and set a standard for the art department.
“[Archer] is just a really feisty, high-spirited guy,” Stokes said. “He started the gallery here at Clark, so that’s been a really great thing for our programs in the art department. We owe a lot to him for that.”
When he announced his retirement in 1995, faculty honored Archer by naming the gallery after him. “I had always been a rather strong opponent of naming buildings after faculty, but they had done it a number of times before this, so I thought okay, I’ll be a hypocrite,” Archer said. “But it was very flattering.”
Archer’s plaque read “For His Dedication and Service to Clark College and the Community as a Professor, Alumnus, Artist and Art Collector.”