Creative Arts Center

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Opened September 2013!

This page was posted in 2011 in anticipation of building our Creative Arts Center. We are thrilled to report that the building opened on schedule for the start of the 2013-14 school year!

» Link to slide show, "Creative Arts Center from the Ground Up."

“The arts are a core of Catlin Gabel’s philosophy and are key to a well-rounded education. In no other discipline do critical thinking, problem-solving, predicting outcomes, analyzing, re-assessing, and creativity come together as they do in the arts. . . . The intellectual challenges posed by visual art, music, and theater facilitate learning in all other disciplines. These vital pursuits help make our children more thoughtful, interesting, and well-rounded—and create a life of more profundity and beauty for all of us.”

—Lark Palma, head of school


Exercising the creative mind is at the core of a Catlin Gabel education. We are currently in the leadership phase of a capital campaign to raise the necessary funds to elevate this commitment to our students and their education. Catlin Gabel’s Campaign for Arts and Minds has two components: building our endowment, with special emphasis on financial aid, and building a new Creative Arts Center for the Middle and Upper Schools.
The campaign began quietly in the fall of 2007 and has picked up momentum during the past year. Our most loyal and engaged donors have stepped up to the challenge of investing in our students, their creative minds, and their bright futures.


If organizations should play to their strengths, then Catlin Gabel’s commitment to building a creative arts center for the Middle and Upper Schools is our way of demonstrating how fundamental creativity is to our educational philosophy.

Catlin Gabel has dreamed about a creative arts center, one that consolidates the visual, music, and drama classrooms scattered around campus, for the last 20 years. In the late 1980s, then-headmaster Jim Scott spoke seriously about bringing all the arts under one roof. And ever since current head Lark Palma set foot on campus in 1995, it was abundantly clear to her, a veteran drama teacher, that the arts facilities needed updating.
And the need has continued to grow. During the past two decades, the school and our arts offerings have grown, but the square footage per student dedicated to the arts has decreased. The lack of adequate space for teaching the arts has been singled out as an important area for improvement in our last two accreditation reports by the Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools.

In early 2010, a chance meeting between former trustee Jim John and world-renowned Portland architect Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture, planted the seeds for what will one day become the new Creative Arts Center. Brad had just finished high-profile arts projects in New York City, Montreal, and Dallas and was looking for a project back on his home turf. Jim, a seasoned developer and builder, thought that Brad would be just the person to ignite our Arts Center project with a fresh and inspired design. We hope you’ll agree, when you see the design renderings (right), that Brad and his team delivered the right design at the right time.


For US visual art, US choir, US media arts, MS drama, MS music, MS visual art
Current Square Footage: 6,786
Future Arts Square Footage: 20,000
Creative Arts Center Layout Main Level
Courtyard (outdoor)
Media Arts
Theater Control Room
MS Visual Arts
US Visual Arts
Shared print room
3D Studio
Lower Level
Black Box Theater (two levels)
Theater Tech Space
Drama Classroom
Instrumental Room
Choir Room
Music Laboratory
Practice Rooms
Instrument Storage Lockers


The center will open in September 2013. The overall project cost is $6.9 million. Prudently, our board mandated that we raise 80% of projected costs in gifts and pledges in order to break ground. We met that requirement last summer, and as of March 2014, have less than $72,000 to raise. We are looking for generous arts lovers and donors to be part of the final effort toward full funding. Please contact director of development, Joset Grenon, 503-297-1894 ext. 307 or, to learn about this project, the school’s Campaign for Arts & Minds, or how to make a gift. Catlin Gabel funds major building projects entirely through contributions.


The board and administration’s conservative fiscal management has positioned the school with zero outstanding debt after completing the major construction projects of the past 20 years. The Murphy Athletic Complex, Warren Middle School, the Beehive, and most of the Upper School buildings were built without incurring debt. While this is unusual in the sea of heavily financed cultural projects throughout the city and region, it’s a distinction that makes us proud and contributes to the school’s financial health.


Concrete was poured for the foundation footings on December 7, 2012.





Top: Creative Arts Center facade; middle, lobby; bottom, aerial view 


Eric Edwards '71, cinematographer

Valerie Day '77, jazz singer

Caprice Neely '85, footwear designer

Bianca Bosker '04, technology editor, Huffington Post

Michael Hiestand '75, sports media journalist, USA Today

Click here to explore many more of our talented alumni profiled in the Summer 2011 issue of the Caller.