Littman + White Galleries: art and artists in SMSU

Portland State offers a variety of creative outlets for students, including the Littman + White Galleries. These contemporary, student-run galleries offer artwork from national artists as well as peers.

The Littman Gallery is located in room 250 of the Smith Memorial Student Union, and the White Gallery is located in SMSU room 289, a public hallway between rooms 238 and 232. Each gallery features a new artist every month and hosts regular artist talks and presentations.

The White Gallery is in a prime location, as students walk through it every day to get to class or Smith’s various study lounges and multicultural centers. Co-curator Carlin Brown always takes this into consideration when envisioning works for the White Gallery. “We really consider the fact that it is a public space,” Brown said. “It’s a transient area. What kind of work speaks to the public audience?”

The galleries feature emerging contemporary artists, both local and international. Currently on display in the Littman Gallery is zero vine, an interdisciplinary installation created by Stephen Nachtigall, a Canadian-born artist currently living and working in Eugene; the White Gallery is currently hosting Morbid Symptoms by Portland artist Sarah Levy, famous for her 2015 painting “Whatever,” a graphic and controversial portrait of then-candidate Donald Trump. Previous artists have come from all around the nation, creating a diverse display of artwork within the galleries.

The Littman also hosts workshops, performances and lectures for any PSU student interested in the arts. On Jan. 18, the Littman Gallery hosted Brazilian-American University of Oregon professor Rick Silva‘s presentation of his recent works. Brown chose Silva because she sees his artwork, which integrates technology and nature, as being relevant for PSU students and Portland residents interested in understanding nature and the environment.

“Our goal is to expose PSU to this whole other culture of art that is kind of tough to lay out in the university,” Brown said. “We are a small part of a very large university, so we try to have programming that hits close to home for a variety of students who might not have that art background.”

Silva spoke to a full crowd of eager and insightful participants. Silva began the presentation with one of his earlier works, “Scratch,” a film project inspired by turntables. One of his newer works was “The Silva Field Guide to Birds of a Parallel Future.” This particular piece was inspired by his recent enthusiasm for birdwatching and a growing interest in multiverses. His presentation was full of inspirational quotes, and the variety of his artwork piqued the audience’s interest.

Silva’s work was greatly inspired by the landscapes of the places he has lived, particularly Colorado, Canada, and Oregon. Another of his recent works involves the ocean and oil spills. In some of his newer pieces, Silva incorporates his computer work with nature; instead of removing the digital element, he leaves it in as a part of the work as a whole. “That’s what the software wants, it wants to be part of the painting,” Silva said.

Brown emphasized that the galleries have particular shows which can allow other departments to get involved. “We try to connect our programming to the student body.” Any notion that the Littman Gallery is the exclusive province of art school students is untrue, as the gallery is meant to showcase art for PSU students of all majors.

The Littman Gallery allows all PSU students to submit their work for the fifth annual Juried Exhibition. Students may choose any piece of art they feel most proud of and submit it to the gallery; works are reviewed by the staff and other art professionals, who then select artwork for presentation. The deadline for submission is Wednesday, Jan. 25. Email submissions to [email protected].

Please visit for more information about getting involved, current artists on display, and future events.