Skip to main content

Jack Eyerly collection on Pacific Northwest Art

Identifier: WUA097

Scope and Contents

The Jack Eyerly collection encompasses seven decades of notes, correspondence, artists’ papers, gallery showcards, posters, artworks, sketchbooks, and other assorted pieces of historical material exchanged between Eyerly and artists from across the Northwest and beyond. With more than 200 artists represented in the collection, there is a clear sense that Eyerly crafted this archive over his lifetime with the goal of establishing a definitive catalogue of Northwest artists that touches upon as many subjects as possible. Though largely correspondence, this collection has many examples of original artworks by Eyerly’s artist-friends that were given as gifts or as remuneration, as well as material documentation of the careers of many Northwest artists composed of clippings, gallery showcards, paperwork, and letters detailing the artistic process behind their projects.

These papers also document Eyerly’s life and personal interests, including the planning of Downtown Portland, homelessness, his personal faith, his work as a caregiver, and other topics related to Eyerly outside of the artworld. While these topics are never far from his artistic interests, they are shown through their own collections of clippings and xeroxes of articles relating to the changing landscape that affected Eyerly’s personal life.

The Jack Eyerly collection on Pacific Northwest Art is still undergoing processing and additional material will continue to be added to the finding aid. The series still undergoing processing include artwork, publications, and organizations.


  • 1903-2014
  • Majority of material found within 1951-2014


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers with the exception of selected files.

Conditions Governing Use

Library acts as “fair use” reproduction agent.

For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the Willamette University Archives and Special Collections.

Copyright Information: Before material from collections at Willamette University Archives and Special Collections may be quoted in print, or otherwise reproduced, in whole or in part, in any publication, permission must be obtained from (1) the owner of the physical property, and (2) the holder of the copyright. It is the particular responsibility of the researcher to obtain both sets of permission. Persons wishing to quote from materials in any collections held by University Archives and Special Collections should consult the University Archivist. Reproduction of any item must contain a complete citation to the original.

Biographical / Historical

Jack Kenneth Eyerly was born in Portland, Oregon in 1935 and was raised in Salem, Oregon. Eyerly was, for most of his life, a resident of Portland where he was an active artist and involved with the arts community. While at Salem High School, Eyerly organized gallery shows for his fellow students and himself. He had early connections with artists from all across Oregon through his friendships with Carl Hall, Clifford Gleason, and his association with Louis Bunce. He attended the Colorado Fine Arts Center in 1954 but left after one semester when he decided that it was a “fake operation.” Upon returning from Colorado, Eyerly became the director of the Salem Arts Association and curated shows at the Bush Barn Art Museum. In this position, Eyerly focused mainly on artists of the Pacific Northwest but also hosted one of the earlier Marcel Duchamp retrospectives. Starting in the 1950s and continuing until his death, Eyerly was a tireless advocate, facilitator, and friend of the arts in the Northwest.

Eyerly was highly focused upon his correspondence with hundreds of artists from the Northwest, in addition to maintaining consistent correspondence with artists and innovators from all over North America and beyond. Eyerly was a prolific connector of people, often offering extensive lists of artists, galleries, grants, museums, and nonprofit programs to his various correspondents, while at the same time working on his own projects to advance the arts. Eyerly was a board member of the Northwest Film Study Center, now the Northwest Film Center, during its early years at the Portland Art Museum, as well as a consultant and volunteer for the Portland Art Museum. He was also a longtime employee of Wacky Willy’s, an Albertina Kerr-affiliated store that sold recycled electronics and parts while providing jobs for people with disabilities under the supervision of employees, such as Eyerly.

A collaborator with many individuals and groups both in an artistic or consultant role, he gave his time as a freelance curator, exhibit designer, grant advisor, grant writer, and grant editor for himself and others. Much of Eyerly’s work was done free of charge or in exchange for a service or artwork, as often Eyerly was providing information to artists who were more able to pay with their work or time than with money. In several notes throughout the collection, Eyerly remarks that their artwork and friendship was more valuable to him than money.

One of the most well-documented cases of Eyerly’s continual support of an artist was as an advocate for his friend, noted painter and teacher, Clifford Gleason. Prior to Gleason’s death in 1978, Eyerly facilitated numerous projects for Gleason, in addition to assisting him on a more basic level. After Gleason’s death, Eyerly spent the next seven years preparing an extensive retrospective of Gleason’s works for the Blackfish Gallery, which debuted in 1985. Eyerly collected the paintings for the show himself and even prepared a talk of art criticism and notes about Gleason’s work and life to be presented at the show. For the artist Brian Kazlov, a painter who died tragically young, Eyerly played a similar role in conceiving and executing a retrospective exhibit of the late artist’s pieces. After both of their deaths, Eyerly was instrumental in not only in managing their artworks, but also their estates, making sure that their family members were taken care of. Taking on responsibilities beyond those of an arts facilitator was a common theme throughout Eyerly’s life, as he treated the artists he worked with as close friends.

Eyerly’s support of the arts went beyond being a facilitator of traditional mediums. Beginning in the early 1970s, he was a member of many different video art groups. He gave his time to support the development of films and short videos as respected modern art forms and helped to establish Portland as a haven for independent film and video art. His work as a board member for the Northwest Film Study Center allowed him to connect artists with the resources that they needed to bring new and innovative films to the screen. During his time as a board member, he investigated the creation of a Northwest Film and Video Archive, an idea which never came to fruition. Notably, Eyerly was also the founding member of the Portland chapter of Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT), a group devoted to expanding art through interactions with technology. EAT was originally founded in New York City by a group of engineers and artists composed of Billy Kluver, Fred Waldhauer, Robert Rauschenberg, and Robert Whitman.

His work to connect the artists of the Northwest led to many interactions between different mediums, bringing together the traditional modes of painting and drawing with more experimental ones, such as puppet theatre or dancing for the disabled. Those who knew him described Eyerly as always having a new project that he was attempting to bring into the greater fold of Northwest Art. Eyerly passed away May 10, 2014 at the age of 78.


100 Linear Feet (100 boxes)


The Jack Eyerly collection consists of seven decades of notes, correspondence, artists’ papers, gallery showcards, posters, artworks, sketchbooks, and other assorted pieces of historical material exchanged between Eyerly and artists from across the Northwest and beyond. Over 200 artists are represented in the collection.


The materials in the Jack Eyerly collection are often in dialogue with each other over the course of a box, not just in the individual folders. To maintain this original order, the materials within boxes have remained unchanged, while the intellectual arrangement has placed them in alphabetical and chronological order. Categories, such as publications or individual artists, have been grouped together into series for ease of searching and arranged according to alphabetical or chronological order on the box level.

Physical Location

Mark O. Hatfield Library

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Jack Eyerly, 2014.

Processing Information

Where necessary photocopies were made of materials significantly damaged by water or mold.


Guide to the Jack Eyerly collection on Pacific Northwest Art, 1903-2014
Finding aid processed by Jennifer L. Gehringer, Stephanie Milne-Lane, and McKelvey Mandigo-Stoba.
© 2020
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Final processing with funds provided by the National Historical Publications & Records Commission's (NHPRC) Access to Historical Records grant. Initial processing of this collection was funded in part by generous donations from Jack Eyerly's friends and supporters.

Repository Details

Part of the Willamette University Archives and Special Collections Collection Descriptions

Mark O. Hatfield Library
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 United States