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Tom Cramer papers

Identifier: WUA122

Scope and Contents

The Tom Cramer papers provide insight into the Portland, Oregon art and culture scene from the 1980s to the present. Series I (Art career) includes gallery and art exhibition fliers and posters, publicity for Cramer’s art in newspapers and magazines, materials related to his education and teaching career, and original art by Cramer, including fragments of his “Machine” mural, and other artists. Series II (Sketchbooks) includes drawings and notes from 1976 to 2013. Series III (Day planners and journals) includes Cramer’s daily planners from 1982 to 2007 and journals from his extensive European travels. Series IV (Correspondence) includes letters to Cramer from friends and family, a collection of family correspondence from 1943-2012, and examples of mail art. Series V (Photographs and slides) includes an extensive collection of slides and photographs of Cramer’s art, travels, friends, and family.


  • 1964-2017


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

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

Tom Cramer was born on February 9, 1960 in Portland, Oregon. He attended the Catlin Gabel School in Portland, the Museum Art School (later known as the Pacific Northwest College of Art), and the Pratt Institute in New York. He is best known for his colorful murals, painted cars and motorcycles, and intricate wood-relief paintings. His art is influenced by his environment, music, and various cultures including Indian, African American, and indigenous peoples of the Northwest coastal region.

Cramer began drawing at the age of 12 and quickly became interested in visual art. He was mentored by Portland modernists Clifford Gleason and Milton Wilson and his work is often viewed as a bridge between this earlier generation of artists and the younger artists in Portland. By the mid-1980s, Cramer became popular through his shows at the Folk Craft Gallery in Portland, Oregon and the Jamison Thomas Galleries in Portland, Oregon and New York. His work was also shown in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, as well as various Portland, Oregon galleries including the Butters Gallery, the Pulliam Gallery, the Mark Woolley Gallery, and the Laura Russo Gallery. From 1994-1997, Cramer worked with James Canfield and the Oregon Ballet Theatre to design sets and costumes for ballets. In 1989 Cramer painted his iconic mural “Machine” on a warehouse building on North Williams Avenue in Portland, Oregon. “Machine” helped change and increase the value of the neighborhood. In 2016, the mural’s existence was jeopardized when the warehouse was purchased by a developer who planned to demolish the warehouse in order to construct a new building called Parallax. In 2017, after much controversy, deliberation, and threatened legal action, Cramer and the developer settled amicably. The mural was destroyed when the warehouse was demolished with the agreement that Cramer would paint a new mural on Parallax.

Tom Cramer’s current work is built upon his style of the late 1990s with a focus on merging painting and relief wood carving with a less vibrant color palette. His work is included in permanent galleries at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon; the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon; the Jordan Schnitzer Museum at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon; and the Boise Art Museum in Boise, Idaho. He is currently represented by the Augen Gallery in Portland, Oregon and the Imogen Gallery in Astoria, Oregon.


9 Linear Feet (18 boxes)


The Tom Cramer papers documents the art career of Tom Cramer during the years 1964-2017. It also includes an extensive collection of family correspondence from 1943 to 2012. This collection contains original art, art gallery promotional fliers and posters, photographs and slides, sketchbooks, newspapers and clippings, and daily planners and journals.


The records are arranged into five series: I. Art career; II. Sketchbooks; III. Day planners and journals; IV. Correspondence; and V. Photographs and slides. Series I includes four subseries: A. Galleries and exhibitions; B. Publicity; C. Education and teaching; D. Art by Tom Cramer and other artists. Files are arranged in original order and in chronological order.

Physical Location

Mark O. Hatfield Library


Guide to the Tom Cramer papers, 1964-2017
Finding aid processed by Jennifer L. Gehringer.
© 2019
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Processed with funds provided by the National Historical Publications & Records Commission's (NHPRC) Access to Historical Records grant.

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