Jim Archer, 1942-2017

Photo of Jim Archer in front of Archer Gallery

Long-time art faculty member and gallery director James “Jim” Archer passed away on Tuesday, November 28. He was 75 years old.

Archer grew up in Vancouver and received his Associate of Arts degree from Clark College before going on to earn his Bachelor of Arts in graphic design from Portland State University and his Master of Fine Arts from Washington State University. Afterward he returned to Clark College to teach. In addition to serving as gallery director, Jim taught art and art history at Clark College for 23 years.

Archer originally became curator of Clark’s art gallery in 1982, when it was still located within the Clark College Bookstore and was called the Index Gallery. Successful in attracting well-known Northwest artists, the Index Gallery became known as one the region’s top alternative venues for contemporary artists. Archer announced his retirement in 1995. That same year, the gallery—which by then had been relocated to a larger space within Gaiser—was renamed in Archer’s honor. It moved to its current location in the lower level of the Penguin Union Building in 2005.

In 2016, Archer donated much of his private art collection to Clark College; selected works from the collection were shown in the gallery that bears his name, in an exhibit called “Archer @ Archer.”

Current and retired art faculty joined together to issue the following statement about their colleague’s passing:

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Jim Archer. Jim was the first director of the Archer Gallery, a position he held from 1982 to 1995. He established the traditions and mission that are central to the Archer Gallery. Under his direction, the gallery quickly gained a regional reputation for exhibiting emerging Northwest artists due to his prescient eye for recognizing young talent. Through the next several decades, significant regional artists could point to their initial exhibition in the Vancouver-Portland metro area at Clark College’s Archer (formerly Index) Gallery.

Jim was a passionate, sometimes fierce, man with strong opinions. The gallery exists in its present form because of the battles that Jim fought to shape it. All of his strength and determination was needed for his struggle with AIDS. Jim was diagnosed with HIV in 1987 and AIDS in 1994 before medications had been developed to manage the disease. In the winter of 1995 Jim became dangerously ill but survived and became an early successful recipient of the AIDS drug cocktail. The dignity, resolve, and humor with which he handled the treatments and advancing illness was inspiring. He never yielded to his illness and continued to live and enjoy life fully.

After his retirement from Clark in 1995, Jim continued to champion young artists: collecting work, visiting studios, and curating exhibits – including “Next/Now” (Littman Gallery, Portland State University) and “Modern Zoo” (St. Johns, Oregon).

Jim returned to his own studio work after retirement creating and exhibiting collage and painting on paper. Both his work and his art collection (much of which was donated to Clark College and the Hallie Ford Museum at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon) were featured in “Archer@Archer” in 2016.

Jim was a great friend, father to Stephen and Peter Archer, and Grandfather to Isabella (Bella) Archer.

There will be a memorial service on December 16 at 6:00 p.m. Holladay Park Plaza (1300 NE 16th Ave., Portland, Oregon), the retirement community where Archer lived until shortly before his death. Time and details are still being determined by the family; this article will be updated as details become available. The Archer Gallery is collecting cards and letters to give to the family during the service.

This article was updated 12/6/17 to reflect the new date of the memorial service. It was updated again on 12/11/17 to include the time of the service.

Photo: Clark College/Jenny Shadley