In what has to be the hands-down lousiest art news of the year, PICA announced last week that they are shutting down their visual arts programming for 2004 and that Visual Arts Curator Stuart Horodner will be released from his job after February. In addition, the cornerstone of the Pearl District art community has given up the lease on their gallery space.

PICA's Board of Directors made the swift decision to suspend all visual programming after Unforeseen (a group painting show that opens December 8) so that they could stop any financial bleeding while they sought a sustainable economic model for the program. In an email, Kristan Kennedy, PICA's PR/Marketing Manager was quick to assure us, "PICA is not closing and we are not banishing visual arts. We are shoring up our sides so we don't have to. We will go into a six-month planning phase to restructure that program and hope to come out with a strong and sustainable vision for the future--it will most likely include residencies, commissioned work, special projects, lectures, and salons."

In other words, it sounds like Portland can say goodbye to any reliable series of topnotch exhibitions by national and international artists for a long time. Residencies, lectures, and salons are all fine and well, but they ought to supplement gallery programming, rather than replace it. One thing that the Portland art community desperately needs is continual exposure to artists with the renown and caliber of Jim Hodges, Janine Antoni, William Pope.L, and Tony Tassett, and this gift was the greatest service that PICA provided us with. PICA will contend that they will continue to fill this need in some form, but it's evident that it will be in a greatly reduced capacity.

The soon-to-be-former gallery has been sitting unused since late July, when the institution turned nearly all its attention and energy to the Time-Based Arts Festival. Five months is a cryptically long period of time for a major art center to go without a show, but the lull in programming at least gave us all time to get used to not stopping by PICA when making our rounds in the Pearl. We couldn't be more disgusted with PICA's Board of Directors if they pissed in our cornflakes personally. CHAS BOWIE