Dear Salt Alumni, Maine & Portland’s Arts Community and Interested Community Members, Near and Far:
It’s been about six weeks since we wrote to you with news of the decision to close Salt.
Since that announcement was shared publicly, there has been an outpouring of concern, hopes and good wishes from alumni and members of Maine’s Arts Community. We are incredibly touched and heartened to be the recipients of these nationwide sentiments – which have included offers of help, sadness and disbelief as well as rallying cries to find a way to reverse this difficult decision. Foremost among these groups, of course, were our own passionate Salt alumni. In addition to the existing Salt Alumni Board, another group of alumni quickly formed under the leadership of 6 dedicated individuals- leading a group called, Save Salt! Both the Salt Alumni Board and Save Salt! are working tirelessly to make sure that everyone’s voices are heard. We want to thank them and acknowledge their commitment, dedication and their unwavering belief that something positive can still happen.
Over the past weeks, Salt’s board of trustees has continued its outreach to potential partners and collaborators, and was also approached by several parties with suggestions and proposals for continuing Salt. After thoroughly assessing and considering all proposals, the trustees decided to pursue a dialogue with the Maine College of Art (MECA).
Salt and MECA are now entering into more in-depth discussions and a due diligence phase as we continue to negotiate opportunities for an exciting future for Salt in partnership with the Maine College of Art.
With the generous support of the Quimby Family Foundation (A private family foundation who has supported Salt as a funding partner for many years), the goal is to perpetuate Salt’s mission and unique programming while at the same time securing its archives, and providing an academic partnership different from any other that Salt has had in its 42-year history.
What is most important to all of us is that we stay true to Salt’s mission; that we retain the reputation of Salt’s revered national brand; and, that we create the opportunity for Salt to continue to offer its distinctive pedagogy. At the same time Salt would remain open and nimble to new technologies and cutting edge industry trends; welcoming opportunities for increased community partnerships, collaborations and, most importantly, increased alumni engagement.
Salt’s genesis, in Kennebunk, Maine in 1973, was under the umbrella of Kennebunk High School. Salt’s visionary founder, Pamela Wood, was able to grow the program beyond the walls of Kennebunk High School, through many evolutions of exploration and change, towards the program it is today. With that spirit in mind, Salt is excited to explore this partnership, one of the many benefits of which would include the opportunity to reduce operating costs and overhead. Salt would be able to retain classroom and gallery space in the heart of the Arts District, with its own branding, while at the same time accessing the benefits of a robust arts and academic community with whom to learn from and collaborate.
Salt and MECA are proposing the creation of an alumni advisory board to provide input into this process as we proceed through our due diligence phase. We will also be seeking the input of our Maine and Portland community, national collaborators and media partners as plans for the future are discussed in the coming weeks and months.
Leadership from all parties involved are committed to moving thoughtfully and intentionally through a transition process.
A partnership with MECA has tremendous opportunity to impact the Portland Arts Community in new and exciting ways. The recognition and branding of both institutions would be strengthened and elevated locally and nationally. MECA is flourishing under strong leadership and steady growth. They are poised and ready to be a fully collaborating partner with Salt, keen on retaining Salt’s trademark culture and program offerings while looking for opportunities to grow together – making each institution stronger on its own and in partnership.
There are still some pressing issues and immediate changes that will need to happen at Salt. The trustees, in their efforts to be fiscally responsible and ever cognizant of their fiduciary responsibilities, have been working with our landlord to find a new tenant for the space at 561 Congress Street. For the foreseeable future, Salt will share the space with a new leasing tenant (another educational institution) while details of our partnership with MECA continue to be discussed.
Salt student housing will be sold so that we can repay the generous foundation loan that enabled us to purchase the building. Attempting to carry the housing (including the loan and operating costs) without consistent programming would be another significant drain on Salt’s already exhausted resources.
Many have voiced great concern about what will happen to Salt’s 42-year-old archive. Historically, the physical archives have remained in Salt’s possession as the organization has moved from place to place throughout the state of Maine. The archives will continue to remain with Salt, for the time being at 561 Congress, and then either at MECA or with one of several interested institutions here in Maine. Salt will complete work on a publicly accessible digital story archive, this fall, containing digital versions of all Salt publications and all student stories from 1973 through present day.
Salt’s trustees and administration, in collaboration with MECA’s directors and administration and with the support and guidance of the Quimby Family Foundation are focused on creating a future for Salt that keeps the organization in Portland; keeps the Salt brand independent, recognizable and thriving; and, keeps the school fiscally strong by eliminating the duplication of overhead and expenses. This in turn will create opportunities for new community partnerships and more alumni engagement.
As we bring these ideas to fruition, we do so with the understanding that we must shepherd the memory and role Salt has played in so many people’s lives while exploring what the future holds for our beloved institution.
We thank all of you who have shared your feelings, time and expertise toward these shared goals and we look forward to updating you on our progress in the coming weeks.
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