Final performances in September at Portland arts venue Lucid Stage

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PORTLAND — Lucid Stage has announced that the nonprofit arts organization will close it’s doors Sept. 30. 

Citing costly overhead, an unsigned email sent to Lucid Stage supporters blamed the difficulties of maintaining an accessible and affordable arts center.

Lucid has been operating since November 2010 at 29 Baxter Blvd.

The message said the closing shouldn’t be classified as a failure, but as a life lesson that optimism and a work ethic “aren’t always enough.” Business training, workshops, and consultations should have been utilized to construct a sound business plan, it said.

“Our success will be measured by how many people were inspired by a performance they saw or a person they met here,” Lucid Director Liz McMahon said in a message later posted on the theater’s website.

McMahon’s email also expressed, in hindsight, that Lucid’s business plan was overly optimistic about receiving grants and other forms of fundraising.

In an interview, she said there isn’t an oversaturation of arts centers in Portland. Rather, she said, the challenge to sustainability is keeping the center affordable for artists, and said Lucid was constantly booked and had to turn away artists on a daily basis.

However, the revenue was not enough to cover the overhead, which included rent, insurance, heating, and other costs. When faced with the reality of having to charge artists dramatically more money or close the center, McMahon said she made the decision to end the enterprise.

McMahon said Lucid has had a lot of support from the community, utilizing dozens of volunteers, and receiving adequate grants to fund the first year.

But this past year, the funding dried up.

McMahon said grantors now tend to give more money to fewer organizations in order to maximize impact. She also said funding to support the arts is harder to come by than funding to directly address human needs. 

According to its website, Lucid’s mission has been “to foster the creation and enjoyment of the arts, and to provide our community with a setting to further promote and encourage the arts.”

To that end, Lucid has been used as performance and rehearsal space for artists of various genres; community events including Hour Exchange Portland potlucks, League of Young Voters forums and festivals; workshops and a visual arts gallery. It also ran a theater program in conjunction with Creative Trails.

There are several arts center in Portland. Including One Longfellow Square, which converted from a for-profit business model to a non-profit venue in 2011, and The St. Lawrence Arts Center on Munjoy Hill.

Blainor McGough, who is executive director of another arts venue, Mayo Street Arts Center, praised Lucid’s efforts and empathized with the struggle for funding.

“A lot of energy went into Lucid Stage,” McGough said.”They did a great thing. It’s not easy to be a small arts venture.” 

Mayo Street Arts Center opened in February 2010, about eight months before Lucid Stage. McGough said it has stayed afloat by finding ways to diversify its revenue – for example, by renting studio space. The center receives some grants, but McGough said those funds generally go toward maintaining a youth program. She further explained that it takes time to build programs and get grant support.

In the meantime, Mayo Street relies on volunteers, tries to be resourceful and pinches pennies.

“There needs to be places for community art to happen,” McGough said. “The hard part is getting people to come out and support your works. People should really be supporting the smaller venues as much as, or more than, the big ones. We’re at a max for venues and there’s more and more competition all the time.”

Events at Lucid Stage will continue as planned through September. Lucidfest, a festival and yard sale on Sept. 8 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., will help cover the costs of closing. Ingazo, a traditional Rwandan dance ensemble, is the last scheduled performance on Sept. 30 at 8 p.m.  

Marena Blanchard can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 115 or Follow her on Twitter: @soapboxnoise.