Maine College of Art in Portland to provide permanent home for Salt Institute

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PORTLAND — The Maine College of Art is taking over the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.

The announcement ends speculation about whether Salt would be reborn after it closed last year.

At a press conference Tuesday at the college at 522 Congress St., representatives from MECA and Salt said the acquisition is a good move for both institutions.

President Don Tuski said MECA “believes in the importance of partnership and collaboration.”

Salt – which for decades offered semester-long courses in radio, photojournalism and documentary storytelling – announced last June that it would close, primarily due to flat enrollment and lack of funding.

An interim partnership between Salt and MECA was announced a short time later.

Under the formal partnership with MECA, the Salt brand will be retained and the will have its own spacey.

Ian Anderson, MECA vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college, said MECA signed a memorandum of understanding in January; the merger was completed April 8.

Anderson said the two institutions had similar missions and core values, and he has always admired the school.

“I’m also thrilled to be part of Salt’s ongoing legacy,” he said.

Kimberly Curry, Salt chairwoman, said after last year’s difficulties she has a “profound sense of relief” and gratitude for the partnership.

The partnership was in part made possible by financial support from the Quimby Family Foundation, an organization that has supported both institutions in the past. Anderson said the Quimby gift would support Salt for two to three years, but declined to say how much funding Quimby will provide.

Anderson said the projected enrollment at Salt will likely remain the same, at about 25 students. He said the first semester will likely be in the fall of 2017, since accreditation still must be secured. Anderson also said tuition would remain around the same as it was before, a little under $10,000 a semester.

Following the press conference, Anderson said MECA plans to hire two faculty members to teach at Salt. He said while the school has facilities ready to serve Salt students – photography labs, equipment, and a recently built recording studio – it will be looking to construct a “cohort space” for Salt students somewhere in the building.

MECA has more than 450 undergraduates.

MECA and Salt will also offer one-week summer workshops on documentary storytelling. The three workshops will include radio storytelling, documentary film and documentary photography. More information can be found online at meca.edu/salt.

Additionally, MECA will release the Salt Story Archive, a collection of all Salt’s stories and publications since its beginning more than 40 years ago.

Anderson said the archive has more than 16,000 images, 495 radio shows, nearly 900 writing projects, more than 250 multimedia projects, and others from more than 1,000 Salt alumni. The archive will be presented to alumni first, then made available to the public.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Maine College of Art Vice President Ian Anderson, left, Salt Chairwoman Kimberly Curry, and MECA President Don Tuski announce a formal partnership between the two institutions Tuesday, April 12, in Portland.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.