Salt Institute of Portland explores Maine College of Art partnership

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PORTLAND — The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies may be reborn in a partnership with Maine College of Art.

Kimberly Curry, who leads Salt’s board of directors, on Monday said the group is in discussions with MECA that could involve locating somewhere on the art college’s campus while retaining its own brand and programs.

“The great thing is that it looks like we’re not going away,” Curry said.

The executive director of the school that offers semester-long courses in radio, photo and written documentary storytelling techniques had announced plans to close in June, citing flat enrollment and loss of affiliation agreements that provided the school access to student loans and AmeriCorps funding.

The board of directors said in an email to alumni and others that Salt and the Maine College of Art are entering “more in-depth discussions and a due diligence phase” as they explore a partnership.

Raffi Der Simonian, marketing director for the Maine College of Art, said in an email that Salt would likely operate as part of the Maine College of Art.

Curry said that would give Salt access to resources it’s not had in the past and could lead to collaborations between existing programs at the art college and the documentary school’s coursework in audio production, photography and writing.

“It would be a program within (MECA),” Curry said.

In its email, the board of directors said Salt is getting support from the Quimby Family Foundation as it seeks a new home, a move that stands to reduce the program’s overhead costs. It plans to eventually leave its space at 561 Congress St. and said that it will share the space with another tenant until securing a permanent location.

The institute also said it plans to sell a property at 192 High St., which it has used for student housing.

The school also maintains an archive of documentary work by its students dating back to its beginning in 1973. The board of directors said the archive will remain at 561 Congress St. for the time being and it plans this fall to work on digitizing that archive to post online.

Curry said the pieces would have to come together quickly for the school to offer classes in the fall, but that could still be possible.

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