Beloved photography center closes its doors

Staff, volunteers and community members packed the Newspace Center for Photography last night to learn more about the abrupt end of the fifteen-year-old organization.

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Equipped with a wet darkroom, digital lab and lighting studio, the Newspace Center for Photography in Southeast Portland served as a workspace and educational facility for all those interested in image making. The nonprofit arts center also had a gallery that hosted photography shows from artists throughout the country.

Newspace closed permanently on Friday, July 7. 

During the Monday meeting, board member Bob Hestand said problems “started two weeks ago with a phone call saying ‘we can’t make rent or payroll.'” 

At that point the center was closed temporarily as the board dug through the finances. After identifying $150,000 in liabilities, the board declared Newspapce insolvent.

“We’ve unfortunately added to that long list of arts organizations that have had to do just this — close the doors,”  Hestand said.  

All staff were laid off, and approximately 100 students who had already enrolled in summer classes will lose their tuition. At least one of the instructors present expressed interest in conducting his classes privately so that students could get their money’s worth.

DSCF4123Board member Bob Hestand addresses the crowd.                                                                                              Photo by | Jason Kaplan

Hestand said that although revenue streams, class enrollment, grants and memberships had been declining for some time, the acute financial crisis came as a surprise. He declined to reveal details; however, he emphasized there was no scandal or fraud. He also said the landlord was not to blame.

“This is not a Portland rent story,” Hestand said. He said that Newspace had been paying $5,000/month for its facility, and that it “was the best deal in town.” Total monthly operating expenses were about $40,000.  

What’s next?

Many of the people who attended last night’s meeting expressed interest in forming a new organization to fill the gap left by the center’s closure.  

“Don’t give up,” Hestand said.