SPACE is a nonprofit organization that supports contemporary arts projects, champions artists, and encourages an open exchange of ideas.
Grounded in the belief that vital communities are activated by experimentation, conversation, and camaraderie, SPACE engages a wide audience with provocative arts programming and category-defying events. As a nexus for curious minds, we collaborate with original thinkers and invite the public to participate in the ongoing pursuit of adventurous ideas.
From our versatile home at 534-538 Congress Street, we:
● Curate visual art exhibitions
● Showcase music
● Present film screenings
● Facilitate lectures and discussions
● Foster a platform for contemporary experimental performance
● Rent below-market studios to artists with active practices
● Oversee a statewide granting program for artist-led initiatives and projects
● Invite national artists to stay in Portland through our residency program
● Encourage conversations about issues of social justice
● Engage the public in community events and open forums
● Collaborate with other nonprofits, artist-run projects, and performing arts organizations
Read more about SPACE's dynamic programming in our 2017 annual report.
Jon Courtney and Todd Bernard founded SPACE Gallery in August of 2002 alongside a community of friends who volunteered and the visionary support of SPACE's original landlord, Christopher Campbell. SPACE is a non-profit arts organization dedicated to presenting contemporary, emerging, and unconventional arts, artists, and ideas. Jon Courtney continued to work through 2018 as our Film Programmer and Todd Bernard became involved with Empire, just up the street. Nat May, our first Executive Director, became involved with the founders after a half of year of programming. With the help of many community members and a small staff, they quickly made important efforts to build SPACE into what it is today and became a formal 501(c)3 in 2003.
What was originally called The Annex (and is now our dedicated gallery space) opened on July 1, 2011 right next door at 534 Congress after a major first-floor building rennovation. In 2015, SPACE launched a capital campaign Claiming SPACE, which allowed the organization to buy the entire building, also home to 30 affordable below-market artist studios and Pickwick Independent Press. SPACE has since grown to host an artist-in-residence program which garnered SPACE National Endowment of the Arts support. We also proudly administer the Kindling Fund, part of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts re-granting network, making over $65,000 in direct grants to artist-led projects throughout the state of Maine annually. You can browse the first five years of Kindling Fund grants through the online publication here.
Our landmark Congress Street building is part of the Congress Street Historical District and has existed in many forms, namely as a corset store, a pizza shop, and a Wendy’s. The building was originally a 19th-century hotel. Now it currently houses the SPACE main venue, the dedicated gallery space, the window gallery, our offices, Pickwick Independent Press, the artist residency studio, and SPACE Studios. SPACE is not formally involved with the independent entities run out of the studios upstairs or Pickwick Independent Press, but we identify as an active artist community and seek opportunities to collaborate between the floors of our building and protect below-market rents for practicing artists.
We are committed to providing access for our community to unconventional contemporary arts, artists and ideas.
We are an artist-centered organization, which means we put artist’s needs first and seek to support their ideas by any means possible.
We strive to present the highest quality work in every facet of the organization.
We believe in being open-minded and inclusive to our audiences, our volunteers, the artists we work with and our peers.
We feel that everyone should feel comfortable and invited to come to SPACE.
SAFER SPACE POLICY
SPACE Gallery is dedicated to providing a harassment-free event experience for everyone, regardless of race, gender, gender identity, and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, age, religion, marital status, or veteran status. Harassment includes offensive comments related to any protected personal characteristic, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately. This applies to everyone, including event staff and sponsors. If a participant engages in harassing behavior, the event organizers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expulsion from the event. If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact a member of event staff immediately. Event staff will be happy to help participants contact venue security or local law enforcement, provide escorts, or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe for the duration of the event. We value our staff, volunteers and interns time as well as valuing our audience’s attendance.
MAIN PROGRAM AREAS
Visual Art Exhibitions: SPACE continually challenges definitions of art, where art belongs, and how it affects our thoughts and our lives: SPACE mixes exhibitions of compelling regional and national artists with emerging local talent, creating a forum for visual expression that is new to Portland or that commercial visual art spaces would not choose.
Film screenings: SPACE’s film program offers access to a wide array of content that otherwise never makes a big-screen appearance anywhere but the largest cities in the world. SPACE uses film to present contemporary ideas about social justice, politics, human rights, and artistic development. No other venue in Portland features as much new work in experimental and short film, animation, and award-winning documentaries.
Music shows: Up and coming artists make appearances at SPACE before their careers rocket them to stints on Saturday Night Live, to sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall, or to headline slots at music festivals. Named one of the top 40 music venues in the nation, SPACE blends eclectic, experimental, underground and niche music audiences into its gallery environment for a true cross-pollination of interest in the arts, creativity, and performance.
Public forums and collaborations: SPACE has a democratic atmosphere that makes it well suited for discussion, collaboration and idea sharing. Local partners appreciate SPACE’s position as the center of the arts district, its flexibility and informal demeanor. As a result, SPACE has formed dozens of partnerships with other nonprofits and community groups for informational sessions, public lectures, fundraisers and awareness building events. SPACE has been building a more interdisciplinary performance program and is seeking to collaborate more with regional performers (dancers, choreographers, theater groups, and performance artists) workshopping new works and creating opportunities for performance presentations at SPACE.
What the heck is this place?
SPACE is a nonprofit, multidisciplinary gallery and performance space in the heart of the arts district in Portland, Maine. Our mission is to present contemporary, emerging and unconventional arts, artists and ideas.
What are your gallery hours?
We are open to the public from 12-6, Wednesday through Saturday, as well as during our events.
Do you mostly show local artists?
No -- in fact, we present more art, music and other genres from regional, national and international artists than we do work from local artists. Our goal is to present the best work we can that might not otherwise be presented in Maine.
Who owns the gallery?
We're a nonprofit organization, managed by a staff and overseen by a board of directors.
How can I find more information about something I saw there?
We try to put relevant links in our event and exhibition descriptions when they're available. Other than that, we don't usually have any information that wouldn't be found online.
Can I bring my class / knitting group / book club / family reunion to visit the gallery?
Can we come during off hours?
Give us a call and let us know when you'd like to come, and we'll do our best. We're happy to talk with groups about our exhibits or about SPACE itself.
Why are you called SPACE?
Our idea is simple: to provide space for things to happen. Our galleries are raw and flexible, so we're ready for anything from hanging a fishing boat on the wall to filling the room with spaceships in midair. Please note: we're not The SPACE. There are a lot of art spaces named SPACE (or some variation) around the country -- we don't presume to be the only one.
Can you donate use of SPACE for my nonprofit fundraiser?
As a nonprofit ourselves, we understand the need to get help wherever possible. However, our space is our biggest asset, and it's what we use to help fund our low-ticket-price programs. If you would like to hold an event at SPACE, or co-present an event, we'll share the expense as much as we can, but please be prepared to be creative about how to cover the costs of the room.
Do you do private rentals?
Occasionally we rent SPACE to nonprofits, corporate parties or private individuals. Please inquire for more information about cost and availability. We do NOT generally rent SPACE for the booking of public events -- i.e. you can't pay to have your child's band play here.
Our rental request form is here.
Can I put my name on your mailing list?
Please do! We have an email list as well as a paper mailing list.
I want to see photos from SPACE event XYZ! Do you have any?
We might! You can check our Flickr page or maybe our blog.
How long has SPACE been open?
SPACE opened to the public in August of 2002.
Do you need new volunteers at SPACE?
Always. We have opportunities for volunteers in all aspects of our work, including but not limited to: music event staff, gallery sitting, door person at films, gallery prep, administrative and many others. More info here.
Can I post my flyer/poster on your board?
Yes, you can. Larger flyers can go on the board next to the main gallery entrance and smaller flyers can go on the shelf.