Nearly three months after announcing that it would close its doors, the Portland, Maine–based Salt Institute for Documentary Studies is pursuing a partnership that could keep it afloat.
Talks have been underway since July about a merger of Salt and the Maine College of Art, also in Portland. Declining enrollment, financial losses and lack of an endowment were blamed for the initial decision to shutter the school.
Salt Executive Director Donna Galluzzo and Board Chair Kimberly Curry expressed support for the merger in an Aug. 23 Bangor Daily News op-ed. Partnering with an accredited school would allow Salt students to “get official transcripts, transfer partial or full credit hours, use AmeriCorps awards to help pay for school and gain access to unsubsidized educational loans,” they wrote.
But a group of Salt alumni has expressed concerns on Facebook about a potential merger’s impact on the 43-year-old institution. The group has been advocating for keeping the institute open while pursuing new revenue streams, stronger marketing efforts and the hiring of development staff.
“We are gravely concerned that while a merger may seem extremely alluring at a distance, what makes Salt so distinctive and compelling may be at serious risk of being compromised,” they wrote. “. . . We are wary that any potential partner institution could become the place where Salt goes to die. What may seem like a good deal right now could change down the line with no viable alumni input whatsoever.”
Talks about the merger are continuing.