Alumni of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland say the school’s board is considering having the organization become part of a larger institution.

Salt is scheduled to close in September after 42 years in business, but an alumni group called Save Salt has been raising support to keep it open since the closing was announced in June. Save Salt members were told by Salt board Chairwoman Kimberly Curry that the board has been in talks with larger institutions, including the Maine College of Art in Portland, about the possibility of Salt being absorbed, said Tim Rhys, a Save Salt member and publisher of Movie Maker magazine.

When asked Wednesday about merger talks between Salt and other schools, Curry declined comment. She said that when the board had “more to say,” she would make the news public.

Rhys said Save Salt members view the possibility of Salt becoming part of another school as a “fall back” and would rather the school stay open and independent. Rhys said he and other Save Salt members are concerned that the board has not responded to a detailed plan for saving Salt, including fundraising ideas, that the Save Salt group presented on July 8.

“Keeping Salt open and independent is our primary concern,” Rhys said.

Rhys said he does not know any details of the board’s talks with other schools or any timetable for the talks.

Maine College of Art leadership has been involved in an “exploratory conversation” about Salt, Raffi Der Simonian, the college’s director of marketing, said in an email. But he did not elaborate.

A post on the Save Salt Facebook page said the Salt board also has had talks with Maine Media Workshops and College in Rockport about Salt becoming part of that institution. But Meg Weston, president of Maine Media Workshops and College, said in an email that her school is not in discussions with Salt “at this time.”

When announcing Salt’s closing, board members cited declining enrollments, a lack of an endowment and a lack of consistent fundraising. The school doesn’t give college credits and typically enrolled 25 students a semester. Tuition is $9,890.

The plan Save Salt presented to the board calls for a number of changes to the way the Salt Institute conducts business, including offering online courses, hiring a full-time development person or grant writer to raise money, and making improvements to the way the nonprofit school markets itself.


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