Minnesota Center for Photography: RIP

Yesterday an email originating from my hometown was making its way around the internet entitled “Thank You So Much, From MCP” with the sad news that the Minnesota Center for Photography (formerly pARTS) was closing its doors and ceasing operation TODAY. It read as follows:

“Dear Friends,

It is with regret that we must inform you that Minnesota Center for Photography is discontinuing business operations at the close of business on July 31st. Over the past six months we have unsuccessfully attempted to adjust our budget and, with your help, raise additional funds to pay down debt and fund continuing operations.

The Board made this decision with reluctance and after attempting whatever we could do to permit the survival of MCP.

On behalf of the many stakeholders in Minnesota Center For Photography, we thank you for your continuing interest and support of MCP’s mission over the years.

Very truly yours,

Chuck Koosmann, Co-Chair
Mark L. Wilson, Co-Chair”

The closing of MCP is a great loss for the photography community in the Midwest. MCP was founded as pARTS Photographic Arts 18 years ago, if memory serves me it was formed in the spirit of ‘Film In The Cities,’ an organization in which Jim Dozier, Cheryl Younger and others played a vital role. pARTS was headed by Vance Gellert with many great staffers over the years, and grew steadily, creating a great sense of community with in the twin cities and beyond, with exhibitions at its venues in the Lake/Lyndale area of Minneapolis, as well as in the context of public art projects, serving local and international artists well. Under a recently re-branded name, MCP moved to the hip Northeast Minneapolis neighborhood four years ago; staffers Colleen Mullins and George Slade both making the transition to the NE location. In recent years, the return of photographer Tom Arndt to the area saw him launching and heading the “Camera Workers” monthly salon at MCP. Vance Gellert is actively pursing his vision as a photographer in Minneapolis, Colleen Mullins moved on bring her energy to the position of Academic Director for the photography program at Art Institutes International Minnesota, and George Slade to purse curatorial and writing projects. Jes Schrom and Kaia Hemming were terrific help to me in hosting my lectures and workshops in recent years at MCP, and along with the other past/present staffers at MCP I wish them well in their next endeavors. I know we will continue to hear from all of them as they continue to make an impact in our field.

The last time I was at MCP was this past September to attend the public memorial for Carroll T. Hartwell, long-time curator of photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. George, Tom and I were among those who spoke about Ted’s impact on our community that night. MCP was a hub for education, and one of the reasons it was chosen as the site for Ted’s memorial. I hope that photographers will have again have gathering point in my hometown in the not too distant future.

Today I traveled east, heading to be both a student (“Copyright and Legal Issues for Media Artists” with Nancy Wolff) and teacher of my marketing class at the Maine Media Workshops. Before posting tonight, I looked at today’s New York Times and this news item in the “National Briefing” section caught my eye, in light of MCP’s closure:

“Wisconsin: Museum with Focus on Blacks’ Struggles Is Closing

Financial problems are causing America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee, a museum started by a lynching survivor, to close its doors on Friday after 20 years. But the museum’s board chairman, Reggie Jackson, said he was certain that reconfiguring the board, a new fund-raising effort and increasing awareness would allow the museum to open again. “We have every intention of reopening the museum once we get a plan in place,” Mr. Jackson said. The lagging economy, building debt, a revolving door of executive directors over the past eight years and the death of its founder have all contributed to the museum’s state, said Bethany Criss, the museum’s interim executive director. One of the first of its kind in the country, the museum explores the struggles of blacks in America. It was founded in 1988 by James Cameron, above, who, in 1930, survived a lynch mob in Marion, Ind. He died in 2006 at 92.”

I hope this museum and other important arts institutions and organizations can reach economic stability and grow to become essential components of their cultural communities. Join and support your local arts organizations!

1 Comment »

  1. seattlephoto9 said

    Photographic Center Northwest is experiencing some difficulties as well. This is from an email they sent out last week asking for help:

    Dear Friends,
    As you know, Photographic Center Northwest (PCNW) is a unique community resource. It is one of the nation’s best photographic schools combined with an important gallery of contemporary photography. Last year, we served 1,183 students in 88 10-week classes and 57 Workshops. Accredited by NASAD, we also offer a rigorous certificate program in fine art photography. We present 10 major gallery shows each year, and provide Seattle University with classes in photography through its BFA program.

    To a greater extent than any other school in the Pacific Northwest, PCNW pays its own way out of student tuition and other fees, a testament to the passion of our students and faculty, and the efficiency of our operation. Moreover, we have an unusually healthy balance sheet for an organization our size, reflecting the sizable net equity in our real property at 12th and Marion.

    PCNW has successfully negotiated the impact of digital photography, and we now teach an integrated curriculum. This was an expensive transition, however, and has left us with permanently higher costs, as we now must own and maintain two different sets of specialized equipment, one for digital photography and one for chemical photography.

    We currently face a financial challenge, as follows:
    1. We are currently in the black month-to-month but have an unmanageable overhang of accounts payable. This problem developed as a result of the costs of transitioning to digital, marketing issues, and low historical fund-raising. Our operations are stabilized and we have built a stronger Board and brought in a dynamic new Executive Director.
    2. The equity in our building is not available right now, due to the crisis among lenders. We are pursuing other ways to tap the equity, but have not yet achieved this goal.
    3. Our building has an immediate need for a new roof.
    4. Our cash constraints make it harder to spend enough on marketing to keep our classes full. We are doing OK right now, but could be doing better.
    At this juncture we are asking for your help before we have to soon pursue extraordinary measures to tap the equity in our building. We are proud of being a Seattle-based art resource and the community epicenter for photography. Please consider how you could participate in helping us continue to serve as the region’s photographic resource.
    Thank you for responding to our call,

    PCNW Board of Trustees

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