Eclectic would be the best word to describe Wild Nite at Space Gallery. The first true fundraising party in the Portland nonprofit’s 10-year history brought in $5,000 to support wide-ranging programming.

“We’re looking to encapsulate the Space experience in one night,” said Marcie Griswold, marketing and development director. “It costs money to bring artists from all over the country, and we want to make that happen for 2014. People think of Space as a venue for music and artists, but we’re also carefully curating year-round.”

Wild Nite unfolded in three segments — from a cocktail party in the exhibit halls, to karaoke, to a Soul Clap and Dance Off party featuring international DJ Jonathan Toubin. Art lovers boogied down to classic 45s from Etta James and James Brown and more obscure musical gems.

The return of the Soul Clap dance party was chosen for Wild Nite for good reason. “I’ve heard they’re epic,” said Alice Kornhauser, a member of the Creative Portland board.

Drinks served in cocktail-size Mason jars included Wild Nite Punch — a festive mixture of Jamaleau rum, brandy, peach liqueur and tea. Even the Jello shots were inventive concoctions with strawberry preserves and rhubarb liqueur.

“It’s a celebration,” said associate director Jenny Dougherty. “We want to throw a party for people who already support us, as well as bring people in to see Space at its best.”

Greeting the crowd in the gallery window was artist Rollin Leonard’s “Pig Pile,” a piece using life-sized photographs of people that are face-mounted to more than 3,000 Plexiglas squares.

Once inside, partygoers appreciated “Steady Work,” the creativity of five sign painters — including Portland residents Pat Corrigan and Will Sears — whose work blurs the lines between commercial signage and art object.

From there, the curious wandered into the annex, where artist Greta Bank of Hollis appeared in costume as the character Gustave Menet, wearing a beard and standing on stilts.

“It’s an important place in the community where artists can come do alternative projects,” said Lucinda Bliss, an artist and art instructor from Bath. “It’s a way to tap into a different audience and to operate outside of what could be your usual practice. They’re receptive to out-of-the-box thinking.”

“We support art, ideas and artists,” said Emily Bruce, a member of the Space marketing committee.

Space offers a little of everything: late-night music parties, intimate chamber music performances, live theater, thought-provoking documentary screenings, and classes and artist workshops.

“We try to make it as versatile as we can,” events manager Adam Stockman said.

“They do everything — that’s what is so great about it,” said Marieke Van Der Steenhoven, a choreographer and member of the host committee.

“We transform the room daily,” Griswold said. Space hosts about 200 events per year. Many are in collaboration with other performing arts groups, such as Portland Ovations.

“It has been neat in the past few years to really see those collaborations take shape,” said Griswold. “I think we’re really filling a need in the community in this way.”

“Hands down, it has become a cornerstone institution for the creative community,” said Jennifer Hutchins, executive director of Creative Portland. “It has become a poster child for the type of forward-thinking, vibrant, creative organization that we want to support here in Portland.”

“This venue attracts innovative artists,” said designer Tatiana Whitlock of Freeport. “This is where I would go first in Portland. From sculpture to performance art, it’s never the same. You really do get a different experience every time you’re here.”

“It’s an alternative exhibition space. And my practice is very experimental, so it’s perfect for me,” said Karen Gelardi, whose body of work includes drawing, textiles, sculptures, installations and photography. “It has had a huge impact on my studio practice. In fact, almost all of my work I’ve made in the past 10 years would not have existed without Space Gallery.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer from Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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