The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, which closed last summer because of dwindling student enrollment, will reopen as a program of Maine College of Art in fall 2017, pending approval from the school’s accrediting bodies.

Don Tuski, MECA’s president, announced the merger of the two educational institutions at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, capping months of speculation and rumors about Salt’s future.

Salt will retain its name, identity and core programming, including semester-long intensives in radio, writing, photography and multimedia. MECA will offer the courses as part of its academic programming at its Congress Street campus, and hopes to increase enrollment by 20 to 25 students.

About 450 students currently attend MECA.

Ian Anderson, MECA’s vice president of academic affairs, said the merger makes sense because the missions and educational philosophies of both schools nearly perfectly align. “Salt’s approach to documentary storytelling dovetails perfectly with MECA’s programs and our values,” Anderson said.

Neither Tuski nor Salt board Chairwoman Kimberly Curry would discuss the financial arrangements of the merger. A gift from the Quimby Family Foundation ensures the program’s stability for three years, Anderson said, declining to identify the value of the gift. A search for two full-time faculty members to teach the curriculum will begin in the fall.

The program will be known as the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies at MECA, and will offer four tracks of study, including radio, writing, photo and video. Salt will be located in the new Bob Crewe music facilities at MECA, and Salt students will have access to housing and other student services offered by MECA, including federally guaranteed student loans.

As part of the transition, a member of Salt’s former board will become a voting member of MECA’s academic advising subcommittee. That board member will also be considered for a one-term seat on MECA’s full board. Other recent board members and members of Salt’s Alumni Board will be eligible to serve on an advisory committee to help with the transition.

The Salt Story Archive, a digital archive of all student works and Salt publications from 1973 to 2015, will be preserved and available to the public.

Reaction to Tuesday’s news was mostly positive. Elyssa East, a member of the alumni group Save Salt that rallied to keep the school open after its closing was announced last year, said the merger means the school can continue to operate, keeping alive its four-decade tradition of training students in documentary studies.

“We’re certainly heartened that Salt is not closing,” said East, who attended Salt in 1997 and now lives in New York City. “This is a win for the alumni in the community who rallied against the leadership decision to close the school.”

She criticized both MECA and Salt for not including more alumni in the negotiating process, and said Save Salt will watch the program to ensure its education standards are upheld. “We hope the art-college environment will not compromise those standards,” she said.

Any changes in the Salt program will be in response to changes in culture and media, Tuski said, and those changes will be made as part of an ongoing review of all curricula. Further, MECA hopes to add a graduate-level certificate in documentary studies, something that Salt had discussed previously, Anderson said.

Salt will move from its current location at 522 Congress St. to the MECA facilities down the street. MECA plans to add space to accommodate the Salt program.

Tuition for the Salt program will remain at just under $10,000 per semester.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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Twitter: pphbkeyes


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