SPACE Gallery in Portland will close for a month beginning in early March for renovations and what interim Executive Director Gibson Fay-LeBlanc calls “unseen improvements” that will make the gallery and performance space better able to meet the needs of the community.

“We are an organization that is always trying to both respond to things that are happening in our community and lead with art of various kinds that is provocative and pushes people in different places,” he said. “This is a chance for our staff to re-energize and think about where we want to head in the future.”

Among the physical changes that people will notice will be a smaller exhibition space, built within the existing visual arts gallery, for multimedia art and pop-up exhibitions. Sound and lighting in the performance space will be upgraded, a box office will be built near the front door, and a new stage backdrop, designed by Maine artist Lisa Pixley, will be installed.

The improvements will cost about $13,000 and be paid for with grants, contributions and income from events. The gallery will close March 8 and reopen for the First Friday Art Walk on April 7.

At 538 Congress St., the nonprofit arts organization has been open 14 years and presents about 200 events and 15 art exhibitions annually, Fay-LeBlanc said. Improvements to the exhibition and performance spaces, as well as construction of a box office with regular weekday hours, reflect how SPACE has evolved during that time, he said.

There is more demand for multimedia art and a variety of performances, including theater, than there was a few years ago. The sound and lighting improvements will enhance the ability of SPACE to accommodate theater and other live performances, and the smaller gallery space will make it easier to adapt to the different kinds of art that artists want to present.

“There is so much happening there in the visual arts world that is hard for us to pull off. Having a smaller space seems more and more important,” Fay-LeBlanc said. “The sound refresh will be a first step toward making the sound bounce around a little less in the big room. Music shows in particular, but any kind of performance, should sound better with any of the improvements we are making.”

The changes come during a time of leadership transition. Longtime director Nat May left SPACE in November, and a search has begun for his replacement. The month-long closing gives the staff a chance to think about its work going forward. “After someone like Nat May leaves, you have to break the mold and start over,” he said.

The mission of SPACE isn’t changing, he added, but how it plans and presents its programs is evolving. When SPACE reopens, among the exhibitions will be a collection of flags, banners and signs from recent political protests.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes

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