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About

SPACE is a multi-disciplinary art center that promotes the arts and humanities through advocacy, programming, commissioning, statewide grantmaking, resource-sharing, and community collaboration. We work inside our home at 534-538 Congress Street, outside with public art and programming initiatives, statewide with our grant programs, and (inter)nationally within our professional and artistic networks. 

Founded in 2002, SPACE is a multi-disciplinary launchpad for ideas, an ever-evolving creative resource, and a coalition of values-based artists building a safe(r) space, performing arts venue, gallery, and maker hub in southern Maine. 

We envision our organization as a bridge: between artist-led and curatorial presentation practices, connecting disparate geographies and audiences, and as a pathway to new conversations.

SPACE is proudly a founding member of Common Field.


Mission 

SPACE is a nonprofit organization that supports contemporary arts projects, champions artists, and encourages an open exchange of ideas.

Grounded in the belief that vital communities are activated by experimentation, conversation, and camaraderie, SPACE engages a wide audience with provocative arts programming and category-defying events. As a nexus for curious minds, we collaborate with original thinkers and invite the public to participate in the ongoing pursuit of adventurous ideas.

Illustration of SPACE's building, the Durant Block. Black outline on red backdrop.

From our versatile home at 534-538 Congress Street, we:

  • Curate visual art exhibitions
  • Showcase music
  • Present film screenings
  • Facilitate lectures and discussions
  • Foster a platform for contemporary experimental performance
  • Rent below-market studios to artists with active practices
  • Oversee a statewide granting program for artist-led initiatives and projects
  • Invite national artists to stay in Portland through our residency program
  • Encourage conversations about issues of social justice
  • Engage the public in community events and open forums
  • Collaborate with other nonprofits, artist-run projects, and performing arts organization.

Selected Press


SPACE Values & Community Agreements

Please find our Safe(r) SPACE policy and Community Agreements for our facilities here.

Artist-centered: We are here to provide resources, time, energy, and a visible platform to realize original artistic visions. We delight in the fluidity and multidisciplinary nature of our programming and by working with artists, we cultivate joy and amplify play. 

Intentional Welcome: We strive for everyone to feel welcome at and invited to SPACE. SPACE will continually address accessibility accommodations, refining inclusive tactics, and we  multi-year facilities upgrades. 

Prioritizing Respect: We provide our staff and artists with an environment of dignity and respect. We work to create a gathering environment and facilities that are anti-racist, equitable, safe, and fair. 

Mutual Growth: We create a platform for work that is experimental and opens conversation. We understand that engaging with uncomfortable work can be a site for reflection and growth in our community. Internally, we are committed to a constant process of transformation and improvement. 

Future-forward: We embrace contemporary art as a means of exploring new futures and a tool for building dynamic, interconnected communities.

We are always open to feedback and are invested in accountability. Please use our Community Feedback Form to share your thoughts with us, thank you!

—SPACE Staff


Support SPACE

Do you want to support our mission?

Kindly click “donate”, or for stock, grant, in-kind, or planned giving gifts please reach out directly to our Executive Director, Kelsey Halliday Johnson at director@space538.org

SPACE receives generous funding from The VIA Art Fund | Wagner Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The National Endowment for the Arts, Kirby Family Foundation, Moser Family Foundation, Maine Arts Commission, Maine Community Foundation, Maine Humanities Council, Wescustogo Foundation, AlGar Foundation, Onion Foundation, Ann H. Symington Foundation, New England Foundation for the Arts, Mellon Foundation,  & many more.

We are grateful for these valuable community and philanthropic partners who make our mission a reality.


Born on the backs of volunteers and built inside a former Wendy’s, SPACE Gallery’s opening night on First Friday, August 2nd, 2002, brought 500 people to Maine’s new home for art, artists, and ideas. In the nearly twenty years since the group art show opened that night, SPACE has gone on to host thousands more happenings, concerts, exhibitions, screenings, people, and performances. 

Jon Courtney and Todd Bernard founded SPACE Gallery in 2002 alongside an active group of community members and backed by the visionary support of SPACE’s original landlord, architect Christopher Campbell. SPACE quickly became Portland’s preeminent alternative contemporary arts venue and paved the way for a more diverse and revitalized Congress Street Arts district alongside the city’s anchor institutions. Nat May, our first Executive Director, became involved with the founders after a half of year of programming. May and SPACE were founding partners of the national Common Field network, and SPACE helped oversee Common Field’s financial operations before it gained its own nonprofit status in 2018. 

SPACE continues to be grateful for the help of the many community volunteers, initial supporters, and early staff members who quickly made important efforts to build the organization into what it is today and became a formal 501(c)3 in 2003. No one who built SPACE, or worked there within the first two years, received a paycheck. The mission quickly crystalized into identifying the things that weren’t happening—whether that meant electronic music, hip-hop or experimental immersive art installations—and commit to bringing them to Portland.

The early days of SPACE are the stuff of Portland lore: memorable bands played to intimate audiences, other shows drew packed sweaty crowds for bands that have since come and gone. British author Zadie Smith came to read from her prize-winning novel White Teeth, and turned over a 5-gallon paint bucket to sit down and prepare herself in our basement which has since become the a formal green room. By 2003, galvanized by a strong community of collaborators, regular audiences, volunteers, and constant newcomers, it was time for SPACE to turn an experiment into an organization. The Maine Arts Commission gave SPACE its first grant to bring the Human Rights Watch Film Festival to Portland, which diversified the entertainment spectrum to include social justice and ideas. By the end of that summer, SPACE was granted tax-exemption from the IRS, which allowed the organization to seek further funding, including an invaluable early $40,000 gift from the Engelhard Foundation.

What was originally called The Annex (and is now our dedicated gallery space) opened on July 1, 2011, right next door at 534 Congress after a major first-floor building renovation. In 2015, SPACE launched a capital campaign Claiming SPACE, which allowed the organization to buy the entire building, also home to 30 affordable below-market artist studios and Pickwick Independent Press. SPACE has since grown to host an artist-in-residence program generously supported by the National Endowment of the Arts in a repurposed studio upstairs. We also proudly administer the Kindling Fund, part of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts re-granting network, making over $65,000 in direct grants to artist-led projects throughout the state of Maine annually.

The landmark Congress Street building, the Durant Block, has historical designation and has existed in many forms, namely as a corset store, a pizza shop, and a Wendy’s. The building was originally an early 20th-century hotel with a stringed musical instrument maker housed inside. Now it currently houses SPACE’s main multi-disciplinary venue, the dedicated gallery space, the window gallery, our offices, Pickwick Independent Press, the artist residency studio, and SPACE Studios. SPACE is not formally involved with the independent entities run out of the studios upstairs or Pickwick Independent Press, but we identify as an active artist community and seek opportunities to collaborate between the floors of our building.


Are you a Maine artist looking to fund a project? Apply to our American Rescue Plan Project grant program today. Deadline: June 26th at 11:59 PM.