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Announcing our new Rent-Free Studio Program

If you or someone you know would like this blog and our studio application translated into another language, please contact with your request.

CALL FOR STUDIO APPLICATIONS: SPACE has three artist studios opening September 1, 2020 in our 534-538 Congress Street building, which sits on occupied Wabanaki land. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, we have created a new Rent-Free Studio program, which will offer 12 months of free rent to Indigenous, Black, Brown, and/or other artists of color living in Southern Maine. To be considered for one of these three rent-free studios, please fill out our studio application by August 7th. 

Please read below for specifics about the three studio spaces, an overview of our building, and some detailed FAQs about this program. SPACE is committed to sustaining the Rent-Free Studio program and all submitted applications will be added to our waitlist for future openings.

Interested in becoming a donor? Contact if you would like to learn more about fiscal sponsorship for rent-relief or rent-free artist studios in Portland.

Studio 303 details: 132 square feet with sink and ventilation windows, $170/month if the artist elects to stay after the 12 rent-free months

Studio 403 details: 132 square feet with ventilation windows and sink access in communal space, $170/month if the artist elects to stay after the 12 rent-free months

Studio 410 details: 144 square feet with ventilation windows and sink access in communal space. $190/month if the artist elects to stay after the 12 rent-free months

About SPACE Studios:
There are 31 below-market rate artist studios on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors of the SPACE building at 534-538 Congress Street, which sits on occupied Wabanaki land. The 2nd floor houses Pickwick Independent Press and our artist residency studio. All studio artists have 24-hour access to their own private studios, free wifi, updated electrical, a listing on SPACE’s website with links to their personal projects, the opportunity to participate in open studio events, and access to bathrooms, a small community kitchen, and an outdoor patio. The building is non-smoking and communal spaces are cleaned on a regular basis. All studio tenants are given contact information for SPACE staff for any issues that arise regarding studio access, maintenance, or safety concerns.

At this time, our studios are accessed via a staircase at the 536 Congress Street entrance and SPACE is working on a multi-year accessibility plan for our facilities. 

COVID-19 protocol: We ask all our studio artists to wear masks in the indoor public spaces of the Studio building (entryway, stairwell, hallways, bathrooms, shared kitchen). There is hand sanitizer and complimentary masks and gloves at the 536 Congress Street entrance. Any studio tours provided to prospective new tenants will require everyone to be masked.


Why is SPACE doing this?
As an 18-year old arts organization with deep commitments to practicing artists in Maine, we know firsthand how impactful studio space can be for artistic development, opportunity, and the realization of fresh ideas. Turnover of our studio spaces is infrequent, so when multiple tenants indicated to us their need to move out in the months ahead, we took the opportunity to rethink how we share this resource with our community. Our choice to create a new donor initiative specifically funding rent-free studios for Indigenous, Black, Brown and/or other artists of color is born directly from the acknowledgement of the white supremacist culture we live in, which undoubtedly favors white artists and endows them with the overwhelming majority of resources, visibility, agency, and praise. The DEAI (Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion) work SPACE is undertaking is aimed at dismantling the internal policies and practices that uphold racism in our work, which extends to our role as landlord for the studio artists in our building. We chose to make this new Rent-Free Studio program public in order to be transparent about this process and invite community feedback. If you do have feedback, you are welcome to share it with us using our Community Feedback Form.

Is this all SPACE is doing? 
This is just one piece of long-term DEAI-informed organizational plan of action we are currently developing as a staff and board with outside counsel. We will be sharing actions and new policies with community members when they are ready. We are balancing the urgency of this structural change with the need to ensure we instill harm-reduction, long-term sustainability, and accountability in every step we take. There is much work to do.

What happens after 12 months?
After a year, we will offer the selected artists priority to stay in their current studio at the going rate listed above. If they choose not to renew, the rent-free studios will become available for a new round of artists. If they choose to stay on as paying renters, our next available studios will be offered as part of this Rent-Free Studio program.

If the selected artists have budget concerns for sustained rent, SPACE’s staff will help support them with grant writing and applications to achieve their next goals after this period (i.e. apply for a Maine Arts Commission grant for their next body of work to sustain their studio rent, or apply to another rent-free studio opportunity like the Ellis-Beauregard Foundation in Rockland).

We are actively courting new donors to be able to extend rent-free studios beyond a year, as well as fund additional studios that open up in our building. Part of our motivation for going public with this program is to reach as many new donors as possible. If you are interested in sustaining the Rent-Free studio program or know someone who might be, please email

What about the current studio tenants?
SPACE has maintained below-market rate studios since it purchased the building in 2015. We have extended rent relief to current tenants in need both in the past and during this pandemic, with support from an anonymous donor.

What if I want to be considered for another open studio as a paying renter?
On the studio application, you are asked to indicate if you want to be considered for the Rent-Free Studio program. You are also asked to share your price range for one of our other studios; offering these details will not impact the decision to have you in one of these rent-free studios, but will help us consider you for appropriate further opportunities in the building. Artists who apply this year for the Rent-Free Studio program will be considered (and put in a priority application status) for the next round of rent-free studios without needing to provide an additional application.

What is the decision making process for the Rent-Free Studio program? 
The SPACE Studio application asks a series of questions about the logistics/size/mediums of the work you make, whether or not you are currently an art student or faculty member, your access to other studio spaces, any specific studio requirements you may have, and your interest in community involvement. Our staff will consider a holistic mix of these responses in the decision making process, in addition to paying attention to the order in which applications were submitted. Those who request a translation of this announcement will be entered into the queue at the time of their translation request (not at the time their application is submitted).

Currently, we only have three rent-free studio openings, and we acknowledge the modesty of this offering in light of the immense and deserving talent in our region. We are dedicated to sustaining and hopefully expanding this program in the future so it can be shared with as many artists as possible. Artists who apply or who join our building as paid renters will be prioritized for future cycles of this rent-free opportunity.

I didn’t know SPACE has studios, how do I learn more? 
Visit for information about our current studio artists and our building. We are currently closed to the public because of COVID-19, so we are not offering tours of our studio building to the public at this time. 

In 2015, SPACE launched a capital campaign for the downpayment on our Congress Street home, the Durant Block Building, expanding SPACE’s footprint from street level to preserving an active artist community on the upper three floors. Our board and staff resolved to maintain these studios at below-market rates, and offer opportunities such as our artist residency program and Pickwick Independent Press residency fellowships to artists to expand access to our facilities. SPACE continues to balance these opportunities with our efforts to pay down the mortgage on the building, as well as working on a multi-year historic preservation, energy-efficiency, and ADA accessibility plan for our historic home.

Why are you not using the acronyms POC or BIPOC?
We are responding to feedback we have received from friends and colleagues who shared that they do not like their identity reduced to an acronym. We recognize the insufficiency of categorical terminology in speaking to a range of individual identities, and the reality that everyone inhabits intersectional subject positions differently and has their own specific language preferences. We chose not to use “non-white” so as not to center a white voice, and instead we chose to spell out “Indigenous, Black, Brown, and/or other artists of color” in this call, to emphasize the systems of racialization that operate in our white supremacist culture. We will always honor the chosen adjectives, identifiers, and pronouns of studio artists in our building and ensure all our communications with them respect their preferences.

If you would like to ask more questions or share feedback with us, please email or contact us through our Community Feedback Form.

SPACE Reader

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.