Out North theater and gallery shuts its doors

mdunham@adn.comJuly 30, 2013 

Judges seated in the audience show scores following a recitation at the Brave New Alaskan Voices Poetry Slam March 15, 2012 at Out North.

ERIK HILL — Anchorage Daily News Buy Photo

Out North, the long running venue for theater and art shows, has discontinued operations for the foreseeable future. The board of directors laid off the staff of six on Monday and, said board president Chrissy Bell, the facility will remain closed while the board "makes a full assessment of where we are."

Out North Theatre Company was started as a gay/lesbian/alternative performing art presenting organization in 1985. In 1991 it moved to the former Grandview Gardens Library on Debarr Road in East Anchorage.

In addition to bringing in nationally-known performance artists and small troupes, the company also accommodated plays by Anchorage theater groups and sponsored the annual "Under 30" plays, short works written and presented by local people. It presented films, hosted music concerts and housed art displays.

But getting an audience was never easy and paying the bills was a stubborn challenge.

"We've struggled with sustainability throughout our history," said Bell. "We took the extraordinary step of suspending operations so we could pay employees what they are owed."

A $250,000 grant from the national ArtSpace America philanthropic group expired in May. The grant was used to expand staff and programming, it's intended purpose, said Bell. But Out North was unable to parlay that grant into a long-term financial plan.

On Tuesday some art was still on the gallery walls, but it appeared to be in the process of coming down. The company's radio station KONR-FM remained on the air. A locksmith truck was seen at the Out North building on Tuesday, but Bell said the company was not clearing out its offices.

There are still a lot of decisions to be made, Bell said, including the fate of the station. "These are questions we're working to answer over the next couple of days," she said. "It's our hope that we'll once again be able to open our doors."

Reach Mike Dunham at mdunham@adn.com or 257-4332.

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