Soap Factory to go on hiatus at end of December

Leaders of the Soap Factory art gallery in Minneapolis say it will close its doors next month as it considers its future.

Megan Leafblad, who chairs the visual arts center's board, said costly renovations to the Soap Factory's 130-year-old building have created a serious budget problem.

In addition to that, executive director Ben Heywood's June departure caused an interruption in funding from one of the Soap Factory's major grants. The terms of the award stipulated that it cannot be used by an organization run by an interim director.

The gallery's staff will have a better idea of its exact financial situation, Leafblad said, when the final figures from its Haunted Basement performances are tallied.

"It's one of our bigger income earners, so we are still clarifying numbers from that," Leafblad said. "So, at this time, it's an internal private thing as we figure out where the real numbers lay."

Leafblad said going dark at the end of the year will allow for community consultation and discussion as the Soap Factory both seeks a new executive director and plots its future course.

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A winter break used to be a regular element in a typical year at the Soap Factory, and Leafblad says this is, in a way, a return to its roots.

Leafblad said she hopes the public will help the organization determine where the gallery should focus its efforts.

"We feel like it's really important to be transparent and clear about where we are, and want to invite people into the conversation now rather than presenting a solution that doesn't meet our community's needs," she said.

The Soap Factory has exhibits scheduled through the end of the year — and Leafblad said the organization has also committed to the Emerging Artists event with the Northern Spark festival in the spring.

The Soap Factory occupies the building of what was once the National Purity Soap Company. It opened as a gallery in 1989.

Editor's note: The headline on this story has been changed to make clear that the management of the Soap Factory intends to reopen.