Above: Artist Camille Erickson pinned screen-printed postcards on a line at the Soap Factory in 2017 as part of a project to support the National Endowment for the Arts. Photo: Jerry Holt.
The Soap Factory is not dead.
The Twin Cities stalwart experimental art space has been closed for more than two years, and some feared that it was shut down for good, especially after its mortgage sold for $1.2 million at a sheriff’s sale on Dec. 18. But now it is getting a second chance.
This fall, the Soap Factory will receive 6,000 square feet, rent-free, in the basement-level of the 130-year-old soap factory near the downtown riverfront for the next two years. Its board of directors voted to accept the offer on March 4.
This deal came through a series of financial transactions orchestrated by RJM Construction, the Golden Valley-based company that worked on the building remodel and had already taken on $2.5 million of the Soap’s debt. In lieu of paying them back, the Soap handed over the building deed, worth $3.8 million, to RJM. They will buy back the mortgage from OSP LLC, an Edina-based asset and wealth management company that purchased it in the sheriff’s sale.
RJM is selling the building to a new buyer whose name was not disclosed. The rest of the building will be offices, with a space on the first floor targeted for a restaurant, which was part of the Soap's original remodeling plan.That sale is expected to close between April 1 and mid-May.
“They've got a long history in that property and it’s kind of their namesake,” said RJM chief executive Bob Jossart. “Sometimes those organizations need a little extra help and this was one of them.”
Construction ofn the Soap's new space will take place over the summer, with an expected opening around Labor Day.
“The goal we have is to get the Soap back to financially break-even, get them out of debt -- building and construction debt and operating debt,” said Jossart. “We want to get them into the building for a couple of years to regroup and get their feet back on the ground and re-emerge with their mission.”
The Soap currently does not have an operating budget or staff, but it is looking toward the future.
“We are hoping that we will be in a position to hire Ellie Kevorkian [as the new director of artistic programming], but we are going to have to get operating funds,” said Board Chair Roy Close. “That will be our next task over the next several months.”
Artists in support of the Soap Factory also created a GoFundMe, which has raised $11,000 of a $150,000 goal.
The Soap Factory had been slated to reopen in summer 2018, after several quiet years. The nonprofit took a brief hiatus from regular programming in 2016 following the departure of longtime executive director Ben Heywood.
The Soap's situation is similar to that of Intermedia Arts, the longtime Uptown-based arts organization that fell on hard times late last year. After laying off its entire staff, its flagship home was sold in November 2018 for $3.5 million to RightSource Compliance, a Minneapolis-based affordable housing company.