Out North lays off staff, cites financial difficulty

outnorth building

By Victoria Barber

A source inside Out North Contemporary Art House has confirmed that the gallery and performing art center has undergone an organization-wide layoff, effective immediately, that includes Executive Director Dawnell Smith and Operations Director Teeka Ballas.

News of the layoff was confirmed by a letter from the Board of Directors to the staff, which cited financial difficulties for the move, stating the non-profit has reached a point where “ongoing operations cannot be sustained at this time.”

A volunteer with Out North said Executive Director Smith met privately with board members this morning, prior to an emotional staff meeting when they delivered the news. Four full-time and two part-time employees were given their final paychecks and asked to collect their belongings and return any Out North property. They were also asked for login information and passwords. After the meeting the board changed the locks on the Out North building at 3800 Debarr Road.

The board said in the meeting that they would attempt to keep scheduled programs and artist residencies in place, probably as run by volunteers.

Out North features contemporary artists that push “traditional boundaries of aesthetics and content.” According to its site, it was founded in 1985 as a way to present LGBTQ theater productions. Out North houses several arts groups, including Momentum Dance Collective, F Magazine, 49 Writers Café and Brave New Alaskan Voices.

Radio station KONR at 106.1 FM is licensed to Out North. The station is run by volunteers from outside the Art House and will likely continue to broadcast despite the staff termination.

In addition to ticket sales, Out North is funded by grants and private donations, including a high profile grant this year for $250,000 from ArtPlace to “nurture its art house resident group.” Out North hired new staff as recently as a month ago.

A letter from the board states that they will work with experts in legal, financial and non-profit fields to “assess long-term options for Out North.”

Staff were encouraged to re-apply should the art house hire again but were not guaranteed their positions back.

Click here to view the media statement from Out North board of directors.

* Note: An original version of this story stated the terminated employees were “fired.” An Out North board member contacted the Press to suggest we revise this to “laid off” as these employees are eligible for re-hire should Out North have staff positions again. Since the staff have it hard enough getting handed their pink slips on a day’s notice, we decided to amend the headline to the term with less negative-sounding connotations for them.


About vbarber

Press Editor and mistress of grammatical corrections.

One thought on “Out North lays off staff, cites financial difficulty

  1. Thomas Higgins
    July 30, 2013 at 6:33 am

    Sorry but according to this article that headline “correction” was not needed.
    If the staff is “laid off” then they would be first in line to get their jobs back. But this article says the staff was “encouraged to reapply” by the board but “not guaranteed their position back” . That is more fired then laid off by my understanding and I have experienced both. Especially since after re-structure “their” job may not exist in the same job discriptional sense.
    I am certain this decision to “temporarily” stop operations was not taken lightly and I hope the board is doing what is best for the Out North Contemorary Art House but worrying about covering their preceived asses in the media by the nuances of media chosen language should not be a priority. Especially when that debate shows them to be hyper-sensative at best or liars at worse.
    I have been a suporter of Out North since my discovery of its existence in 1997 and my time employment with Out North will aways be near the top of my favorite job ever list. Including my continued KONR 106.1 LP volunteerism.
    I wish the Out North Board the best in re-opening the doors and serving the art community with its own distinctive style.

    Thomas Higgins
    Former Out North Technical and Operations Manager 2006-2009

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