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After 4 years of uncertainty, the Soap Factory is officially closing

Andy Ducett turned the spectacle up to 11 with giant beer cans, cars, and cozy rooms for "Why We Do This" at the Soap Factory.

Andy Ducett turned the spectacle up to 11 with giant beer cans, cars, and cozy rooms for "Why We Do This" at the Soap Factory. Promo image courtesy the Soap Factory

The Soap Factory announced that it will cease opertations by the end of the year.

For the past four years, the gallery and performance space had “gone dark,” as the remaining employees tried to figure out a way to revive programs after loss of funding, debt from renovations, staff turnover, and other financial woes.

This week, board members announced that nope, after 30 years, the dream of a comeback is officially dead.

“We are deeply sorry that we were unable to save the Soap Factory, but we honor its history and we celebrate the legacy of the artists who made it such an important Twin Cities arts organization for three decades,” says board chair Roy Close.

The Soap Factory is probably best known as the original site of the Haunted Basement, an artist-led haunted house that freaked guests out every Halloween. Event organizers have since struck out on their own, first moving to a space in northeast Minneapolis and relocating to Rosedale Center. Other Soap events of note include the 10 Second Film Festival, hosted outside the building every Fourth of July; “Artists on the Verge,” an annual showcase of experimental and groundbreaking work; as well as a variety of performance arts festivals.

In 2015, the organization lost a $150,000 grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation amid staff transition. During that time, renovations also became critical, as the 130-year-old building which, yes, was originally a literal soap factory, was starting to show its age.

One of the Soap's most popular event was its $99 Art Sale.

One of the Soap's most popular event was its $99 Art Sale. Chris Kelleher/Star Tribune

“The work done to the Soap Factory was work that we had to do,” former executive director Ben Heywood, told us in 2015.

Despite its cash-flow uncertainty, volunteers, employees, and board members hoped that this wasn’t the end for the organization.

“This 'going dark' period is something that has been historical to the organization,” Megan Leafblad, chair of the board at the Soap Factory, told us in 2015. “In the past, it has created a container for ideas. We’re really looking at this time period as an exciting place for conversations to happen.”


Eventually, the property was sold for $3.8 million to general contractor RJM Construction, which in turn sold the building to Buhl Investors of Edina, who plan to redevelop it as a commercial office space.

Still, this news didn’t completely mark the end of the Soap, as Buhl Investors offered a glimmer of hope:

“Although Buhl Investors generously offered rent-free use of a 6,500-square-foot space on the building’s lower level for two years after construction, at its September meeting the Soap Board concluded that the organization lacks sufficient resources to continue operating,” the release states.

The board has concluded that this is indeed the end, and that they would need to complete the process of dissolving the organization by December 31. Historical records have been donated to the University of Minnesota Archives.