It’s been nearly six years since The Division Avenue Arts Collective (DAAC) has had a permanent home.
Founded back in 2003 as a way for the artistic community to work together in a collaborative and inclusive way, the DAAC operated out of its small — but now legendary — original location at 115 S. Division Ave. for nearly a decade.
A volunteer-run creative hub, the space served as an all-ages music venue, art gallery and DIY project incubator for many young artists. It developed a strong reputation for sweaty, yet intimate concerts and pure, unadulterated expression.
In 2013, the building’s owner ousted the group in order to take the property in a different direction. Essentially homeless for the next three years, the group reassessed its goals and aspirations moving forward.
Following a successful fundraising campaign, the DAAC reemerged in the summer of 2016 when it temporarily teamed up with SiTe:LAB and Habitat for Humanity of Kent County. The groups shared a property on Rumsey Street in Grand Rapids’ Roosevelt Park Neighborhood for two summers before that location ultimately became part of a larger revitalization effort by Habitat in 2017.
“I feel that having the two summers at the space really emphasized that there was a need for a permanent home,” DAAC Board Member Sal Moreno said. “Navigating a space that wasn’t permanent meant really having to think about what was needed. It set the tone for everyone being open to input and the desires of what the community needed and what the neighbors also desired. Having that relationship with two well-known and respected community organizations was also a boost into what it could look like to have a more meaningful relationship with organizations that are in a physical location.”
Looking to purchase its own building, several of the DAAC’s board members began looking for real estate that would work well for what they wanted to bring to the community, turning to former WYCE Music Director Pete Bruinsma of Grand River Realty for help. They hoped to find a location similar in size to the original Division Avenue space, while also taking into consideration numerous building code, zoning and accessibility concerns. The group also wanted to keep costs low, while still remaining close to other businesses and public transportation.
“We sent out a survey to our patrons about what they wanted in a new spot and some of these things surfaced as well,” DAAC Board Member Charity Lytle said. “So finding a building with street level space and these features is a little hard in this real estate climate. We were so close on a few spots in town and spent many months pursuing them, but we feel that the Creston area will be a great fit after talking with their neighborhood and business associations.”
Last month, Lytle and fellow board member Lizzie Grathwol, along with Gaia Café owner Andrea Bumstead, closed on the group’s new home at 1553 Plainfield Ave. Together, they will privately own the building, with Gaia Café operating out of the front of the building and The DAAC in the back.
“We have a collective mindset about the use of the building and want to host many collaborative events with the restaurant and the DAAC in the future,” Lytle said. “But the primary goal through the years is to keep costs affordable to both businesses — and any others that might sub-let our spaces — so they can operate with the Creston community in mind.”
Currently, The DAAC has about four to six months of renovations ahead before it can look at opening to the public later this year.
“In Grand Rapids, we have gotten a couple new venues and a couple have expanded but the local, underground scene has always been active and often operating outside of those spaces,” DAAC Board Member Schyler Perkins said. “This causes underground venues and groups of musicians to become fractured and isolated. What the DAAC does is provide a space where all the smaller pockets of incredible musicians in the city can come together in a space free of bars and businesses. It is a space by artists, for artists, and is truly a space that works to bring the whole city’s music community together.”
The DAAC tentatively has plans to begin scheduling events for as early as this fall, when it would like to have a grand building opening for the return of both Gaia Café and The DAAC.
“People want to experience something now more than ever,” Lytle added. “I’ve heard so many inspiring stories over the years from people who grew up in (The DAAC). They met their best friends, partners, bandmates, fellow artists and even famous artists at the 115 Division location and want to give that back to others.
“We invite everyone to use the space as their own; whether it’s getting their bearings in the GR scene, touring through town or having their 10th album release. We hope that as we open and in years to come, people will continue to feel welcomed here and that what they contribute matters.”