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The Division Avenue Arts Collective (DAAC), has been out of our lives for almost two years now.

There have been fundraisers and calls to action, but not the same regular shows or exhibitions. In fact, the former space now sits virtually empty—a sadly vacant casualty of redevelopment.

The displacement of the DAAC was a keenly felt tragedy for many younger Grand Rapidians. The all-ages, alcohol- and drug-free venue was arguably the most versatile space in downtown Grand Rapids, playing host to virtually all endeavors—music, art, workshops, and movies. When the DAAC were given notice that they would no longer have a space to exist, outcry amongst its proponents and users was palpable. The DAAC’s work to successfully foster a safe and welcoming environment for all was a successful one. A suitably affordable, centrally located replacement venue has yet to be found.

But all is not lost. DAAC organizers and supporters have remained steadfast in their mission despite the lack of a tangible base, and their ingenuity has resulted in a month-long residency at KCAD’s Fed Galleries. From June 17 – July 25, the collective will be using the galleries as a space to explore the extensive history and cultural context of the DAAC. They'll be hosting a varied series of events, workshops, and public discussions surrounding diversity, inclusion, and art. Billed as "part exhibition, part artist residency," organizers say the project will provide a number of different opportunities for audiences to engage with the past, present, and future of the local Do-It-Together (DIT) community.

“There are tons of places doing similar work around the country who have been successful, and there is really no reason why we can’t make it work again,” says Mike Wolf, long time DAAC board member. “We have a really supportive arts & DIT community in Grand Rapids, which goes a long way. That support and community was a big factor in getting me motivated and interested in getting involved and I think that goes for a lot of our former and current board members.”

It is Wolf’s position as Exhibitions Assistant at KCAD that provided the catalyst for the KCAD/DAAC collaboration. “While discussing options for summer programming, Mike offered up the idea of the Fed Galleries hosting the DAAC," explains Michele Bosak, KCAD’s Curator of Exhibitions. "We dedicate a portion of our programming each summer to spotlighting our local creative community and this just seemed like a solid fit and great timing."

It is a great union, with much to be gained on both sides. DAAC organizers are hoping to glean experience and learn from the month-long residency, the likes of which they have never undertaken before. “This project will be more like a series of experiments exploring what can happen in a gallery space. The DAAC has always been a place that welcomes uncertainty, failure, and experimentation,” explains Wolf.

Bosak is excited to challenge regular perceptions of what boundaries and expectations traditionally exist for a college gallery. “We have space and resources that are underused and undervalued and my goal is to welcome a new audience into our galleries," said Bosak. “I’m interested in how the DAAC interfaces with our space, how they rally and reconnect with their previous supporters, and if they gain new audience members. When you occupy one location for a long period of time, you quickly realize your boundaries and limitations. Providing the DAAC with a new space to unleash new concepts and visualizations may help provide a sense of what they want in their next home.”

The DAAC certainly continues to have momentum and support amongst the local arts community and Wolf assures proponents that the hunt for a viable long-term venue is still on. “After this project is done the plan is to start doing shows at one of the spaces SiTE:LAB is using for the Rumsey St Project (post ArtPrize). The search thus far for a space has been challenging. While we do have a good chunk of change from fundraisers, we would prefer to be patient about the whole process rather than rushing into a space,” Wolf explains.

Opening night of DAAC @ The Fed is FREE and takes place Friday June 19 from 7 p.m. – 11 p.m. with music beginning at 8 p.m. The lineup includes Radiator Hospital, Jes Kramer, and J Fernandez with further activities still to be announced. Stay tuned on the DAAC Facebook page.

Photo 1: former DAAC location on South Division Ave. Photo 2: The Fed Galleries at Kendall.

By Emma Higgins on