Bring back the DAAC

File Photo
File Photo

The Division Avenue Arts Collective (DAAC) helped establish Grand Rapids’ thriving local culture. Unfortunately, the DAAC, a volunteer-run, non-profit, all-ages music venue, art gallery and DIY project incubator, lost its location of nearly a decade in the Heartside Neighborhood when its lease expired and was not renewed. If the DAAC can’t find a new home, we may lose this cultural fixture. I believe we need to do everything we can to keep that from happening, both to support Grand Rapids’ arts and music scene as well as its youth.

Before losing its location, the DAAC gave artists, musicians and fans a place to gather together and enjoy art and music. For 10 years, the DAAC hosted thousands of events, including art exhibitions, music shows, puppet shows, creative workshops, free markets, lectures and film screenings. The DAAC also contributed $3,300 to local creative projects in the form of micro-grants.

DAAC board member Mike Wolf passionately argues for the importance of these events: “Every DAAC board from 2003 through the present has worked hard to create opportunities for all artists. Whether it’s for a band just getting started or one signed to a major label, a kid who doodles on his homework or an artist with an MFA, a student organization or a congressional election watch party, we treat every event the same because we believe that arts and culture should be accessible, and people should actively participate in their community.”

The DAAC created opportunities for all artists, but played an especially significant role for young artists. Unlike many music venues that shut out younger artists and audience, the DAAC prided itself on hosting artists and fans under the age of 21. Many young artists with promising musical careers got their start playing at the DAAC.

Wolf recalls the story of Sam-Cook Parrot, the guitarist and singer for the band Radiator Hospital. “When Parrot was a teenager he started going to shows, then formed bands with his friends. Those bands played what seems like every other DAAC show, and on top of that he also interned at Vertigo and WYCE. He has since moved to Philly, he continues to release music on a regular basis online, plays tons of shows, is starting to tour, play in bands with his friends who are also touring, playing all across the country, and it all started at the DAAC.”

Parrot and Radiator Hospital continue to gather critical acclaim, cracking several “best music of 2013” lists from nationally recognized music critics for their album “Something Wild” and their popular song “Our Song.” In the opinion of vice editor Dan Ozzi, they have even established Philadelphia as one of the best punk rock scenes in the country.

All-age venues like DAAC also give young artists a space to play music in beyond the house show scene. Many artists in Grand Rapids get their start playing in the living rooms and basements of houses, which host concerts, such as the Neighborhood House at 1351 Sigsbee, the House of Pancakes at 1241 Sigbsee and the Birdhouse at 622 Benjamin.

Wolf explains the value of other venues: “One limiting thing about house shows is that they’re not always the safest venues for artists and/or audiences… [although] they can be really fun.”

In house shows, artists tend to play in very tight spaces without a stage to separate themselves from the crowd of fans in front of them, which can be an intimidating experience. Spaces like the DAAC give young artists the opportunity to play music in a safe, accessible setting without feeling pressure to play in spaces which may make artists — especially those playing some of their first shows — uncomfortable.

Currently, a board of nine members, collaborating with both the national, arts-sponsoring non-profit Fractured Atlas and local grassroots, arts-based organizations, such as Lamplight Music Festival, Do-It-Together Grand Rapids and Many Hands Clay Collective, are seeking to purchase a permanent new location the DAAC. The DAAC board aims to raise $20,000 by Feb. 25 through a combination of online donation on the crowdsourcing site Rockethub.com, private donations and a series of benefit concerts at house show venues.

You can demonstrate your support for the DAAC Refresh Project in many ways. Share the DAAC’s story with friends and on social media. Attend house show benefit concerts organized by Do-It-Together Grand Rapids. Make a donation to the[ir] fundraising campaign at [print: on rocket hub]  http://www.rockethub.com/projects/36801. Even these small contributions can add up and demonstrate our shared commitment to making the culture of Grand Rapids, for all members young and old, rock just a little more.

 This is an opinion piece and does not necessarily represent the views of Calvin Chimes, Calvin College or the Christian Reformed Church. 

About the Author

Nathan Slauer

Nathan Slauer serves as the editor of the opinion-editorial section of Chimes for 2014-2015. He is a fifth year senior from Grand Rapids, Michigan enrolled in the Secondary Education Program and majoring in Political Science, History, and Social Studies. Before serving as an editor, he worked as a Chimes staff writer from 2010-2014.

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