19th February 2014

the daac shirt(t-shirt design by Geoffrey Holstad)

For the past few years I have served on the board of The Division Avenue Arts Collective – a sober space/all ages music venue/art gallery in Grand Rapids, MI.  I started going in high school and it started to shape the person I was becoming.  It introduced me to punk, DIY, zines, a NON BAR, safe spaces, and everything radical and outside of the box.  I didn’t even care how silly I looked when my parents had to pick me up, it was where I wanted to be.  It was where I didn’t feel like a freak or get looked at sideways.  It was where I could figure it all out.

It’s still where I can figure it all out. Or rather…it was.  Last July we were asked to leave the space that we had been in for almost ten years.  The new owner of the building wanted to begin to turn the avenue into an arts corridor. SO HE KICKED THE ART COLLECTIVE OUT.  Read more about this all HERE.  I had literally just opened up the shop across the street the week before we found out we needed to leave.  I chose to start a business on a block that shaped my entire being, to give back what had been given to me, and then POOF. It was gone.

399175_10151821694050775_572137786_n(photo by Jaimie Johnson)

So for the past few months we haven’t had a space.  We’ve gone back and forth trying to figure out why it matters, how to structure ourselves, and how to move forward.  But one thing was very clear from the beginning : EXISTING IS A PRIORITY.  There were a lot of tears, a lot of moments of ‘Do we really even want to keep doing this?’.  The answer was yes. The answer is still yes.  So we started hosting fundraising shows, we started asking around.  We held public meetings to ask our community WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE?  Some of that was hard.  We have work to do to become more structurally sound, better organized, and more efficient.  But like any project or goal – when you want it and the passion is there : you can do it.  We launched a crowd funding campaign and I am pleased to say it’s doing GREAT.  Between what we have raised on RocketHub, private donors, and our fundraising shows – we are at almost HALF OUR GOAL OF $20,000! And now, the most important part : WE NEED A NEW SPACE!


You can help us get there. Share the campaign.  Tell your friends.  Donate even just FIVE DOLLARS. Even just a dollar!!!  Show up to a show (Show up for your community) I think one of the biggest questions I get asked though is WHY DOES IT REALLY MATTER.  When we have Founders, The Pyramid Scheme, house show venues, Billy’s…Why do we really need another “music venue”.  Here is why : BECAUSE ALL AGES MATTERS.  In a time when all ages spaces die out all the time, we are at a turning point where we can show our greater community that we are not going to let that happen.  All ages spaces provide a community resource for EVERYONE.  A sober space provides a SAFE SPACE for folks in recovery, kids, straight edge communities, and people who maybe just don’t want to be around booze for the night.  It’s a space where an artist or a band gets paid because they SHOWED UP.  Not because the Red Wings game was on and a ton of beer sold.

It’s a space where freshman kids at City High School can start a band and BOOK THEIR OWN SHOW.  Holy shit! Can you imagine what the world would be like if more kids put down drugs and stopped going to the mall AND STARTED GOING TO SHOWS?! The DAAC is also a gallery where ANYONE CAN BOOK A SHOW.  Just like anyone can make a zine and you never have to wait for someone else to say it’s good enough to be published.  NO ONE HAS TO TELL YOU YOU’RE GOOD ENOUGH TO HAVE AN ART SHOW.  You just get to make one.

It matters because it’s about being alive. IT’S ABOUT STAYING ALIVE.  It’s about marginalized folks having a place to go when a city like Grand Rapids or a state like Michigan ISN’T MAKING SPACE FOR THEM.  It’s about showing up.  It matters because when the Detroit Party Marching Band pours out into the street and everyone is dancing and laughing that you forget maybe for just a minute that life is hard.  That maybe for just a minute everything might work out.  It matters because it shows our community that ANYONE can step up to the plate.

Having a raw, neutral, all ages space in a city is a gift.  It’s a rarity.  But it is also a necessity to seeing a creative community move forward.  Why does it matter to you?  Share this post, share the campaign, and share your story.  When we all speak up, it’s hard not to listen.  When we all SHOW UP, it’s noticeable.  Keep showing up, keep being a part of.  KEEP THE DAAC ALIVE.

xo – marlee

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