A New Palette

A New Palette

Creating art out of vacant spaces in downtown Dayton

By Nicole Wroten

This downtown building at the corner of Third and Jefferson will feature art from Activated Spaces. Photo courtesy of the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

Have you ever seen a dreary landscape or a dull, naked painting you didn’t like? Have you ever wanted to just take a paintbrush and wipe it with color and life? Well, currently underway in downtown Dayton is a project trying to make that a reality.
Since January, members of young professional organizations Generation Dayton and updayton, have spearheaded this new plan called Activated Spaces, which is a part of the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan, a strategic proposal for the future of Dayton’s downtown. The overall aim of the Activated Spaces project is to give a new vibrancy and new life to currently or long-time vacant street-level commercial space by calling upon local artists.
“We are so excited these young professionals have developed and are leading this important effort,” said Dr. Michael Ervin, co-chair of the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan. “Creating a center city that attracts young professionals is an important goal of the plan, so having Generation Dayton and updayton members implement the Activated Spaces project certainly helps meet that goal.”
“We’ve hosted a lot of conversations with young people in various focus groups that we’ve done and also our annual event, Young Creative Summit,” said updayton chair Scott Murphy. “We continuously ask young people what’s important to them in the place that they live and they always like to talk about downtown and the importance of urban vibrancy. That’s a theme we’ve heard over and over, so we got involved in this project … to me, Activated Spaces is about filling those storefronts and creating that sense of urban vibrancy that’s so important to young people.”
The project’s three main goals include reactivating and beautifying vacant storefronts with creative displays; encouraging entrepreneurs, artists and community groups to occupy space for short- and long-term use; and showcasing downtown properties and increasing interest and investment in available downtown space.
According to Murphy, the overall goal is simple. “It will create these beautiful walkways,” he said. “An important piece of vibrancy is ‘feet on the street’ and you’re more likely to walk from place to place if you have an interesting walkway between the places you’re going.”
In order to successfully meet these goals, the volunteers from the two groups will be divided into three teams, each having a specific task to complete the project. First is the Street Level Team, which will actually fill those vacant storefronts with artistic displays that promote downtown. Each set of displays will have a theme and will be refreshed every six months. The first installation theme is “Celebrating Dayton.”
The second team is the Activate Spaces Team, which will develop a program for shorter-term stores to open in downtown spaces that are now vacant. The idea is for shops such as pop-up retail shops, seasonal shops or even offices for aspiring entrepreneurs to take up space currently available, creating a more “filled” and vibrant downtown business community. As for the long-term, the Activate Spaces Team hopes to fill that vacant space with permanent tenants. The third and final team, the Open for Business Team will form and develop both long- and short-term business strategies focused on filling downtown with new business activity. In order to make this happen, the team will be partnering with local colleges and universities to engage business students in learning exercises and to provide information about opening a downtown business. Additionally, the team will also partner with local businesses/entrepreneurs that have an interest in moving or opening downtown.
“Businesses will want to be in a place where other people want to be; getting folks in the spaces and utilizing those spaces,” Murphy said. “Folks can go in and see the potential of what could go in there and can create a connection between that space and a possible tenant. As you can see that happened with the C{space location on North Jefferson. That’s why they did what they did and it worked out. That was the plan of the project – to build a space for a long-term tenant and it did.”
Already, project leaders are seeking proposals from artists who would like to display their work in storefront windows. All of the art displays will be themed and their look will be refreshed periodically, allowing new artists to display their talent, or offer a chance for established artists to show off their dynamic range. Interested artists should apply by 5 p.m. Friday, March 25, and art will be installed prior to the next Urban Nights on May 13.
After that first reveal of the project, where will it go from here? Murphy hopes to change the way many young professionals look at downtown. “Hopefully, we’re increasing the awareness of young people of things that are going on downtown,” he said. “There is more to do downtown and hopefully we’ll be making a dent in filling these spaces with long-term tenants. It will be a long-term process though.”

For more information, contact Sherri Wierzba at (937) 224-1518 or go to www.updayton.com to apply. The “Celebrating Dayton”art installation is funded by updatyon and the Downtown Dayton Partnership. Those interested in getting involved as a volunteer on one of the teams should e-mail getinvolved@updayton.com.

Reach DCP Editor Nicole Wroten at editor@daytoncitypaper.com.

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