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Monday, September 20, 2021

Third Space Art Collective ordered to vacate premises

NADIA DORIS / AGGIE

Davis collective launches fundraising campaign in search of new home

A single point of infinite energy. That’s all it took to create the universe. Planets, atmosphere, water, life — the entirety of the universe generated from nothing.

The artists of Third Space Art Collective may not be wielding hydrogen gases and subatomic particles, but they’re certainly creating something. They’re brandishing paintbrushes and re-purposing waste; threading plotlines at storytelling workshops; playing tetris with speakers for the night’s performance.

“In Davis there’s a lot of creative people, a lot of musicians, a lot of youth, and creativity coming together,” said Dylan Wright, one of Third Space’s co-founders and facilities managers. “So there’s a lot of music, a lot of people who want to get crazy with the visual and performing arts, and we realized that there was this void where it was critical. We just kind of took a deep breath and jumped into it — made it happen.”

Third Space’s mission remains consistent with its origins. The mixed-use facility, located on Olive Dr. in southeast Davis, serves as a community events space, a host for private and public studios and a hub for collaboration and creativity.

So when Third Space — the pulsing heart of the Davis art scene — was notified that they must evacuate their space, the city’s cultural extremities were put in jeopardy.

“Third Space Art Collective, a non-profit organization […that] serves as a unique creative and social hub for local artists and musicians, received an order to vacate their 6,000 square foot building by the end of April,” stated the collective’s press release. “The recent sale of the building means the Collective members need to find interim storage and raise money for relocation on short order.”

Since its inception in 2013, the art collective has hosted over 175 music shows, 32 art shows, 92 workshops, 41 theater events, 29 poetry and storytelling events and 70 other general events, according to its IndieGoGo campaign. “In total we have served over 15,000 people in just 3 and a half years,” the campaign stated.

Third Space had been a longtime dream for its co-founders, but the vision only came to fruition in 2013. Despite its relative youth, the space has become an important fixture for the Davis community.

“I believe that Third Space will soon be seen as one of the crown jewels of Davis. It already is as far as I’m concerned,” said Dave Griffin, another co-founder of the collective. “This is such an amazing organization and such a special concept and group of people that it would be a crime if we didn’t utilize every resource possible to help it stay in Davis.”

In addition to its community outreach, Third Space has proven itself a safe and reliable space for both its artists and its visitors. And, in light of the “Ghost Ship” fire that killed 36 people at a warehouse concert in Oakland last December, these vital community art spaces are being scrutinized now more than ever.

“We’ve never had an incident with the cops, never an injury. We’re a dry space (except for five to six times we’ve had a special one-time permit), we have a fat insurance policy and no one has ever lived there,” Wright said. “On the tails of the Ghost Ship, I hear they’re closing down places across the country. The liability is insane.”

Third Space prides itself on this professional attitude. And though the organization may hold a business mindset, it operates as a non-profit. In fact, the space was originally devised to house emerging artists who lacked the space or funds to kickstart their careers.

Basic membership at Third Space starts at $50 a month, but Wright noted this fee can be offset by volunteering in the shared space by cleaning, organizing and performing miscellaneous tasks that further the usability of the space.

“We saw that there was a huge divide in Davis between successful artists at the galleries, and all the hundreds, potentially thousands, of people who are artistic but don’t have an outlet, or don’t have a place to perform, or do their work or show their work,” Wright said. “So we felt that, as a service to the community, we would basically make this place available and most importantly, affordable.”

Making the space affordable for its studio renters remains a primary goal for the collective. In fact, the money accrued from renting these studio spaces is their primary source of income.

“These affordable opportunities, along with the communal work area, are such unique and important contributions to the Davis community,” said Emily Jones, Third Space’s publicity coordinator. “It really promotes creativity in our area, which is always important for any community, which in turn allows for artistic networks to form, which encourages more creativity and collaborations, and so on. It’s a positive feedback loop.”

For this reason, Third Space’s foremost objective is to find a new location. Without the physical space, their mission is intangible.

“Our primary goal is to find a new location for the Third Space community and mission to live on,” Jones said. “Because we are a nonprofit, we struggle with affording the expenditures that come along with moving.”

A fundraising site has been established for the collective with a goal of $50,000. The amount would cover a variety of expenditures, including their first few months of rent and insurance, a deposit, storage fees and more. As of now, the fundraiser has raised $679 — only 1 percent of its goal.

The non-profit organization has provided Davis with a safe, welcoming and collaborative environment for over 15,000 different people, yet its IndieGoGo has been backed by only 15 donors. The community benefit derived from Third Space’s existence is irrefutable; so why do their efforts reflect a drastically different number?

It’s precisely the same reason Third Space was contrived in the first place: artists lack the space, the material, the finances and, more importantly, the community support required to prosper.

“What I believe to be the most important function that Third Space serves to the community is as an incubator for entrepreneur[ial] artists,” Griffin said. “Virtually every artist that has come through these doors has been a self-employed business owner on some level. People are using Third Space as a stepping stone to launch their careers. This isn’t just a bunch of kids playing with paint. These are serious working artists dedicated to their craft.”

One member recalls how, upon moving to Davis, Third Space became the first place she felt explicitly welcomed by the community. After kickstarting her own podcast, Lisa Cantrell received unparalleled support from other members of the collective. Someone helped her make pins and t-shirts for advertising, and she even received advice from an audio engineer at the collective.

Third Space for me has been just crucial in terms of building a community here,” Cantrell said. “It’s not just a place where people make work or have their private studios, it is also a space where people come together and collaborate and make meaningful connections with another. And I think that is for me, a huge loss. The loss of that kind of community, of that kind of physical space where people come together, meet, formulate new ideas and then go off and do those things in Davis.”

Moving forward, Third Space and its members are in search of community support — whether that comes in the form of donations, physical help, suggesting ideas or attending events. Though they are primarily in search of a new location, Third Space members are encouraging anyone with special skills or ideas to reach out on their website. Some of the collective’s members are even attending city council meetings to bring the issue to light on a larger scale.

“We are hoping to apply positive, constructive and cooperative pressure to the political community of Davis as well as the donor class and business community,” Griffin said. “So our efforts are multi-pronged and we are trying to use every tool at our disposal to help keep Third Space alive and functioning.”

The community has explicitly attested to such support, and the testimonials found on Third Space’s website make this apparent. A particularly poignant testimonial reads: “If Third Space ever died, Davis would become exponentially less cool.”

Another reads, “Third Space is a place that the people of Davis have built for themselves, and the amount of work evident is astonishing. This alone should be proof that the community cares deeply about its benefits.”

“I think, in a word, [Third Space] is vital,” Wright said. “I think if you look through history, some of the most celebrated societies were those that had a vibrant art scene, or that which stands the ages is architecture and art and creative writing and performances. Next to politics and wars, those are the things that people focus on and remember.”

In order to persevere, this vital community space requires support on more than a verbal scale, more than money and space and supplies. Third Space requires a collaborative, community version of the Big Bang — a singular point of infinite energy, if you will.
Written by: Ally Overbay — arts@theaggie.org

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