We had been dreaming for a few years about establishing a space to provide artists a venue to exhibit and produce art of any kind without the boundaries of financing, name-recognition, intimidation, or access. Being fully committed to service and advocacy, we sought to turn this concept into reality in a way that benefits the Richmond community as a whole. On a whim, we started exploring available real estate downtown.
In the midst of significant road construction, parking limitations, and empty store fronts, we bought a historic 12,000-square-foot building on the 700 block of East Main Street in July of 2017. The building has multiple possible uses: store fronts on the ground floor, office space on the second floor, and a wide open ball room on the third. We intended to move Amy’s law firm from the sleepy west side of town into the second floor space, create a temporary location for the arts venue on the ground floor, and look toward significant renovations for the third floor with the purpose of permanently locating the arts venue up there.
It was then that we formed the Dudas Inspiration Venue for the Arts, Inc., or DIVA, an Indiana nonprofit organization recognized as a 501(c)(3) corporation.
We moved the law firm in October of 2017 after some updates, leaving the west side building vacant and for sale (and paying two sets of commercial building mortgage payments, insurance premiums, and property taxes). After some shuffling, repair work, and patching one leak after another, we transformed the ground floor space at 708 East Main Street into a colorful and fun – if not modest – space to bring this DIVA to life.
We have big plans! First and foremost, we need an elevator. How can we offer a collaborative community space to everyone if it blocks those without the physical ability to climb stairs? Once the third floor is physically accessible, the space needs some major renovations to make it a performance and exhibition venue – HVAC, accessible restrooms, fire code safety upgrades, kitchen addition, bar, light and sound booth, and even a rooftop deck! We need funding for this, and we’re working hard on that.
So what is DIVA, beyond its mission statement? It’s about art for art’s sake. It’s about removing any barriers to the creation and experience of art. It’s about defining art how YOU define art. It’s about doing what brings you joy, even if you’re not great at it. And it’s about breathing new life into Richmond’s downtown, supplementing the already vibrant arts community in Richmond, and being a positive part of the answer to some of our community’s perceived problems.
We look forward to having you join us on this journey of passion and joy.
Andy and Amy Dudas