EXCLUSIVE: Major changes announced by 27-year-old downtown arts institution

DVAC executive director: “We are giving ourselves permission to push ideas, to push the audience and to push artists.”

One of Dayton’s largest arts organizations is changing its name, but its leaders say the changes go way beyond that.

The Dayton Visual Arts Center (DVAC) is re-branding itself The Contemporary, executive director Eva Buttacavoli and Chuck Vella, the president of the art center's board,  told this news organization in an exclusive interview.

These changes were also shared with a group of DVAC’s supporters and board members Thursday evening.

"The idea was to figure out a way to clearly position ourselves as a leader in contemporary art,"  Buttacavoli said.  

Changes in store for the contemporary art center now and in the near future also include the addition of a curator-in-residence program, a newly hired creative director for social media and enhancement of exhibitions with featured catalogs.

>> This Dayton institution has quietly raised $14 million under our noses 

The art center’s mission statement is currently “providing art for the community and a community for artists.” That focus will remain but there will be a new focus on promoting “art that’s now.”

The center will continue to feature local artists along with national artists; and provide local artists with educational and career support, officials said.

Located at 118 N. Jefferson St. in downtown Dayton, The Contemporary also plans to make membership exclusive to artists and create a philanthropy giving campaign through which supporters can contribute to an annual fund with a variety of giving options.

>> Local professor, student inducted into Dayton Walk of Fame on same day

The center currently has more than 500 members and operating revenue just under $500,000.

Buttacavoli said most of the funds come from fundraisers, grants and private and corporate giving. One of the museum’s largest annual fundraisers is the Art Auction held in the spring.

>> PHOTOS: DVAC Art Auction 2017

To qualify for larger national grants and grow, the center must raise its revenue to a million dollars, Buttacavoli and Vella explained.

“A lot of it is wrapped around financial stability. It is smart. We are a nonprofit. We have seen ups and downs in 27 years. I just think we need to move big,” Buttacavoli said. “We are giving ourselves permission to push ideas, to push the audience and to push artists.”

Bigger changes could be in store in the future.

The art center is looking to expand its physical space and is in negotiations to be the arts anchor at the  Dayton Arcade, which is being developed by a team led by Baltimore-based Cross Street Partners.

>> 5 things to know about the momentum behind the Dayton Arcade project

Such a move could triple the center’s space. Buttacavoli said a study says this move would help draw an additional 100,000 visitors annually.

Currently the center is in a 3,000-square-foot space. About 1,800 of which is devoted to the art center’s single gallery, which often holds two or more exhibits.

It currently draws about 10,000 visitors annually to its gallery. The center touches about 140,000 through its annual auction fundraiser and other offsite programs and events, Buttacavoli explained.

The new name and logo resulted from the work of a panel including donors, artists, educators and other community members. The group studied similar arts centers in communities including Cincinnati, Columbus, Grand Rapids and Kansas City. The arts center has partnered with Lunne Marketing Group (LMG), a Dayton marketing firm, on the re-branding and awareness campaign.

The new name and logo will be phased in beginning this week. Part of the goal is to ultimately help raise awareness of the art center to the level of arts centers like the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, Buttacavoli said.

“It is an awareness campaign. There are people who don’t know us, but know what a contemporary art center is,” she added.

>> Daytonian of the Week: Eva Buttacavoli

Founded in 1991, the arts center has evolved into a contemporary art center under Buttacavoli's leadership the last seven years, Vella said. He added that opportunities for local artists also have been elevated significantly in the last three or four years. New opportunities have included DVAC artists creating artwork for libraries, health care facilities and businesses.

This is the next step in the evolution.

The art center needs to capture more of the community “mind share (awareness)” when it comes to art in the community, he said.

“There is a vacuum. We want to fill that vacuum,” Vella said.

About the Author