Why this nonprofit arts organization has to move, and why it’s staying in downtown Farmington

“We think it’s really important for us to be here.”

That’s Dwayne Hayes, Executive Director of the nonprofit arts organization KickstART Farmington, talking about his organization’s presence in downtown Farmington. It was just a month or so ago when Hayes got the word that the KickstART Gallery & Shop would have to vacate its storefront on Grand River Avenue. The building’s previous owner sold the property and its new owner has their own plans for the space.

KickstART was founded 10 years ago with its initial focus as the organizer of the Greater Farmington Film Festival. The organization’s mission has grown significantly since then, doing its part to nurture and advocate for a healthy arts community in downtown Farmington and the surrounding area. The gallery and gift shop opened in 2019, where they’ve hosted artists’ exhibitions, sold local artists’ works, organized art classes and workshops for children and adults, and forged partnerships with neighboring businesses, like the recent series of vinyl listening parties presented with their neighbors at Dearborn Music.

For a small nonprofit like KickstART, the news of having to move could have proven disastrous. But it takes a village, as the saying goes, and Hayes says that the Farmington Downtown Development Authority has been very proactive in ensuring that KickstART Farmington remains downtown, taking him around town and showcasing possible landing spots where the organization could reopen. He thinks that news of their new location could come sometime this month, but he isn’t ready to announce where just yet. To help with the moving costs, KickstART has launched a fundraiser, which is available online.

We spoke with Dwayne Hayes to learn more about the future of KickstART Farmington and its place in downtown Farmington.

Metromode: How important is it to your mission to have a physical space in downtown Farmington?

KickstART Gallery & Shop on Grand River Avenue in downtown Farmington.Dwayne Hayes: The physical space is critically important to our mission. Our vision has always been to develop a high quality art space in downtown Farmington that allows for the exhibition of the arts and allows for space to host classes and workshops and events. And eventually, our desire for the space would be to include a space for performances — theater, music, dance — and allow us to screen films as an additional venue for the film festival.

Metromode: And what are you up against? What's happening now?

Dwayne: Well, the building was sold and we are closing on December 23. And we will be vacating the space probably a week before the end of December.

Metromode: What happens after that?

Dwayne: We have been looking at other locations downtown. The DDA has been very helpful in that search and we’ve had several fruitful discussions regarding that. And we're hoping that we will have a space to announce in a couple of weeks. We're planning to stick around. I would anticipate though, that wherever we end up, it'll take several months to get the new space ready. So we probably will not reopen until March or April, at this point. My hope is that March 1st we’ll be open, but that could be extended a little bit.

Metromode: What are your plans for the new space?

Dwayne: We primarily hope that the new space will allow us to expand our programming of events — to become a little bit more diversified and host more in-person events. Our current space is pretty small, and it makes it difficult to do most events here. So we're hopeful that the new space will allow that.

Metromode: How important was it to you to stay downtown? Was there ever the thought of going outside of downtown or elsewhere?

Dwayne: No, there wasn't really any thought of relocating outside of downtown, in part because we see ourselves as a complement to the community and everything else that’s happening here.

We love what is being done at The Hawk, in terms of their arts programming. We've got the Farmington Players up there. It's exciting to see what Skep Space is doing. We also have some new coffee shops that are doing some cool things. I'm sure they’ll have art on display in their spaces, as well. So there's a lot happening. I think it's really exciting here.

Staying here allows for an opportunity for us to collaborate with what's going on throughout downtown Farmington. We think it's really important for us to be here.

Metromode: And why is it important for downtown Farmington to have an organization like yours?

Dwayne: The arts enable us to see each other and be better neighbors, partners, and citizens. We think all of those things are important for any community to have within its downtown area.

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

KickstART Gallery & Shop is located at 33304 Grand River Ave. in downtown Farmington. Their current exhibition by artist Edee Joppich is open through Friday, Dec. 23, which is also expected to be the last day they’ll be open at their current location. Find their fundraiser on Facebook.
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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.