We started as a group of negotiators who were seeking a space to provide a calm, inspiring environment for our clients to shape strategy, ideate new products, and talk through difficult issues. Nothing on the real estate market had the core elements needed - discreet, understated, welcoming, and with limited interference of technology. So we built our own. In partnership with a local landlord, we leased and renovated an old house to create a flexible lounge environment. Within a few weeks, clients were pulling up in the rear lot, walking through the discreet back door and making themselves coffee before heading into tough conversations. Canvas was born.
We’ve focused on building a retreat center for leadership meetings at a viable price point for all types of groups. And we’ve embraced the irony of creating a center for conflict resolution in a city - Richmond, VA - that has a torn history of liberty, revolution, secession, and enslavement. There’s something about the blue city, surrounded by red rural counties as the capital of a purple state, that makes it the perfect backdrop for conversations about the past and the future. Whether that’s walking the Trail of Enslaved Africans, visiting Jefferson’s site of the Declaration of Religious Freedom, or biking the miles of trails and rafting the river before tapping into the local breweries.
We’ve added a second building to the original house that is designed as a marketplace for ideas (in a former life it was a neighborhood market). It can host lectures, dinners, product development sessions, photo shoots. It’s our big blank space. We commissioned local artist, Keith Ramsey, to up-cycle materials to create an outdoor courtyard, with bar, to host breaks, lunches, and outdoor happy hours. Inside the main house, we worked with Aaron Anderson to design a world-class sound studio to allow leaders to record and document the agreements and strategies shaped at Canvas, to be shared with their teams and customers around the world.
Along with the physical location, we designed a range of crafted itineraries to get meeting participants thinking differently and connecting more deeply. That might look like a guided hike through the adjacent park trail system to an urban treehouse for discussions and debate as we walk-and-talk. Or working side-by-side, under direction of Duron Chavis, at our neighboring Community Garden which provides urban agriculture opportunities for the area, while also providing vegetables and herbs for Kendra Feather’s award winning Laura Lee’s restaurant that hosts dinners for our guests at the restaurant or the Market at Canvas. As you would expect, our compostables from Canvas go directly to the community garden - we’re as closed loop as possible.
Most recently, we added an Airstream Basecamp trailer to the mix. Parked in the Backyard, the trailer can be used as additional breakout meeting space, or a catering and equipment vehicle when we take groups out onto the trails.
It’s not quite Camp David or Chequers, but in a grounded way, we’ve replicated the aspects of those elite retreat locations to create a cost-effective environment for your leadership team for meaningful collaboration. We want your boards and your leadership teams meeting here.
Designed By, and For, Those Who Seek Meaningful Meetings
There is no shortage of innovative meeting spaces, motivational speakers, or meeting facilitators out there. Arguably, there are too many. Canvas was born almost of accident… of a desire from some groups to do fewer superficial games and more meaningful exercises… to hear less of “you can do anything” to “here’s how we can all grapple with this”… to focus less on the latest tech gimmick at a venue and more on the meaning of the human interaction. We believe that our clients will continue to shape us and hope that they do. We’d love to hear your thoughts.