In a brightly lit studio at the corner of 29th and Curtis streets, young people stretch and warm up. As two garage doors roll up, music flows onto the street. Class is beginning: This is Collabratory.
This open space for all creatives is housed in the former King M. Trimble Center, a building that has served many purposes in Five Points: a career center; home to the Economic Prosperity Center, which offered financial literacy consulting; and, most recently, the nonprofit THGA Urban Arts Education Center.
In the two months since it opened in the space, Collabratory has brought new life to the area.
Denver native Jasmine Lairsmith stumbled on the space while following up on a business opportunity. She's co-founder of the mother-daughter ‘ballesque’ company (a mix of ballet and burlesque) Champa6ne, and she was looking for collaborative opportunities for her dance troupe. In the process, she came across Top Flite Empire. The rapping duo have a recording studio inside the building and showed it to Lairsmith. As soon as she stepped inside, she was inspired.
“I toured the studio in January, and I immediately fell in love,” she says. Running a studio would be a completely new venture. A self-proclaimed “studio rat,” Lairsmith spent her youth in dance studios, studying at Denver School of the Arts before moving to L.A. for a brief stint as a professional dancer. But the 22-year-old always knew that running an adult dance studio was in her future: “I had a vision. I manifested it and wrote it down; I knew I would get it done."
In fact, “the space created itself,” she notes, thanks to the efforts of the surrounding community. An old friend and studio owner donated the floors and mirrors. The artwork inside the dance studio was completed by Denver artist C.C. Wells. Notable members of the dance scene rallied behind Lairsmith, eagerly signing up to teach. “I reached out, and so many people jumped on board. It all fell into place,” she says. The studio opened March 5.
Within these walls is more than just this single creative venture. The entire building serves as an open space for the artistic community.
“We’ve definitely taken over,” Lairsmith admits with a smile. Besides the 1,000-square-foot studio for Champa6ne, Lairsmith uses the hip-hop duo’s recording studio space with her personal photography studio/clothing line, Humbly Human. Thanks to portable walls, a number of rooms allow for event opportunities and future performances.
The dance studio already has 25 members, with performers ranging in age from fifteen to thirty. They will not only learn technique, but also how to brand themselves. Serving as both a training team and an agency, Collabratory will hold auditions for artists looking to hire dancers; they will walk away with a full résumé and professional head shots, captured by Lairsmith herself.
The company's first performance will be at Summit Music Hall on Saturday, May 19, with Top Flite Empire. Another performance is in the works for late August.
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Lairsmith has a variety of plans for the fledgling space, from holding open performances on First Fridays to hosting farmers' markets in the summer. She recently launched a GoFundMe account, hoping to build out recording studios, a catering kitchen and multiple event spaces. At the moment, she's on the lookout for Denver artists to create works on the blank hallways.
"This is an affordable and creative space for artists to come together to connect, collaborate and create," she says. "We want Collabratory to be an artistic landmark in the heart of the RiNo Art District, bringing the Denver community together in hopes that all artists can find a home here."
Collabratory is located at 2980 Curtis Street. To support the studio, donate to its GoFundMe account. Classes run the gamut from contemporary Latin fusion to hip-hop; unlimited passes cost $70, an $8 punch card costs $50 and a drop-in costs $10. For more information, call 310-743-4617.