There is a certain kind of magic that happens when artists come together. Regardless of the discipline, when creative energy is shared in a community, the outcome is almost always bigger than the art itself. It’s about connection, inspiration, education and collaboration, which all meet in the heart of Denver’s newest “artistic social club,” Collabratory Complex
. Founded by the mother-daughter team of Katrina and Jasmine Lairsmith, the new space will have its grand opening
on Sunday, May 1, offering a unique creative studio for an intersection of the arts that includes dance, photography, music, media and more.
Katrina has had a career as a professional dancer, choreographer and creative director. A Denver native, she has long been involved in the dance world both here and in L.A.; Jasmine grew up dancing, as well. However, after studying video cinema at the Denver School of the Arts
and pursuing her interest in photography, Jasmine recognized the potential for, and importance of, bringing various disciplines together to generate new creative opportunities.
With their passion for production and shared appreciation for all forms of art, Katrina and Jasmine conceptualized Collabratory as a way to meet artists’ needs in today’s world — a place to collaborate, network and brainstorm with other artists.
Master class with Choreographers "COST N' MAYOR."
“I think that I’ve learned the most by talking to people who aren’t in my world,” Jasmine says. “A singer needs dancers. How do they find those dancers? And how do they learn how to find those dancers?” Collabratory will act as a social house for these connections to be made, as well as a host for various workshops, pop-up classes, master classes and events focusing on a variety of artistic fields.
The first iteration of Collabratory hit Denver back in 2018, when Jasmine opened a photography and dance studio in a repurposed (read: abandoned) building in RiNo among a handful of other artists and musicians. “It was very spur-of-the-moment,” she recalls.
“It was a dump,” her mom chimes in. “But it blew up like you wouldn’t believe.”
It was an exciting underground scene and was wildly successful. However, the landlord of the building encountered some issues with the lease and soon lost the building to the city. As generative as it was, the first Collabratory
only lasted for a matter of months before having to abruptly close up shop. And a few years later, Katrina and Jasmine found themselves struggling to keep their artistic careers going in the middle of the pandemic.
“Artists were screwed,” Katrina states. “Completely benched.”
While looking for ways to make money, they ended up getting cast in an HBO reality-TV show called My Mom, Your Dad
that took them out to Los Angeles. They were isolated from each other for two weeks upon arrival and had to undergo rigorous health checks in order to be on the show. Simultaneously, Katrina’s father and biggest inspiration, Doug Lairsmith, was in his final stages of colon cancer; on July 2, 2021, she got the news that her father had died. Later that same day, she got another call from the show’s production crew: Something was wrong with her bloodwork, and she and Jasmine both got sent home. Two weeks after returning to Colorado, Katrina was diagnosed with stage 1 leukemia.
The truth is that she hadn’t felt good all year, but she had thought that it was side effects from COVID, and never got thoroughly checked out. Her father passing away was the most painful thing she had ever experienced, she says, but if it hadn’t happened when it did, she would not have taken her own health seriously. Luckily, her treatment has been successful and her blood levels are almost back to normal. “I’m going to be okay, but I was supposed to be okay, because that’s the way it was supposed to go,” says Katrina.
Doug Lairsmith was an artist himself; he designed furniture, and loved the underground music scene and reading tarot cards at Herman’s Hideaway on Broadway. He may have passed from their lives that summer, but Katrina and Jasmine both feel that he has been with them every step of the way since then. He had left them an inheritance that they weren't sure what to do with, but six months after leaving L.A., they found the perfect opportunity to reopen Collabratory Complex.
“We found this building, and we just said we’re gonna build it for him,” Katrina says. “And as we build it, it just kind of comes together — like every miracle that shouldn’t have happened happens. And we know it’s him.”
Justin Bieber Justice Tour Workshop with Bieber choreographers Nick Demoura and Jblaze.
Katrina remembers her dad repeating the phrase “Be here now” throughout the last year of his life, and one of the biggest art features they’ve included in the design is a brand-new Pat Milbery mural of that quote on an enormous garage door that makes up the back wall of the performance space. And when you step inside, you are immersed in the work of many other local artists and creators, such as the lighting installations of WAVEFORM and an interior mural by Lil Fresh Sam.
Located just off Broadway in South Denver, Collabratory Complex will act as a creative hub: Every corner of the space is intended to be like a selfie museum, with rotating installations for photographers and models to shoot in, a media workspace for creators to edit and post videos, and, of course, the performance space, which will function as a dance studio, a theater, a music venue, an event and rental space, and a home to future art shows, poetry readings and live music.
For Katrina and Jasmine, creating Collabratory Complex is a matter of meeting the moment. The grand opening on May 1 will kick off with a yoga class instructed by Maurice Daniel, followed by a B-boy battle held by BREAKEFX. There will be vendors and live music from DJ CYN, and the event will finish off with a class by Collabratory dance teachers.
“Nobody knows how to respond to what we’ve been through,” says Katrina of the isolation, anger and pent-up energy that many people, especially artists, experienced throughout the pandemic. She and Jasmine believe that coming back together, collaborating and letting the creative energy flow again is going to be a healing process.
“Artists thrive off of an audience and being around other creative people. I don’t think we really understood how healing our art is until now. It’s therapy,” Jasmine concludes. “Collabratory Complex is a place to come back to that.”
Collabratory Complex grand opening, 12:30-9:15 p.m. Sunday, May 1, 1974 South Acoma Street. Tickets for classes are $5. Learn more about Collabratory Complex at collabratorycomplex.com.