Knew Conscious Collective, artist Kurt Redeker's after-hours social club that has showcased art from around the world and hosted fashion shows and late-night parties with some of the biggest DJs and producers around — has jumped over hurdles before. Despite barriers ranging from fire marshals shutting down the club over safety-code violations to nightmarish logistics to changing locations, Knew Conscious has managed to cultivate creativity, share psychedelic art and music, and inspire people to build community.
Its latest home, at 2350 Lawrence Street, opened in February and was shuttered a month later, when COVID-19 hit Colorado. In the months since, Redeker has struggled to stay afloat while continuing to keep the Knew Conscious concept alive. He's thrown both virtual and in-person concerts and is even launching a clothing line.
Westword caught up with Redeker to talk about his new projects and the pandemic's impact.
Westword: You had a hell of a time getting going...and then the pandemic hit. Can you talk about your first few months before the pandemic?
Kurt Redeker: Knew Conscious officially opened on February 8 of this year. We did a grand-opening group art exhibition called The Awakening and hosted live music performances every weekend. Prior to COVID, Knew Conscious was Denver's only social club around the arts. We hosted late-night performances featuring world-class performing artists. We faced challenges opening, with a delay in delivery in our HVAC system and securing our new location, and right as we were getting into a good stride, the pandemic hit.
How are things going through the shutdown?
As you can imagine, it's a challenge not being able to operate as we intended: hosting late-night performances and growing our membership base. However, our message is about creation, and we will continue to inspire and give artists the platform to create through everything.
After restrictions eased up in May, we launched our Alive From Knew Conscious streaming series. Every week, we host virtual performances and have featured an eclectic lineup for artists from all genres that have included CloZee, Color Red All-Stars featuring Eddie Roberts and DJ Logic, Random Rab, Break Science and more.
We've enlisted an all-star production team headed by Rich Hartranft, who's worked with top venues and artists like the Floozies and Illenium and Quantum FX — Mike Morgenstern was just named one of the top-ten lighting designers in electronic music by Conscious Electronic — and they truly make our live streams stand out from the rest. We value consistency and artistry above all, and these guys help us take it to that next level, alongside Leah [Concialdi] and I booking and marketing the shows.
Additionally, this time has allowed us to pivot into an art gallery that exclusively showcases my artwork. The gallery now displays my illuminated digital artwork that I created in partnership with Dan Bishop, who built the custom framing. People know me for my digital artwork, but I am currently painting a mural on the venue side of the space. It's important to keep creating during this time and elevate an attitude of inspiration and not fear. I'm working with my team on live-streaming the creation and being accompanied by various DJs and producers throughout the process. You can check our social channels for updates and streams.
How has Level Red affected you?
As soon as we were allowed, we worked really hard to make the venue a safe and compliant space to host limited-capacity, socially distanced performances. Although we weren't running at full capacity, this helped us generate at least a little revenue to support the venue, our team and performing artists during these challenging times. Now we're back to doing exclusively virtual events, and it's more of a challenge to generate consistent revenue to support everyone when you don't have a guaranteed stream of income from ticket sales.
Our winter lineup was robust with world-class talent, and we're hoping to proceed with and reschedule these performances as soon as it's safe to.
What do you need to make it through this?
We are hoping that people continue to tune into the live streams, especially while we are only operating virtually. It's a challenging time for everyone, but if people have the means, small donations add up, and a little bit can go a long way. We're hoping that we generate revenue from our new merch line to help cover some of the costs of not being able to host live performances for the next few weeks. Venues and art galleries are small businesses, too, and without any aid and relief to offset expenses, we rely heavily on our patrons and supporters to help us through streaming donations and merchandise support.
Talk about the new clothing line.
We just launched a brand-new clothing line with the Knew Conscious logo that's available in T-shirts, short and long sleeve; hoodies; beanies; hats and more. We partnered with the vendor Troublemuffin as our printer, and the line is printed on high-quality materials and available in different colors. The alien-head logo that I created represents creativity, self-expression and the love that exists inside of everyone. Knew Conscious was created by artists for artists, so we want our line to represent inspiration and the ability to create.
Despite all of the hardships this time has presented, we are extremely proud of the community we have built and are continuing to build. We stand by our vision of creating a space “for artists by artists,” and have teamed up with some truly special musical artists and management groups who have become family and share our vision.
We look forward to continuing to build into 2021 and beyond, and have no intentions of stopping or slowing down — no matter what curveballs are thrown our way.
Learn more at the Knew Conscious website.
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