The Downtown Artery in Fort Collins Has Big Plans for a New Music Venue

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The Downtown Artery, a large space in Old Town Fort Collins that hosts art shows and occasional GNU music shows, is in the process of expanding — by creating a much-needed music venue.

“The Downtown Artery is a space that caters to the revival of the working artist,” the space's website states, and it is exactly that. There is an art gallery, plus recording studios, art studios, a living space and, come June, a 300-person live-music venue.

“It’s about filling community needs,” says William Knudson, one of the Artery’s directors, of the decision to put a venue into the space. “Fort Collins has this really beautiful, vibrant scene that supports musicians and artists, but it’s not quite there yet. So, we have these music venues, but they’re very much niche venues. They bring in specific types of bands, but we saw a large part of the community that wasn’t being served.”

Currently, Fort Collins is in the midst of a music boom, with Illegal Pete’s opening a restaurant with a stage, a new venue, and High Ground Rehearsal Studios opening practice spaces. But for a long time, there was a lack of performance space, especially for new local bands or DIY acts that wanted to come through town. The Aggie is more for larger touring acts, and Hodi’s High Note is a 350-plus-person venue, which can be hard to fill if you’re a local band just starting out. If you take out Illegal Pete’s newest addition, intimate spaces were a rarity in the Northern Colorado town, especially with the GNU Gallery closing in 2013 and “the house-show scene dying down in the last few years,” says Knudson.

“We wanted to open a venue that was different than most of the things that we had seen in Colorado thus far,” he continues. “We feel the best way to boost a music scene is by upping the bar. I see so many bands that are incredible musicians that play the same venue once a month for years.”

The new venue will be downstairs at the Artery, connected to the wine and beer bar. Brandton Manshel, who runs GNU, has been throwing tiny shows in the upstairs gallery space, and this new venue will give him a chance to put on larger ones. It will also provide an opportunity to pair local and touring acts, Knudson points out.

“Pairing national touring acts with locals is going to be a huge focus for us, and having an eclectic mix,” he says. “The emphasis is quality.”

The Downtown Artery already holds living quarters, which may seem like an odd addition for an art space, but it's there for the use of the musicians and artists who come through — free of charge.

“When you’re a DIY touring performer, you live on people’s couches and floors and weird uncomfortable spaces,” Knudson says. “When you go somewhere and you have a room and a bed and everything is clean and there’s showers, that’s huge. For the people who play in our venue, we offer up those overnight rooms for free.”

The new space, yet to be named, will open in June.

“We are going to be having a large grand-opening party with some incredible musicians on the bill,” Knudson promises. “It’s going to be a big party.”

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