Knew Conscious first opened its doors in Denver, Colorado back in 2010. The social club/ art gallery has played an important role in spearheading progress towards cultivating a unique culture in the developing city. Since its birth, Kurt Redeker and his team have been maneuvering through legalities and series of unforeseeable events but despite the hurdles Knew Conscious has displayed patiences and perseverance in solidifying their mission.
As life typically comes full circle, Knew Conscious finds itself reopening at 2350 Lawrence Street in the RiNo Arts District just a few blocks where they first began their journey. The grand opening group exhibition befittingly named “Awakening,” emanates a spark of heat- like a phoenix rising from the fertile embers. Morten Andersen’s work seamlessly expresses the throes of chaos and connected clarity that Knew Conscious knows all too well.
The newest location exudes an exhalation of fortitude and a breath of satisfaction. Two adjacent, long, narrow rooms embrace each other and exemplify the yin and the yan, mirroring the light and the dark endlessly. Knew Conscious breaks down barriers and asks their patrons to join.
The space is a gallery by day and by night vibrational frequencies are intermingled with the visual display. Knew Conscious offers the sound that entices music devotees who travel to Colorado.They simultaneously expose national and international visual art which embodies merging creative expression happening planetarily. The diversity yet unifying themes across the represented artists exemplifies the prevalent connectivity we see in contemporary art around the globe.
It truly wasn’t that long ago that Denver was more of a cow town than a cultural epicenter for art and music.
But over the last two decades or so, the cows have moved off mainstreet and made way for younger generations to put their own brand on the Mile High City’s art and culture. One prominent slice of artists participating in this contemporary cultural aesthetic has looked more to the worldscapes of artists like Salvador Dali or Alex Gray as inspiration, rather than the rustic landscapes of Georgia O’Keeffe, and have championed intricate patterns and color combinations that create a surreal reality for audiences to indulge in. Similarly, Denver has emerged at the same time as a musical Mecca of sorts for musicians in the EDM and jam scenes, creating its own distinct musical identity, much in the same way New Orleans has funk and R&B and Chicago has the blues and indie music.
One of the more important tastemakers and ambassadors during this cultural evolution is artist, promoter and gallery owner Kurt Redeker. Redeker came to Denver in 1998 and has spent much of the last two decades delivering his artistic vision to the city in a multitude of ways, from art galleries and fashion shows to booking bands like The Disco Biscuits, GRiZ and Lettuce for concerts. He’s been on the cutting edge in Denver with his respected social network and artistic community known as the Knew Conscious Collective, which has been a hive of expression for the last 10 years.
Photo of Kurt taken by Ryan Fitzgerald of Jarred Media ©
This February saw Redeker open up the Knew Conscious Collective gallery and social club in its new location on Lawrence Street in the RiNo district. With its 501(c)(7) status, Knew Conscious Collective is a federally recognized social club around the arts, hosting members-only late-night performances by visionary musical events and private events that will delight both visually and sonically. It’s designation as a non-profit social club means that people will need to be members of the collective in order to attend events and tickets are sold separately. The benefit to this arrangement is that events can last up until 4 A.M. with access to alcohol throughout, which is unique to Denver’s nightlife.
Kurt Redeker was kind enough to sit down with The Inside Out Perspective in-person at the Knew Conscious Collective gallery and discuss his art, the origins of his collective and what kind of impact it has had over the years.
For more information about Knew Conscious Collective memberships and events, please click here.
Group art exhibit ‘The Awakening’ taken by Chris Bohlin ©
Do you remember some of the first bits of art that really had an impact on you?
Monet was one of my favorite artists and Escher was another one I fell in love with. I really love the play of when artwork kind of makes you feel dreamy or when you can feel the force of what is grounding and what is not grounding. Salvador Dali was another one I gemmed with. My art kind of took off with that.
I grew up in New York City and I used to go to The Met, which is kind of a weird thing to do for a kid. But it was really powerful for me to walk through the museum and look at art, it was my peace. I didn’t grow up in the best of situations so art was really peaceful for me, that and video games. Those two things brought me out of my reality.
When you think of Denver and art, what are the first types of things that pop into your head?
When I first moved here, Denver was more of a cow town. The art was very southwest and western styles and motifs. There wasn’t a real big presence of a cultural movement happening here in Denver. It was happening all around in other places and in major cities, but not here. The Santa Fe Artwalks were the only things that felt like being a part of an art community. The artwork was OK, landscapes, photography, nothing cutting edge.
When did you first start to feel that cutting edge appear or see artwork that was more appealing to your sensibilities?
There was one gallery that sticks out in my mind that really started making headway in Denver for bringing in these surreal, contemporary artists, The David B. Smith Gallery. David is a real good friend of mine and we’d see shows together, see artists like Oliver Vernon. His art is a lot of surreal mindscape stuff. The other gallery that was influential was Lucid Gallery and that was the first gallery I was shown at with my work, which was 11 years ago.
Is there a set of principles that you follow when you are creating your work?
There is a process to everything you do, of how you get up in the morning, of how you get dressed, especially when you start to get a style and a rhythm down with what you are trying to do. My art is all based on vibration, I create algorithms that are based on a pattern, just like music is based on a pattern of time. Inside that time I create my frequencies, my highs and my lows inside my art, there is no negative space, there is no lapses in time.
What were you doing that made you want to open Knew Conscious Collective?
It was a stepping process. I started doing my art and people were really vibing on it and got some awards. I was doing posters for AEG and stuff like Mile High Music Festival. I was sharing space with another creative guy who was helping me with getting posters done. I started doing my own art and got invited to come down to Puerto Maldonado in Peru.
When we went down there we had an ayahuasca ceremony for 15 days. On my first ceremony under the spell, I was told to display my art and the powerful messages as an inspiration. It was going to be not only about me but others, so open up a gallery. Before I left, there was some money found in my father’s old bank account. It was about $60,000 and I was going to spend it on a car and things like that when I got back from Peru. But when I got back, instead of using his money for that, which I didn’t even want, I used it for love and to create the Knew Conscious gallery.
What impact did you want the gallery and collective to have?
I don’t know if it was an exact idea, it was just a domino effect. I was showing my art there but I didn’t know how to run a gallery, I didn’t know that many artists. They just started hitting me up with their art and I was fortunate enough to get introduced to some biggies like Chris Stapleton and Martina Hoffmann and others. They came down and blessed my place with their craft and vision. It gives me goosebumps because it was the first time I could see people interacting with the art.
When I was growing up and when this place was a cow town, I didn’t see many people going to the galleries. They were inexperienced at looking at art or didn’t know how to look at art or thought there was some certain way to look at art. With Knew Conscious, I wanted a place that could be a destination where you wanted to go there, you had to come there. Going there you would take advantage of what was going on, like a national park so to speak. So seeing their expressions and seeing how the art was moving them just amped me. We need to do more because people are really gemming on this artwork that doesn’t have a subjective reference. All the art we were showing was out-of-the-gate psychedelic and people started accepting that it was in the eye of the beholder.
When it started to get some attention, I utilized the music scene. I’m huge in the music scene and I started throwing free festivals to just gather people around, though the eye on the prize was always the art on the walls. It’s now become a collective, it’s a house of art, where the music here and the art here creates a conversation and vibration that everyone is sharing with each other.
What do you hear from other artists in Denver about how this space has impacted their lives?
It comes all the time. It becomes overwhelming but it feels so fucking great to feel what I am doing for people. I am just trying to activate them. In life, you can’t really tell people what to do, you can just act as inspiration for them to find their own greatness. I’m just trying to be a portal for that, for them to believe in themselves and create their own magic.
Are there any particular local artists that have impressed you with their body of work recently?
The Apex Collective, Jake Amason and Stephen Cruse and those guys. They are really taking that idea of a collective and creating their own vibration out of that. I’m very excited about seeing how they push their ideas as a collective.
How do you define “success” in the context of what you hope for Knew Conscious? How do you define “success” for yourself as an artist?
Success is in your mind and I believe you have to work hard for your success and you have to work hard for your art. Knew Conscious has developed to where more people are coming to try and work for me on the vision and creating the vision on their own now. I consider that a success because it’s not just about me, it’s about all of us. If we’re all working together, who knows what can happen?
The Front Range Focus is a profile series in which Inside Out Perspective brings you stories of people on the Front Range who are having a positive impact on this region’s culture. In ways both big and small, these movers and shakers are significant parts of the fabric of this community. We want to highlight their contributions to the arts, recreation, business, politics, education and everything else in-between in this unique and thriving area. These are stories of people just like you, these are the stories of the Front Range.
If you have any suggestions on figures who are having a significant impact on the region and would like to see highlighted, please let us know!