Universe, A Multipurpose Art & Music Venue, Arrives in Denver

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A crowded room of people in low lighting, illuminated only by multi-colored stage lights, move in unison to bass-thumping speakers and rhythmic melodies. Through years of organizing live music events, founders of the collective Text Me When You’re Home Amy Karp and Ileana Rivera are no strangers to this setting. Yet through years of organizing live music events in Boulder, the two came to realize an issue in the industry that stuck out to them like a sore thumb.

Now, Text Me When You’re Home is continuing to break glass ceilings by opening their own multipurpose art space, Universe. The storefront and venue space located on South Broadway will be a place for artists to share their work with a welcoming community. From visual artists of various mediums to jewelry and textile artists, Universe is opening up every facet of the arts to voices that have been historically erased from the scene. The multipurpose art space is designed to be a place of safety and inclusivity for the queer community, women and BIPOC. 

“We saw that a lot of people were left out of the traditional concert-going experience at best and at worst, it can be dangerous for a lot of people — especially people of color and the LGBTQ folks,” Karp said. “So we just got inspired to do concerts. We started doing DIY shows, trying to make them more inclusive and promote local artists in a special way who maybe haven’t gotten the opportunities previously and it kind of came together from there.” 

Text Me When You’re Home has organized a handful of arts and music events over the past year, with the idea of inclusivity at the heart of the work they do. Their highly successful event with Larimer Lounge, which had a turnout of over 300 people, sparked the team’s next leap towards positive change in the arts community.

“We want to break down the barriers to entry that a lot of people have in the arts community,” Text Me When You’re Home’s Outreach Coordinator Hannah Rome said. She went on to explain, “We want to be a place where people feel welcomed and encouraged to share whatever they’re doing and share their art…I think all of our artists are either people of color or people in the LGBTQ community. Also, we’re promoting women artists and people who traditionally don’t have as much of a spotlight in the traditional art space as they deserve.”

A large area of the space is dedicated to a storefront for artists to showcase and sell art pieces with an additional section of the building dedicated to where local musicians can perform. Rome highlighted other elements of Universe’s versatility, stating, “We’re going to be doing art workshops and classes and community-building events. We’re [also] going to act as a gathering place for mutual aid funds in the community like Denver Community Fridge and Shades of Honey. So I’m excited for the opportunity that we have to make the rules and facilitate what we want to see in the community, want for ourselves and want to share. There are limitless opportunities and we’re always going to try to find new ways to use the space.

When in the space, Karp made it clear that Universe is different from any shop or venue in Denver. Not only does the space promote underrepresented artists, but it is also a place for zero tolerance regarding homophobia, racism, transphobia and sexism. “We have our own space where people feel welcome and always feel invited and encouraged to share,” Rome said.

In anticipation of the grand opening this weekend, Karp expressed her vision for Universe’s impact on the arts. “I want this to be a place that is a resource to artists and musicians in our community and that we are able to consistently uplift and promote these underrepresented artists in a way that is meaningful and can put on events that can bring the community together,” she said.

The grand opening of Universe will take place this Saturday, Feb. 19 from 10 a.m to 9 p.m at 1869 South Broadway.

All photography by David Cohn