Part of Feb 2011 by
Heidi Luerra

Heidi Luerra

Interview with RAW Founder Heidi Luerra

When I first heard about RAW it sort of sounded like the arts version of the “McIndie with a side of cheese fries please” but that was coming from my expectation that it was just another piece of corporate ballast dropped over the side for a tax write off. However, for the interesting plot twist we are all looking for, RAW is an independent organization pushing up and not a behemoth squatting down. Big difference.I discovered through accident and my usual lazy luck that Denver was going to be hosting one of RAWs new showcases as they expand across the nation to 17 cities total from the original 6 in California. This prompted me first to interview RAWs founder Heidi Luerra and second to attend the very first Denver RAW event on February 3rd and get some ground level perspective on the whole deal.

The first Denver RAW took place in the kind of weather Siberia puts pictures of on the front of their post cards and people sign on the back, “Wish you were here. And bring help.” No really, it sucked. That being said. Even with some of the artists not being able to make it and a weather reduced crowd of about 130 the Denver RAW was pretty damn good. I was not honestly expecting much more than a bad college freshman show and tell but I will be the first to eat my crow and say that the show exceeded my expectations on a lot of levels. It took place at the Jet Hotel which is sort of a luxury noir style hotel in downtown Denver with the artists on the main floor and the floor downstairs from there. There were three artists on the main floor including live painter Dennis Wright who members of the crowd chatted with often over the soft house techno that was playing and downstairs there were 7 or 8 artists which the crowd slowly migrated to over time. Singer songwriter John Runnels played his acoustic wares for the art crowd who seemed engaged by his songs and the general atmosphere of the event. Even though it was a harsh winter evening you couldnt tell by the crowds overall cheerful demeanor. Im definitely looking forward to the next RAW in Denver.

The Interview

What was the catalyst for putting the RAW Artists organization together?

Heidi Luerra: Basically RAW is an independent arts organization and weve been operating in California for the past two years. I personally have been in the arts industry promoting artists, myself as well as others, for the past eight years. So as I kind of saw the trend of artists staying indie or seeking to become indie rather than staying tied to a record label or a gallery we wanted to take these independent artists and spotlight them in the community and give them the tools and resources that they need to further their career. Thats sort of the basics and the mission of what RAW is here to do.


RAW Fashion Show

RAW Fashion Show

What are the RAW events all about?

Heidi Luerra: What we do is host a monthly showcase that features independent film, fashion, music, art, performing art, hair, make up, DJs, musicians, basically anything and everything creative and we put them all under one showcase, one roof, one night. We bring in a film crew and a photographer that takes professional photos of each of the artists and their work or their performance. The film crew interviews them about the past, present and future of their work and their inspirations, then we take that interview and we pair it with some B-roll from the night panning across their performance or their work and create a media mini-kit for them.

How did you choose the cities you were going to expand RAW into?

Heidi Luerra: Well a lot of them came from just traveling myself and my teams experience in these cities, knowing them to be artistic communities and having an abundance of artists. Thats really what it came down to. We chose major metropolitan areas because when you have a monthly event that runs nine months out of the year you need a quantity so you can choose the best of the best. Thats how we choose the cities.

What is your quality control for all the artists participating in all these new cities?

Heidi Luerra: Yeah, artists submit their work on the website and all their submissions go through our headquarters office to make that we approve. From there we send them on to their specific city locations and then from there the directors put in their 2 cents whether they like them or not and decide whether to showcase them or not.

When you are choosing the different artists is there a certain vibe you are going for?

Heidi Luerra: To a certain extent. When it comes to music we are a little more picky because we do realize that it is a showcase and you do sometimes have to appeal to the masses in a sense where if you stick death metal in there not everyone is going to like that. We try new things most definitely but there are some things that we tend to steer away from because keep in mind its an all encompassing show. There are several different entities and several different people involved and not all of them are going to have the same tastes. But were very open. Were an alternative venue for an alternative showcase. Were not youre normal white wall gallery and were not your normal music venue. We find a classy location and serve all the different genres that we promote. Then try and make it work to the best of our abilities.

Is there going to be further expansion into more cities?

Heidi Luerra: Were planning on launching four locations this summer. We do have our hands quite full with what we have right now but we are planning on launching New Orleans, Minneapolis, Boston and Miami this summer. There have been talks of maybe doing something internationally in the next few years or so. We have had several people contact us asking to host in their country. Which is awesome, but its not something we are entirely focused on right now. 17 locations is definitely a lot but a big benefit to the artists of us being in all these locations and a huge reason why we went after this as fast as we did is because we now can offer the offer all the artists the opportunity to travel and tour. Because we have all of these locations set up and on contract for an entire season. If a band in Denver wants to play in New York they could do so. It really allows us to mobilize our artists into different markets and expose them to a new crowd and a new fan base.

Mike Blecha the director of the Denver RAW had this to say about their first event:

We had a great turn out for it being the first one and the weather being what it was. People all seemed very intrigued on it. That was the number one most exciting thing was that people were doing what they were supposed to do which was enjoying what we were providing. They were coming and staying because they enjoyed the atmosphere and obviously thats key.

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