Kate Downey, Co-founder and Creative Director of Caveat
“You put everything into what you’re doing – months of rehearsing, practicing scales, memorize lines. When you’re working on a play you put everything into it – then you rest, and you cry. And then you start a new project. That became the pattern of my life. And I love the community – the social aspect of it.”
Meet Kate Downey. Kate is the co-founder and Creative Director of Caveat, a venue & production company in the Lower East Side which aspires to be a nexus for intelligent nightlife. A self-described “big nerd” whose life mission is getting an audience obsessed with things we thought were boring, Kate leads the creation of new shows. Her background includes theater work at the Public Theater, Cherry Lane, New York City Opera, Prague Shakespeare, and Columbia University. Kate is the former Creative Director of Museum Hack at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she led renegade tours and created experiences like “Badass B*tches of the Met: a Feminist Art Tour.” You can follow Kate on Twitter, stalk Caveat on Instagram, and write her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How Did She Get Into This Work?
“My mom became a community organizer when I was about ten-years-old. She headed up a response to protest the installation of TV tower and built a coalition of about 150 people, in a town of 800! She got a reputation as the Trouble Maker in the town. It was really cool to see her from such a young age get involved in the workings in town politics. That was the first time I was aware that you can do stuff – and how government functions.” Not that there weren’t repercussions: “That winter we were trapped in our house until the snowplow eventually came around.”
Growing up on a mountaintop in the middle of the woods in rural Maine, Kate was terminally bitten by the theater bug during her childhood. She recognized early on that the cyclical process of making art is itself very entrepreneurial: “You put everything into what you’re doing – months of rehearsing, practicing scales, memorize lines. When you’re working on a play you put everything into it – then you rest, and you cry. And then you start a new project. That became the pattern of my life. And I love the community – the social aspect of it.”
Civics, theater, and entrepreneurship, then, were the buildings blocks of what became Caveat. “I did a lot of theater in high school and college, fell in love with the “decoding” I could do with Shakespeare plays by just doing a bunch of research, and after a couple of years researching dirty, scandalous stories behind great works of art at the Met, I got DEEP into science and the history of space exploration. I was able to travel to dozens of museums around the country as Museum Hack’s senior museum consultant and worked with amazing science museums. Then I was hooked. I started giving science talks in bars (it’s a thing!), where I met my business partner Ben (a theoretical physicist turned storyteller), and together we founded Caveat!”
As founder and Creative Director of Caveat, Kate leads the creation of new shows and building its media empire! Caveat’s first podcast, “Nevertheless She Existed: “The Women They Don’t Want You To Know About,” launched in July. In addition to the pod, Caveat is currently running twelve original Caveat series (created by Kate and her team), and they’re in development with six brand new shows.
Apart from programming over the last two years, it’s been central to Caveat’s mission to build up its venue on Clinton Street: “We found it very important to have a home. We’re also touring several original shows, organizing some consulting partnerships, and creating a new marketing plan.”
How Did She Come To Civic Hall?
Kate found Civic Hall via Sharon Lee Thony’s digital marketing course in the Digital Learning Center. (Which she recommends!)
Thanks for her Ambassador Ellen Mendlow, Kate was introduced to Larry Lieberman, our guru of all things fundraising and marketing. The connection seems to have been spot-on: he’s agreed to join Caveat Media as an advisor!
What is She Reading/Watching/Listening To?
Given Caveat’s mission to make science sexy, it’s no surprise that Kate thinks that The Good Place is the best TV show of the decade, “especially in terms of creating excellent entertainment that also makes you smarter.”
Kate recommends Why Buddhism is True. “The science-y, evidence-based perspective of the author was really useful for me. The book talks about the instincts, reactions, and impulses we have that used to be helpful to us as humans (or at least helpful to pass on our genes), but in the modern world are actively harming us, and how meditation and mindfulness reduces the power of those “default networks.” As someone who’s struggling with exhaustion and anxiety, it’s been a really great new way to look at it, without getting too woo-woo.”
What Is Her Ask of Civic Hall?
Ask: Caveat is raising a seed round for its media company, which will create media properties, starting with podcasts, out of the live shows developed in its space. “I would love to be connected to angel investors who are interested in making media content smarter.”
Offer: Caveat will be celebrating its second anniversary this coming September 6th at 9 pm. It’s invite-only, with an invitation extended to the Civic Hall community. Email Kate directly if you’d like to raise a toast.