The Psychedelic Assembly strives to bring about positive change by uniting the transformative potential of psychedelics with the unfailing power of human connection. Our vision is further advanced through The Athenaeum, a physical space that serves as a hub for collaboration, education, and connection surrounding psychedelics in Midtown Manhattan.
The early seeds of the Psychedelic Assembly were planted in Peru, where founders Kat Lakey and Suzy Baker first met in 2019. Kat had been living in the Madre de Dios region of the Amazon rainforest, studying traditional plant medicine with the Amarakaeri people, while Suzy was seeking personal healing at Parign Hak – the indigenous-owned ayahuasca center where Kat was working.
Their shared experiences at the center, which emphasized respectful cultural exchange and reciprocity for the local communities, had a profound impact on both women’s perspectives and highlighted the importance of human connection in the healing process.
In March 2020 the pandemic shuttered Parign Hak’s doors and forced Kat to evacuate the Amazon, but by a strange turn of events, she landed in the concrete jungle at the heart of Midtown Manhattan.
Still deeply tied to the Amazon rainforest and indigenous rights, Kat became involved in environmental activism and organized two solidarity demonstrations for the Marco Temporal Nao movement in Brazil. By chance, Suzy visited NYC during the second of such events, and she and Abby stood side-by-side with Kat in front of the United Nations – a foundational moment for their friendship and things to come.
A few months later, the idea for the Psychedelic Assembly was born. Inspired by conversations with Aaron Orsini from the Autistic Psychedelic Community, Kat dreamed up an intimate conference on psychedelics, catering to fellow neurodivergent individuals and introverts, with a focus on removing traditional hierarchies and fostering human connection.
With a wealth of personal contacts in the psychedelic space, and a physical space in NYC generously donated by her dear friend Michael Dupler, Kat devoted months to meticulously laying the foundation for this groundbreaking event. Word of the conference spread, the speaker line-up grew and the community embraced the idea.
However, as the deadline for the event approached, it became clear that Kat needed help. Thankfully, a devoted team of passionate volunteers rallied around her, working tirelessly for months to bring the world’s first Psychedelic Assembly to fruition in September 2022.
The event was a resounding success. However, the overwhelming feedback from attendees was that while the lectures and performances were informative and entertaining, the true highlight was the sense of community and meaningful interpersonal connections that were formed in that special space.
Encouraged by how much these ideas have resonated with the psychedelic community and determined to continue fostering magical moments of connection, the Psychedelic Assembly has now opened the Athenaeum – a brick-and-mortar location in NYC where the same type of community-building and magical interpersonal encounters can be experienced on a daily basis.
Her unusual upbringing by her mother Laura Lakey (a commercial illustrator and oil painter) and father John Lakey (a cartoonist, sculptor, and author), predisposed Kat to a life devoted to creativity, playfulness, and imagination. Her prolific parents’ careers at a myriad of companies including: Dungeons and Dragons, Cabbage Patch Kids, and Fox Animation Studios, ensured that she and her sibling’s childhoods were always filled with cartoons, toys, costumes, pretend games, and encouragement. John and Laura endlessly supported Kat in finding her own path to happiness in life, no matter how unusual it became.
Kat’s early work as a freelance videographer took off after the creation of her and her sister Alexa Lakey’s 2011 viral video “The Greatest Speech Ever Made” Since then, she has produced content for television personality Jason Silva, Kahpi – The Ayahuasca Hub, and the “Thank You Plant Medicine” campaign. The Lakey sisters went on to produce a podcast series for “The Psychedelic Salon”, which charted William Leonard Pickard’s novel “The Rose of Paracelsus”, in an effort to bring attention to the plight of the formerly incarcerated psychedelic figurehead. The sisters also self-published a surreal young adult novel about lucid dreaming titled “Wide Awake and Dreaming.”
In 2017, Kat began an Ayahuasca apprenticeship in Peru with Jessica Bertram, an Ayahuasquera who came by strong personal reference from Dr. Dennis McKenna. She worked with Jessica in the Madre de Dios region of the rainforest at a small center named “Parign Hak.” There she studied traditional Amazonian plant medicine with the Amarakaeri people and acted as the retreat coordinator and social media manager for the center. She ran a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2018 to help revitalize the facilities and over the years her work helped Parign Hak gain visibility and recognition as an indigenous-owned and operated retreat that provided transformational experiences for the participants and reciprocity for the rainforest and the local communities.
While walking the apprenticeship path was critical for restoring balance in Kat’s own life, in March 2020 on her last visit to Parign Hak she realized that she wasn’t destined to become an Ayahuasquera herself. While on a retreat at the center and completely cut off from the outside world, COVID-19 began spreading rapidly, Peru closed its borders, halted all domestic travel, and declared martial law. Upon leaving the center, Kat and the four retreat participants were held under house arrest in a small town in the Madre de Dios for weeks, where Kat acted diligently to ensure that everyone was released and returned home safely. Parign Hak was forced to shutter its doors, Kat left Peru, and the trajectory of her life took a new turn.
Upon moving to NYC in 2021 to work as the in-house videographer and events coordinator at The Blue Building in Midtown Manhattan, Kat became deeply involved in environmental activism. During the peak of the Marco Temporal Nao demonstrations in Brazil, Kat was searching for a way to become involved in Amazonia-based activism in NYC. While there were solidarity demonstrations planned in San Francisco and London, there were no coinciding events scheduled in NYC. Kat took it upon herself to organize two public demonstrations surrounding the protection of the Amazon rainforest and the rights of its indigenous people, reaching out to organizations such as Amazon Watch and Extinction Rebellion for help. One demonstration took place in front of the Brazilian Consulate in August 2021, and the other at the United Nations in September 2021. She continues to advocate for the protection of the Amazon rainforest in NYC under the slogan “Less Concrete More Jungle”.
Kat describes herself as a multimedia artist, activist, author, organizer, and dreamer.
Raised in a household where creativity wasn’t just encouraged but required, Alexa’s childhood was anything but ordinary. Her mom, Laura Lakey, wielded paintbrushes and pencils for commercial illustration for clients such as Marvel, Amazing Stories, and Stephen King, while her dad, John Lakey, juggled cartoons, sculptures, puppets, and anything he could hot melt glue stuff to. The Lakey’s have an eclectic list of work that includes Dungeons and Dragons, Cabbage Patch Kids, and Fox Animation Studios. Alexa’s parents continue to be determined to see their kids chase happiness down the rabbit hole, no matter how bizarre the chase gets.
Alexa and her sister Kat’s sibling synergy has been a creative whirlwind, kicking off their highlight reel with the 2011 viral sensation “The Greatest Speech Ever Made”. Alexa also provided psychedelic visuals for Steve Aoki’s ‘Singularity’ music video featuring Ray Kurzweil. The Lakey duo didn’t stop there; they launched a podcast series for “The Psychedelic Salon” that shone a spotlight on William Leonard Pickard’s “The Rose of Paracelsus”. It was their way of giving a voice to the voiceless, or at least the very niche and formerly incarcerated psychedelic community.
Additionally, the Lakey Sisters churned out “Wide Awake and Dreaming”, a surreal young adult novel about lucid dreaming, drawing many parallels to their psychedelic experiences. More recently, Alexa has worked as a Digital Project Manager in the world of eCommerce working with brands such as Mastercard, Levi’s, Burger King, X-Box and more. She joined The Psychedelic Assembly at the start of 2024 and serves as Creative Director and Vice President alongside her sister Kat and has lots of exciting initiatives planned in her new role.
Kat was coming from the jungle where she was studying and Swim had just opened a movie production company in one of the lofts upstairs. Unfortunately, and serendipitously, he broke his foot shortly after signing a lease on a 5th floor loft. Kat was looking for new friends and Swim was in need of many elevator rides up to his studio. They quickly formed a strong bond not only as friends but as collaborators. Not many movie ideas were put into motion before pitching them to Kat and not many days went by without the two talking about what they were doing here in NYC, what they should be doing, what they truly want to do. It was another evening at the end of a long day at the Blue Building – the two of them hanging out in the café. This is where Kat came up with the idea for what is now The Psychedelic Assembly.
Before Swim was directing movies and commercials he worked extensively in the art department for film and television – set builds, props, set dressing, prop fabrication. This being his background and owing Kat a lot of favors for all the elevator rides, helpful ideas, and one of the deepest friendships he could ask for he was the perfect fit to fill the role as the Art Director here at the Psychedelic Assembly. He is a core member of the operation here at our Athenaeum as well as producing lights, sound, and visuals for parties, events, even immersive theater shows put on by the Assembly. When asked, he’ll often say he just does, ‘the shapes and colors’ around here. We believe that psychedelics allow us to explore and connect in multiple dimensions and planes of consciousness. However, the idea behind opening a brick and mortar in that third dimension is a great common ground where we can all connect, and in that dimension
‘shapes and colors’ play a massive role.
Psychiatrist, Author, Medical Advisor
Dr. Julie Holland is a psychiatrist and psychopharmacologist, and author of the NYT bestsellers Moody Bitches and Weekends at Bellevue. She is the editor of two non-profit books: Ecstasy: The Complete Guide and The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis. While now a medical advisor to MAPS, she was a medical monitor for several clinical studies examining the efficacy of using cannabis or MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her newest book is Good Chemistry: The Science of Connection, From Soul to Psychedelics.
Dennis Mckenna is an ethnopharmacologist, research pharmacognosist, lecturer, and author. He is the brother of well-known psychedelics proponent Terence McKenna and is a founding board member and the director of ethnopharmacology at the Heffter Research Institute. He is the president and principal founder of The McKenna Academy of Natural Philosophy.
One of two people convicted in the largest lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) manufacturing case in history. After serving 20 years of his two life-sentences in a maximum security prison Leonard was released in 2020. Leonard is the author of “The Rose of Paracelsus: On Secrets and Sacraments”, an epic novel he wrote during his time in prison. He is now a public speaker and serves as a senior advisor to the JLS Fund.
Sarah Rose Siskind is a science comedy writer based in NYC. She’s the co-founder of Hello SciCom, a company that combines science communication and comedy to help science and tech-oriented people get their message across. Sarah is also a psychedelic standup comedian, and was the lead writer for StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson, a TV show on National Geographic. She’s written comedy for the White House Press Correspondents’ Dinner and her Harvard Cum Laude thesis on comedy.
Chris Wink was a principle creator, director, performer, and musical composer for Blue Man Group. He is currently the CEO and creative force behind Wink World, a multi-media psychedelic fun house with locations in Las Vegas, Riyadh and one opening soon at the Mall of America in Bloomington Minnesota. Wink is passionate about supporting the Psychedelic movement and often hosts events in his NOHO apartment, which includes his now infamous slinky infinity mirror bathroom among other trippy things. He is also active in the longevity space and is a strong believer that this whole love thing that has bubbled up over the past few thousand years holds lots of promise.
Jeremy Wolff’s writing and photography have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker. He contributed “Thots on Pot” to The Pot Book, and “Thots on Pot 2, Lessons from the Leaf,” to Cannabis & Spirituality. He created album art for They Might Be Giants, Spin Doctors, Soul Asylum and the Knitting Factory, covers for Newsweek and Fortune, and animated commercials for Coca-Cola. He writes and performs as part of the musical duo The Rivals with his wife Dr. Julie Holland.