Meow what? When I was visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Albuquerque a couple years ago, they suggested visiting one of New Mexico’s favorite attractions. Located in Santa Fe, that attraction with the unusual name — Meow Wolf — has captured the imagination and delight of over a million visitors in less than three years of operation.
Story has it that the name came from members of the original art collective who decided to throw pieces of paper containing random names of “things” into a hat. They pulled out two names and voila, Meow Wolf was born.
Render Courtesy of Meow Wolf
Meow Wolf Comes to Denver
Now Denverites will have a chance to have the Meow Wolf experience when Elitch Gardens opens the Meow Wolf Kaleidoscape attraction this summer. This never-before-seen attraction will take guests on a densely immersive and fully interactive experience. Riders who journey on Meow Wolf’s Kaleidoscape will be transported to other-worldly motion, deep sound, wild color and interactive moments that create an immersive world around you. This intriguing attraction will be the first artist-driven dark ride the world has ever seen.
Kaleidoscape will serve as the foretaste of what’s to come when Meow Wolf opens a brand new location in Denver at 1338 1st Street in 2020. In addition to the Mile High City location, the arts organization will be expanding into Las Vegas (2019) and Washington DC (2022). The Denver Meow Wolf, situated west of the South Platte River under the Colfax and I-25 viaducts, recently broke ground and will ultimately be housed in a whopping 90,000 square foot building. The exhibition space will take up 60,000 square feet while the main lobby, retail, bar/music venue, administration and conference rooms will occupy the remaining space.
Denver-based Revesco Properties, a co-owner of Elitch Gardens, is developing the project. According to Business Den, Meow Wolf previously said it is paying Revesco $60 million to lease the building and surrounding 3.75-acre site — much of which will be used for parking — for 20 years. Revesco is also the force behind the River Mile neighborhood development, which will eventually create a new downtown neighborhood along the South Platte River between Speer Boulevard and Auraria Parkway.
Little has been revealed about the Denver exhibition, other than it won’t duplicate what is now on display in Santa Fe. Given Meow Wolf’s forward-looking mentality, high-energy creativity and unending desire to leave a social impact, the attraction is unlikely to be dull.
Meow Wolf’s History and Evolution
When the organization was originally founded in 2008, the artists had hopes of providing Santa Fe with a venue for alternative art and music. They initially leased commercial space, and focused much of their energy on a number of art installations in Santa Fe. However, the breakthrough came in January 2015, when Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin pledged over $2.5 million to renovate a vacant bowling alley for Meow Wolf. The city of Santa Fe followed with $50,000 and a crowdfunding campaign netted $100,000.
Meow Wolf was off and running.
In March of 2016, it opened its first permanent exhibit in its own space on the outskirts of Santa Fe. Dubbed the House of Eternal Return, it features an immersive story-driven experience centering around a mysterious house and the family who lived there. Suitable for people of all ages, House of Eternal Return is a fully-interactive experience with sounds, visuals, video games and many other points of interest to explore and share with friends and family. According to its website, Meow Wolf is the #1 Instagrammed spot in New Mexico and doubles as one of Yelp’s Top Ten Music Venues in the U.S.
The overriding theme of Meow Wolf has always been to create elaborate art installation, focusing on immersive, interactive and entertaining art. In other words, be ready for sensory overload.
Art for Profit
Today, Meow Wolf is comprised of over 300 employees creating and supporting art across a variety of media, including architecture, sculpture, painting, photography, video production, cross-reality (AR/VR/MR), music, audio engineering, narrative writing, costuming and performance. In art drenched Santa Fe, Meow Wolf stands out by promoting an avante garde approach to art and entertainment. The House of Eternal Return has often been described as a “creative explosion,” “art rising above the ashes” and “thoroughly unique.”
In a recent interview with National Public Radio, Meow Wolf CEO Vince Kadlubek talked about the evolution of the “art collective” into something now that’s more like an art production company … that’s making money.
“… what we did is that we oriented ourselves towards business,” he said. “And I’ve gotten a lot of flak for this … But saying, like, yo, embrace capitalism, you need money. Your idea that you create with your art should be able to make money. And you should be valuing yourself enough to allow for money to come in. And then at the same time, if and when you do make money, don’t follow the same rules of capitalism. Be different. Treat your workforce differently. Treat your profits differently. “
As an example, he cited the example of the DIY Fund Meow Wolf created over the last few years that is used to foster art in underground, warehouse and DIY communities in cities across America. Denver is one of the DIY art communities that has received a grant along with 79 other spaces in nearly every state.
For more information on the upcoming Denver Meow Wolf exhibit, check out their website.