Meow Wolf History
Meow Wolf is an arts and entertainment group founded by 10 friends in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2008. They were artists, representing talent across a variety of genres; however, they didn’t fit into the traditional Santa Fe art scene. The name Meow Wolf was purely serendipity, based on drawing two words out of a hat.
They wanted to push the envelope, to create something different. The group of creative vagabonds wanted to create large, immersive, interactive narrative experiences. Initially, they rented a warehouse to stage art shows, parties, and punk concerts, divvying up the monthly rent while honing their skills on temporary installations and events.
Whereas Santa Fe is known worldwide as a creative community, the arts scene can be surprisingly intractable and dismissive when it comes to eccentric or innovative concepts. The financial reality is gallery owners are motivated to focus exclusively on commercial viability. Weird doesn’t sell.
George R.R. Martin
In 2014, they found a patron/partner who believed in their vision, who had the financial resources to help them manifest their dream. Vince Kadlubek, one of the founding members, worked as marketing director for Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, which is owned by George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones. Vince successfully pitched George on the commercial viability of a permanent space, with George committing as an equity partner. He purchased a shuttered bowling alley on the south side of Santa Fe.
With financing in hand, about 135 artists began creating the 70 rooms that make up The House of Eternal Return. They invested thousands of hours, creating magazine articles, postcards, diary entries and computer posts to advance and define the narrative. Talented construction workers, architects, engineers, and electricians brought it to life, with The House of Eternal Return opening on March 16, 2016.
The group had ambitious goals. They wanted to attract 300,000 people during the first year. They had 400,000 visitors within the first nine months, which is almost six times the population of Santa Fe. Furthermore, The House of Eternal Return received a 2017 TEA Award and was cited as the tenth best music venue in the United States. Lest the novelty wane, the installation is closed periodically to add new content, a perpetual work in progress.
The success of the project has been a boon for local artists. Between Meow Wolf headquarters and expansion nationwide, Meow Wolf employs over 400 artists from every genre — sculpture, metal fabricators, cross-reality (AR/VR/MR), narrative writing, engineers, architects, video production, painters and performance artists…a literal construction crew of creatives.
Meow Wolf | Origin Story
A full-length documentary, Meow Wolf: Origin Story, premiered at SXSW in March, 2018, as well as their first virtual reality experience, The Atrium. They won the “Spirit of SXSW” award. The film opened in over 700 theaters nationwide in November, 2018, garnering national attention. By July 16, 2018 a million people had explored the peculiar portals and passageways at The House of Eternal Return.
The Meow Wolf Experience
The experience starts in the front yard of a cozy Victorian façade built inside the bowling alley. It is astonishing how a small space can be so convoluted and elaborate. They packed a LOT into 20,000 square feet.
The Meow Wolf creators invite visitors to investigate the underlying narrative embedded throughout the installation, which is a nonlinear story about the Selig family, the fictional occupants of the house, who have inexplicably vanished. They encourage guests to go through the mailbox, books, diaries, papers on the kitchen table, review the video that was in progress when the family vanished, etc. Open every door. Explore every inch. This is not a “hands off” realm.
There are clues everywhere and, yet, navigating through the exhibit and solving the mystery may take more than one visit. In fact, the meticulous approach takes hours, if not days. Fortunately, admission is good for the day.
Choose Your Own Adventure
To be honest, I haven’t successfully followed the narrative, other than glancing through mail, notes, diaries and drawers. The overwhelming visuals, intense color, sound, etc., make it difficult for me to concentrate. Squirrel. It pushed all my buttons by incorporating art, a mystery, a compelling story, with sound, visuals and touch to fold me into the story.
Fortunately, there is no “right” way to proceed. It is a choose your own adventure tale, whether you choose the role of sleuth or gawker. In this case, I’m a gawker.
From young to old, there are always smiles on guest’s faces. Wide eyes and wonder prevail. Related, for families with children: It is easy to lose one or more members of your group with so many hidden passageways, tunnels, portals, etc.; however, there are staff members available to help you reconnect with your party.
“Meow Wolf champions otherness, weirdness, challenging norms, radical inclusion, and the power of creativity to change the world. Meow Wolf comes out of a dumpster-diving, DIY past, and we want to help emerging artists and art communities around the world.”
Fueled by the surge of national and international acclaim, Meow Wolf will be expanding on the concept, pushing the creative envelope further, with several large projects rolling out nationwide over the next five years. Though each new project will involve significant investment in the local arts community of each new market, the creative nucleus will remain tucked in a discreet warehouse on the south side of Santa Fe.
In total, Meow Wolf has four confirmed immersive experiences pending; Las Vegas in 2020, Denver in 2021, Washington D.C. in 2022, with Phoenix to follow.
Buckle up, and get ready to vanish down the rabbit hole. Meow Wolf expects to open its Las Vegas location in late 2019 or early 2020. They have drawn on local artistic talent and skill to bring the project to life. They are building the Las Vegas exhibit at a new development called AREA15 near the Las Vegas Strip. The installation will occupy 50,000 square feet of the 126,000-square-foot AREA15, which is twice the size of Meow Wolf’s “House of Eternal Return” exhibit in Santa Fe.
The Kaleidoscape dark ride is now open in Denver, with the build out for the 2021 launch underway (and under wraps). They will commission at least 40% of the art in the Denver project from Denver artists, a model the company they plan to replicate in future markets. Additionally, they created a fund for DIY spaces, giving $215,000 to 106 venues in 2018.
House of Eternal Return
$29 for adults, $25 for age 65+ and military, $21 for children 3-12.
New Mexico Residents
$24 for adults, $22 for age 65+ and military, $17 for children 3-12.
10 AM – 8 PM Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 10 AM – 10 PM Fridays and Saturdays. Closed Tuesdays.