Meow Wolf was started by artistic misfits who wanted to create art on their own terms. It’s now a movement.
You may know the neon, out-of-this-world attractions that dot the Southwest as Meow Wolf. But those in Santa Fe know the eclectic group of artists as a grassroots campaign looking to create art on their own terms.
In 2008, a group of artists in Santa Fe got fed up with feeling like they were stuck on the outside of an exclusive art world. They wanted to make art that was different and unusual. They wanted to create the type of art that was not being recognized in the gallery art market.
So they decided to get together, form an artist collective, and shake things up. With no money — but a whole lot of grit — Meow Wolf dumpster dove and did it themselves. They pushed through challenge after challenge to start putting together a venue and immersive art installations.
Determined to be different
Inspired by everything from sci-fi to theater to geodesic domes, Meow Wolf put together installation after installation, collaborating with the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History and local students to grow and reach wider audiences.
But the true turning point for Meow Wolf came in 2015, when they raised money to put together their first permanent installation. Their donors? The city of Santa Fe, a crowd-funding campaign, and millionaire novelist George R. R. Martin, of Game of Thrones fame.
That installation, called the House of Eternal Return, opened in 2016. Telling the story of a family house with doors to alternate dimensions, the House of Eternal Return was a wild success, racking up awards and being called “one of the 50 best things to do in the world right now” by TimeOut Magazine.
Suddenly, this band of outsiders was gaining national acclaim and renown and, with it, power.
Sparking a movement
Yes, the group’s fame grew quickly. But what began as an anarchist art collective, Meow Wolf wasn’t going to let power and money turn them into the type of institution they had stepped out against with their very formation.
They incorporated, announcing values of inclusion, environmentalism, and giving back to their community by supporting emerging artists. Now an official Big Deal, Meow Wolf looked toward expanding nationally.
In 2018, they announced plans to open art complexes in Las Vegas and Denver with further intention to open projects in Washington, DC, and Phoenix in the works.
Meow Wolf headed to DC and Phoenix
Meow Wolf is taking its eclectic attractions to Washington, DC, and Phoenix.
The project headed to the nation’s capital is the result of a partnership with the Cafritz Foundation. It will be a three-level, 75,000-square-foot structure located in the Fort Totten community. The exhibition will feature a new immersive narrative with Meow Wolf’s signature interactive art experiences. It is slated to open in 2022.
Meow Wolf’s latest announcement unveiled plans for a new exhibition and hotel concept in the heart of the Roosevelt Row Arts District in downtown Phoenix. The project will feature a massive, 75,000 square-foot exhibition area complete with a 10,000 square-foot music and performance venue.
The hotel will include about 400 rooms designed by local artists that explore all forms of overnight experiences. Meow Wolf envisions rooms that encompass faux glamping, capsule rooms, communal hostel environments, absurd luxury suites, and lodging inside of the art exhibition itself.
“Guests are always asking about staying overnight inside of our House of Eternal Return project in Santa Fe, so doing an intertwined exhibition and hotel just made sense to us,” said CEO and Co-Founder Vince Kadlubek. “Our intention for this venture is to collaborate with the creative community in greater Phoenix to produce an authentic, local statement of expression which will bring further excitement and creative energy to the Roosevelt Row Arts District. This project is going to be truly monumental on so many levels.”
Meow Wolf continues to push creative boundaries
As Meow Wolf has grown from a small group of artists to a large operation with multiple sites, the group has continued to push the boundaries of what art can be.
Always interested in immersion and experience, they opened a theme park-style ride, the Kaleidoscape, at Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park in Denver. The three-minute, nonlinear psychedelic experience is trippy enough to capture the attention of adults and children alike.
The Kaleidoscape is a perfect example of Meow Wolf’s artistic point-of-view and limitless creativity. Fans describe it as unlike anything else they’d ever experienced. It illustrates just what can be achieved when creative people are stubborn enough to persevere against all odds.
After all, an early member of Meow Wolf said it best: “Not only is this crazy, but it’s possible.”
The little art collective that could, Meow Wolf now stands as an inspiration to weirdos, artists, and outcasts in Santa Fe and beyond.