Have you ever wanted to go to another world? A world parallel but different from ours? Well, within the art community today, a place that will transport you to another world full of fantasy and science fiction storytelling is Meow Wolf. Meow Wolf is the newest form and contribution of contemporary art allowing viewers to escape into immersive multi-universes. Unlike a traditional art in a museum, Meow Wolf is a hands-on interactive experience. Viewers are invited to engage in different landscapes, portals, tunnels, and backdrops full of lighting and props handmade by the artists. It’s a matter of transforming the world as we know it into something abstract. Everything is not what it seems. The artwork is for your own interpretation. It’s just a matter of letting go of what you know and immersing yourself in another universe first-hand.
According to their website, “Meow Wolf is an arts and entertainment company based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We create immersive and interactive experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of story and exploration.”
Who are the masterminds behind Meow Wolf? What is their origin story? Back in February 2008, a small group of seven Santa Fe collective artists, who were painters, architects, sculptors, performers, and writers came together. In their video called Our Story, the founders said, “We were Santa Fe’s orphans of neglect.” Those orphans were Emily Montoya, Caity Kennedy, Corvas Brinkerhoff, Sean Di Ianni, Benji Geary, Matt King, and Vince Kadlubek. In the beginning, like most aspiring artists, the founders had no money and together they all lived in a single apartment in Santa Fe. When it came to making their art, they got creative by using items they found in the trash.
To gain support, they managed to attract the attention of George R. R. Martin, the author of Game of Thrones. He helped the artists by buying them a bowling alley where they could work. Martin, as a writer and artist, is no stranger to world building, which is exactly what the founders were doing within their art for Meow Wolf. Martin shared, “It’s incredible. Other dimensions. Other times. Other stories. He was just pushing all of my buttons.” Through Martin’s support, the founders were able to turn the bowling alley into a world full of art. Their motto for their work was “We didn’t want rules. We didn’t want hierarchy.” Rather, the founders just wanted to be themselves and create art. In fact, the name Meow Wolf itself came from two words drawn from a hat. After looking at the words side by side, the founders decided to name their foundation Meow Wolf.
The founders claim, “Our mission is to inspire creativity through art, exploration, and play so that imagination will transform our worlds.”
In October 2008, they created their first project called Horror. The goal behind this project was converting large spaces into smaller ones with artists, so as artists they could “represent themselves and their artwork” through the theme of horror. The artists were a team on the Horror project, sharing the theme and process. Meow Wolf developed through many of their other projects, such as Habitats, The Moon is to Live On, GEODEcadent I, GEODEcadent II, The Dune Return, Glitterpolis, Nimbus, Nucleotide, and Kaleidoscope. All nine projects were a variety of indoor multi-level and layered landscapes with a storyline in an alien or fantasy world. To really let audiences feel like they've been transported into another world, the artists used different kinds of props, lighting, and sound for their sets. For example, The Dune Return project is an inter-dimensional ship on an alien planet. The Moon is to Live On had a live theater and rotating sets, and GEODEcadent II had post-1950s furniture, memorabilia, and other knick-knacks.
Over the last decade Meow Wolf has expanded their location outside of Santa Fe into Las Vegas and Denver. Each city holds a permanent exhibition such as Omega Mart, House of Eternal Return, and Convergence Station. Unlike the previous projects, the exhibitions are much larger and have attracted a larger audience with their different themes, art, and stories. For instance, Omega Mart is a fake grocery store, House of Eternal Return is a Victorian House, and Convergence Station, the largest exhibition, is 4- stories inhabiting over 70 pieces of art. Convergence Station’s exhibition is based on science fiction because it tells “an unforgettable, cathartic tale of converged worlds.” Meow Wolf is currently in the process of establishing another location in Grapevine, Texas. It will open in Summer 2023.
In May 2022, while vacationing in Las Vegas, I had the pleasure of going to Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart. Along with my sister and cousin, we walked into Omega Mart unsure of what awaited us. My first impression was, “why are we in a grocery store?” The Omega Mart store consisted of cash registers, shopping aisles, refrigerators with drinks, sculptures made of meat, and large triangular carts of fruit you could crawl through. I just didn’t expect the fridge doors to open into portals leading to another exhibit. As we walked through the fridge, I felt like Alice falling through a rabbit hole leading into another world resembling a planet from Star Wars. Two additional interactive experiences I had at Omega Mart were when I slid down an enclosed slide with my arms across my chest, and I had used rope to climb up a rock to escape a cave. It was an adventure through contemporary art built by imaginative artists.
Meow Wolf has grown into an established community of various artists, who worked extensively on creating, collaborating, and sharing their imaginative ideas. When seeking artists, Meow Wolf claims they’re interested in “prioritizing artists and narratives from underrepresented and underserved communities, including emerging artists. DIY makers, women, people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, seniors, and people with disabilities. Diversity of expression is essential for success of our exhibitions.” Meow Wolf is open to any race, culture, and gender to join their creative team. Meow Wolf believes in their diverse artists, as Martin did for the founders. Having been to Meow Wolf, it’s phenomenal to see how the artists and founders create illusion and fantasy through contemporary art. They fabricated a whimsical world that empowers acceptance and equality for everyone, which is exactly what the world needs.
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