What started as a small collective of artists in 2008 has now grown to become a group of nearly 200 artists across multiple disciplines who create interactive experiences for audiences of all ages. The group, Meow Wolf, is based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and also runs a learning center.
The name was chosen at random at the group's very first meeting back in 2008. Everyone put two words into a hat and the ones that got picked from the hat were "meow" and "wolf." And while the name perhaps doesn't mean anything significant, the group's mission and vision are quite extraordinary. One of the goals is to focus on artistic and social projects that challenge the art status quo and current concepts of the arts. This is done through art installations that the group creates for displaying in public.
With all that the group does to promote art and those who have innate artistic abilities, we're sharing a dozen facts about Meow Wolf that we're sure you'll find impressive.
Art Forms Run the Gamut
Meow Wolf artists include sculptors, painters, architects, photographers, writers, augmented reality creators, video producers, costume designers and audio engineers. If it's considered an art form, there's probably a Meow Wolf artist who creates it.
The artists hail from all walks of life, with some working full-time and others focusing on freelance work. They are millennials, mothers, "by day" corporate Americans, students, you name it. Just as the forms of art found at Meow Wolf are diverse and unique, so are the artists credited with their creation.
There are also many non-artist members who contribute to the success of Meow Wolf's exhibits. These include interns, directors and volunteers. Every person involved with each project plays an important role that is crucial to achieving a winning work of art.
Works Are Maximalist
The works created by Meow Wolf are maximalist pieces, promoting dramatic elements like vibrant colors, experimental techniques and methods that encourage a "go big or go home" philosophy.
Maximalist art contradicts the simplicity of minimalist art by taking things to the extreme. At Meow Wolf, the exhibits are intended to transport audiences into fantasy worlds that allow them to explore different realms of their imaginations.
First Chilling Project
One of the group's first projects in 2008 was titled "Horror." It was Meow Wolf's first attempt at compartmentalizing a large space into smaller spaces in which artists could represent themselves and their creations. It was comprised of disturbing elements like creepy bedrooms and butcher shops.
Coincidentally, the exhibit opened just before Halloween, so the theme of the work was quite fitting. As a result of Horror, the concept of individual projects centered around a shared theme became an objective during Meow Wolf's evolution. This solidified its mission of being an artists collective.
First Permanent Installation
In March 2015, Meow Wolf's first permanent installation launched with the help of "Games of Thrones" creator George R.R. Martin. Titled "House of Eternal Return," the piece takes audiences into a multidimensional mystery house that has secret passages, portals to magical worlds and maximalist exhibits. This is a form of non-linear storytelling that reveals itself through modern interactivity.
The premise of "House of Eternal Return," (also called simply "The House") revolves around the Selig family. One night, the family was conducing an experiment inside their Victorian mansion when they disappeared. Visitors are invited to investigate this mystery by traveling through the home to answer important questions. For example, Who were the Seligs? Where did they go? And why is their home teeming with figures in white lab coats? The only way to answer these questions is to visit "The House" and discover all of the clues left by the Seligs.
Enhancing the Experience
"House of Eternal Return" is 20,000 square feet large and incorporates dozens of rooms, interactive lights and musical objects — which guests can play. This experience is suitable for all ages and provides visitors with the chance to see, hear and touch art throughout the exhibit.
They are invited to walk, climb and crawl through all of the areas. This is intended as part of the maximalist concept that brings the fives senses to life. To enhance the experience, chromadepth glasses are available to visitors for $1. These glasses pull warm colors forward and push back cool colors, to create a 3D appearance.
Although it's not necessary to wear the glasses in order to enjoy or understand "The House," they do multiply the intensity of the experience.
The Celebration of Weirdness
It should come as no surprise that Meow Wolf celebrates individuality and uniqueness. The group believes in being weird and doing things differently. It promotes a culture of feeling and expressing love and treating others with decency.
This includes ensuring that skilled artists are compensated at the same level as other talented professionals. The group also values the idea that successful businesses should give back to their communities, both financially and by offering support through their expertise.
Meow Wolf is committed to modeling this idea and distributing it throughout the greater art scene, both locally and nationally.
Expect to Stay Awhile
In order to fully experience "House of Eternal Return," expect to spend two hours at minimum exploring. Keep in mind that if you visit with a group, especially one that includes children, you should allocate additional time to ensure that everyone has a chance to see everything the exhibit has to offer.
Once you've had your fill of interactive fantasy land journeying, enjoy a couple of drinks at Float — the bar and cafe inside the lobby of the exhibit. On the menu are beer, wine, cider, coffee and cocktail offerings. There is also Trinity Kitchen, the food truck, which serves Cajun and southern inspired foods. After all that walking around, you're sure to work up an appetite.
Work eating time into your schedule as well, so you won't have to rush and finish your meal quickly.
While "House of Eternal Return" is the permanent exhibit on display, Meow Wolf has released past works that are just as remarkable. In 2010, "The Moon is to Live On" was featured. This impressive exhibit featured three hours of live music, dance and time-based art, using video elements and rotating sets to entertain. The artists performed for six sold-out crowds and the show received rave reviews in local news outlets.
In 2013, Meow Wolf members attended the 6th annual Luminaria Festival in San Antonio, Texas, showcasing their work, Nimbus. For this piece, the group used light, sound and fog to create a dreamlike atmosphere. More than 10,000 visitors came to experience the show, which only ran for five hours.
Check out more of Meow Wolf's past projects here.
All Ages Welcome
While many of the elements of Meow Wolf's works are intense, they are not intended to be frightening. In fact, children can benefit from a visit because the exhibits encourage the use of imagination.
With the amount of colors, textures and interactivity, children are likely to find the experience exhilarating. If you're concerned about your child becoming bored, scared or uninterested, the good news is that children three and under get in free. It should be noted that anyone under 15 will need to be accompanied by an adult.
Tickets are $25 for adults outside of New Mexico and $22 for local residents. Children's tickets (ages 4-14) are $19, or $17 for residents. Seniors and military members can purchase tickets for $23 or $20 if they are residents.
David Loughridge Learning Center
In addition to the art exhibits that Meow Wolf creates, the group also runs Chimera, an arts education non-profit that offers art classes and workshops, housed at the David Loughridge Learning Center.
Ongoing art programs are held throughout the year for children and adults, and thematic workshops and community programs are also found on the calendar. During Open Studio hours (11-4 every day except Tuesday), there is no charge for art making.
Those who are visiting the learning center and don't have plans to see "House of Eternal Return" can skip the line and go straight to the art studio. For those who become overwhelmed by the exhibit, the David Loughridge Learning Center is also available as a place to unwind and relax.
Meow Wolf Funding
Meow Wolf is not a non-profit organization. It was founded and has grown, partially because it received economic development funds from private investors and the City of Santa Fe. The group is also funded by ticket and merchandise sales. In fact, a Meow Wolf online store sells merchandise from shirts and greeting cards to key chains and tote bags. Many of these products were created by Meow Wolf members. All purchases support Meow Wolf and its artists.
One of the most innovative (and interesting) items in the shop is the Experience Tube. It was created by Nicholas Toll, who also designed a room called "Busy Box" in the "House of Eternal Return." The tube is, essentially, four feet of fabric that two people put over their heads to experience laughter, creativity, connection and visual stimulation.
If you're not in Santa Fe but are interested in visiting Meow Wolf, the group has plans to expand to additional cities. By 2020, two new locations in Denver and Las Vegas are expected to be open to the public. They will offer the same immersive art experiences as the one in New Mexico.
And while there's still a long time to go before you can visit these locations, you can reserve a spot online by purchasing a ticket to opening night. In the meantime, there's lots to see and explore at meowwolf.com.