Immersive Art: The Meow Wolf Experience

In 2008, a small group of artists and DIYers in Santa Fe, New Mexico, came together to organize a floating circuit of art installations and music shows among the city’s warehouses and strip malls. Calling themselves Meow Wolf, the collective eventually grew into an influential art force, creating huge collaborative installations that focused on immersive, narrative-focused art. Geodesic domes, caves dripping with glitter, and 70 ft long ships filled with fictional characters, these are things Meow Wolf became known for around town.

In 2016, funded with a grant from George R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame, Meow Wolf opened up their first permanent arts complex, featuring at the very heart of it a psychedelic immersive art experience called the House of Eternal Return. The House of Eternal Return loosely focuses on the Selig family, whose house has become riddled with interdimensional portals. Visitors climb through refrigerators, and into magical lands of dripping lights and nonsensical sets. Throughout the installation are secret passages, musical instruments, interactive light displays, and clues to solving the mystery of the disappearing family. Since opening, this insane, day-glo covered installation features the otherworldly work of over a hundred different artists, and has attracted thousands of awe-struck visitors.

And the exhibits, like the group itself, are always shifting. Recently, visitors find themselves searching for anomalies in the house, which they can track and scan on the Meow Wolf app, opening up new clues and secrets of the story. The group is constantly experimenting with the idea of non-linear story-telling fueled by exploration and interactivity, both physical and digital.

Now the collective is growing up, and Meow Wolf is hoping to expand into a national art force. They recently announced they will be opening multi-million dollar complexes in both Las Vegas and Denver, throwing the local art communities in those town into a pitching flurry as everyone tries to get in on the ground floor. In Denver, the proposed downtown complex will cost over 50 million dollars, and span four stories and 90,000 square feet. Anyone who has recently looked at the Denver real estate market understands what a sweeping undertaking a project this huge really is. The group also recently released a national movie, Meow Wolf: The Origin Story, which chronicles the rise of the collective from a group of penniliess art punks on the streets of Santa Fe to the multi-billion dollar art corporation it has become.

The question is, of course, will the experience really be the same now that they have upgraded? True, the new complexes won’t have the same DIY feel as the original projects, but Meow Wolf is making an effort to stay true to each new location’s character, working with local artists, writers, and performers to keep the concepts local and unique. But in the meantime, take a trip to see the original in Santa Fe, and plan on spending the whole day.