Art News

Meow Wolf Breaks Ground in Denver, Breaks News in D.C.

Meow Wolf converted an old bowling alley in Santa Fe into the House Of Eternal Return.
Meow Wolf converted an old bowling alley in Santa Fe into the House Of Eternal Return. Kate Russell/Meow Wolf
Meow Wolf just broke ground on its giant complex planned for the arty heart of Denver. Now it's breaking news of another massive project: a permanent installation in Washington, D.C.

That's in addition to Meow Wolf Las [email protected], a 50,000-square-foot installation that may be finished even before Meow Wolf Denver opens in 2020. The explosive growth seems to surprise even Meow Wolf, which refers to itself as the "former fringe DIY collective" in the announcement of the D.C. development.

That project, a partnership with the Cafritz Foundation, will put a three-level, 75,000-square-foot structure in the Fort Totten community. "Washington, D.C., is an international cultural powerhouse and an ideal setting for the evolving Meow Wolf story universe that began with House Of Eternal Return,” said CEO Vince Kadlubek in announcing this third spinoff of the Santa Fe powerhouse. “Our intergalactic, transmedia story is rooted in a community of underdogs who overcome 'The Powers That Be,' and we will have something really special for all the fellow underdogs who seek a transformative experience when we unveil the D.C. chapter."

Meow Wolf got its start a decade ago as a small, definitely DIY collective in Santa Fe. It moved from the fringes to the center of the action with the House Of Eternal Return, an immersive experience that opened in March 2016 in an old bowling alley in that city, with a major assist from George R.R. Martin. Denver's Meow Wolf will be three times as large, with an estimated 60,000 feet of exhibition space in a five-story, 90,000-square-foot  building going up in the shadow of the Colfax viaduct, right by Interstate 25.

click to enlarge Meow Wolf Denver broke ground in November. - WESTWORD
Meow Wolf Denver broke ground in November.
Westword
The early-January announcement of the Denver project has been followed by a flood of activity. Here's Meow Wolf's own summary of the past twelve months:

January: 
Huge new permanent installations announced in Denver and Las Vegas

February:
House Of Eternal Return expands with new portal, rooms, artwork, David Loughridge Learning Center programs and free art supplies for young and disabled people, and Float Café

March: 
Premiere of film, virtual reality experience and epic party wins Spirit Of SXSW Award at SXSW

April: 
Launch of Score Wars with the Galaga World Championship makes headlines around the globe

May:
Mikey Rae's Talent Show animation and art series premieres, benefits Humane Shelter

June: 
Passportals series opens with free, live talent all summer throughout House Of Eternal Return

July: 
House Of Eternal Return celebrates one millionth guest in only two years of operation

August: 
Debut of experiential music festival Taos Vortex and first talent management recording artist release: Carlos Medina: El Cantador

September:
World’s first artist-driven dark ride Kaleidoscape announced for April 2019, Audio Tours debut, Anomaly Tracker app released, DIY Fund expanded, Educator Appreciation Program launched

October:
Stunning new AR/VR and fabrication work The Navigator premieres to rave reviews at Magic L.E.A.P. Conference, House Of Halloween opens for third year in Santa Fe

November:
Meow Wolf: Origin Story feature documentary premieres in 700 theaters throughout 50 states to stellar reviews, streaming version opens new online Meow Wolf Entertainment portal

December:
75,000 square foot new permanent installation announced in Washington, D.C.
And that's not all: Meow Wolf says there will be more major location announcements in 2019.

Even before Meow Wolf Denver opens, Meow Wolf will make its mark on the Mile High City, when the world's first artist-driven dark ride debuts at Elitch Gardens this spring. Revesco Properties, a real estate and management company that's an owner and managing partner in Elitch Gardens, is partnering on Meow Wolf Denver; in fact, Elitch's former HR office will be the site of the new structure.

Last month's groundbreaking was "obviously a milestone," says John Feins, vice president of communications for Meow Wolf, "but we have such a long way to go."

While construction continues, the Meow Wolf team is going through the submissions that poured in after it issued its first call for Colorado-based artists in October. It's also started working on the narrative for Meow Wolf Denver; like the D.C. and Vegas projects, it will be unique to this city. And it's also hush-hush at the moment, the better to keep creativity flowing, says Feins. Not just on Meow Wolf projects, but the arts in general.

Meow Wolf reps are already showing up on panels around the Mile High City, and the group is sponsoring numerous events.  "We're especially interested in helping other arts groups, not just financially, but also in spreading the word," he says.

"We're more interested in the movement than our own fame," Feins concludes. "Communities need to come together, communities need to rally around their creatives. We can't be the only immersive-art world."
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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun