For the past two years, the city has watched Meow Wolf Denver rise in the juncture between the I-25 overpass to Colfax Avenue and the viaduct. The building began glowing blue and purple a few months ago. But inside the structure is where the real action has been happening, in advance of an opening this fall — exact date yet to be released.
Many of the details of that ongoing action have also been kept vague: "We're working on it," promises a sneak-peek video posted on the Meow Wolf website earlier this month. According to a new announcement from Meow Wolf, hundreds of artists have been involved, including 110 Colorado-based creatives who are working on the permanent immersive art exhibition, which will include large anchor spaces over four floors showcasing 79 projects, which "depict dozens of converged worlds including portals and wormholes between them."
And what will that permanent exhibition be named? Like the opening date, it has yet to be revealed — although there will be one. Meow Wolf's groundbreaking immersive installation that opened in Santa Fe in March 2016 is House of Eternal Return; Omega Mart debuted in Las Vegas in February. Meanwhile, Denver is TBA.
But other facets of the new facility are firm. No matter what it's called, Meow Wolf Denver will definitely include a live performance arena that can hold more than 450 people for concerts and other events at night. (Meow Wolf will book it, but it will also be available for private events.) During the day, the arena will turn into another immersive experience as guests interact with projections that change in real time based on their movements. For this project, Montreal-based Moment Factory teamed with Meow Wolf; New Mexico artist Nate Gutierrez was tasked with creating a mural for the area, and Santa Fe musician Cole Bee Wilson an accompanying score.
“Moment Factory collaborated with Meow Wolf to create an interactive experience that transforms the venue into an immersive space of discovery where guests can explore and influence the art around them,” says Alexandre Lupien, creative director at Moment Factory, in an announcement on that partnership.
But wait — there's more! The main floor will also hold Meow Wolf Cafe, a fast-casual spot offering both dine-in and grab-and-go service. Meow Wolf says it will partner on the spot with local food and beverage entrepreneurs "who represent the inclusivity and convergence of cultures that Meow Wolf believes in," according to the company's release. And before they leave, guests will be able to stock up on souvenirs at the 2,000-square-foot Meow Wolf Denver gift shop, which will offer over 1,500 items ranging from T-shirts to one-of-a-kind art pieces, many by locals.
“Our most ambitious project to date, the Denver exhibition is bound to bend minds, inspire creativity, and touch hearts when we open our doors this fall,” says Todd Richins, executive creative producer at Meow Wolf, in the latest update. “From our partnership with artists and collaborators on the venue, to the retail and food spaces within our walls, Meow Wolf Denver is a one-stop immersive and imaginative art experience for the ages.”
From its modest start as a gritty Santa Fe arts collective in 2008, Meow Wolf exploded onto the national arts scene after the debut of House of Eternal Return. In January 2018, Meow Wolf announced that it would create a second permanent installation in Denver, originally slated for an opening in early 2020. Although that date proved optimistic, in the meantime Meow Wolf partnered with Elitch Gardens to open Kaleidoscape, the world's first artist-driven amusement-park ride, in 2019.
That hasn't been the only wild ride for the collective-turned-massive entertainment company. To handle the explosion of planned projects in not just Denver, but Las Vegas, Phoenix and Washington, D.C., Meow Wolf's management structure shifted, with collective co-founder Vince Kadlubek resigning as CEO of the organization. He was replaced by a new leadership team: Ali Rubinstein, Carl Christensen and Jim Ward, all relatively new additions. While the pandemic slowed down plans and led to some layoffs — as well as a successful unionization effort in New Mexico last fall — the work continued.
The Las Vegas installation jumped ahead of Denver as the second Meow Wolf site; Omega Martopened in Vegas in February, and has been sold out every day since. (Watch for news of a surprise Denver connection with that project.) House of Eternal Return closed over a year ago as the coronavirus restrictions shut down entertainment venues around the country. After some retooling, Meow Wolf reopened that venue in March. It, too, has been sold out every day since.
Find out about ticket availability and more Meow Wolf plans by visiting Meow Wolf online.
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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.