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Meow Wolf Fever: Denver Students and Artists Inspired by Santa Fe Group

Slavens middle-schoolers are working on a Meow Wolf-inspired immersive art installation dubbed Mew Pup.
Slavens middle-schoolers are working on a Meow Wolf-inspired immersive art installation dubbed Mew Pup.

Denver has a bad case of Meow Wolf fever — and it's not just because of the new psychedelic dark ride, Kaleidoscape, a Meow Wolf-designed attraction that debuted last month at Elitch Gardens.

This weekend, middle-school students at Slavens will be showing work at a Meow Wolf-inspired immersive art installation called Mew Pup. "Cats meow and kittens mew, wolves were pups before they grew!" the students say in an announcement.

The installation will include giant stuffies, stop-motion projections and rubber-duck-themed artworks exhibited throughout maze-like rooms that the students built throughout the 2018-2019 school year; you can wander through a portal into the Candy Room, the Galaxy Museum and the Snow Room. The exhibit will be on display one day only, from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at the 22nd annual Slavens Art Festival, 3000 South Clayton Street.

Meanwhile, Denver's adult artists aren't finished weighing the relationship between Casa Bonita and Meow Wolf. Last fall, local artists Sommer Browning and Esteban Peralta pitted the pink eatertainment palace against the Santa Fe-based immersive-art powerhouse on a bumper sticker that proclaimed “Casa Bonita Is Better Than Meow Wolf.” The two distributed the stickers for free at their arts outposts, inspiring a quick kerfuffle.

Meow Wolf's Denver-based community engagement director recently stopped by Browning's house/gallery to pick up a few stickers for a party at Casa Bonita (without disclosing the affiliation); one of the artists' stickers reportedly found its way onto Kaleidoscape, too.

Artist John Rasmussen made this Casa Bonita shirt.
Artist John Rasmussen made this Casa Bonita shirt.
Meow Casa Bonita

Now artist and noise musician John Rasmussen has created a kumbaya (and capitalist) moment, with T-shirts, hoodies and other paraphernalia bearing the words “Casa Bonita,” but in the signature Meow Wolf typeface and colors. (See them/buy them at red.bubble.com.)

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"I grew up in Lakewood and have been to Casa Bonita at least a hundred, if not more, times through the years," he says. With Meow Wolf's expansion, Rasmussen adds, "I thought it would be an interesting mashup to put the two together. Casa Bonita is something friends across the country understand as uniquely Colorado."

Rasmussen says he's supportive of Meow Wolf's efforts, though unlike many other local artists, he's not currently working with the group. "I greatly appreciate the help Meow Wolf has given to the DIY scene through their DIY fund," he says. "I lost friends in the Ghost Ship tragedy and saw friends displaced when Rhinoceropolis was shut down. With some help from the DIY fund and the long and hard hours put in by the core Rhino crew, they are now back open and in operation again, and I think that's a great thing."

Browning finds Rasmussen's project amusing, Peralta less so. "Doubtful it’ll be successful," he writes in a response to Westword's query. "Might prompt some legal action even. Would love to see smarter and insightful critique. This seems a little dead inside, like Nirvana t-shirts sold at Wal-Mart."

Neither Meow Wolf nor Casa Bonita responded to requests for comment on these latest projects. 

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