What’s this “Meow Wolf” thing you keep hearing about?
Here’s your guide to the buzz.
The convergence is here.
It’s been a long wait, but Meow Wolf has finally arrived to transport Denverites into other universes. In the last four years leading up to its September 17 opening, we’ve witnessed the arts group inspire buzz, controversy, community meetings about social responsibility and fan theories about cryptic shrimp posters around the city… all before Convergence Station even existed.
What can we expect from Meow Wolf now it’s finally arrived?
What is a “Meow Wolf?”
Have you noticed that massive, oblong white structure going up off of off of I-70 in Sun Valley? How about those strange, rainbow-colored billboards bearing coded messages and ominous announcements that you’ve “already been to Convergence Station?” Have you ridden the trippy Kaleidoscape ride at Elitch Gardens?
All of that is the work of Meow Wolf.
Meow Wolf is an experience. So, it’s somewhat difficult to explain. It’s a massive arts and entertainment group from Santa Fe known for creating immersive arts experiences, including popups, videos, temporary exhibitions, and now three permanent art exhibitions (Denver’s is the third).
Each permanent Meow Wolf experience is a surreal, interactive multimedia installation that allows visitors of all ages to wander through dozens of rooms covered with floor to ceiling art, unearth secrets and discover the world’s hidden nonlinear narrative. Some people will be content on moving through the space, looking at the trippy art. Others will spend hours and hours hunting for the exhibit’s Easter eggs, trying to solve puzzles. There’s an entire online community of people trying to crack Meow Wolf’s secret codes and develop theories about the exhibits’ storylines.
The unassuming, oddly-shaped warehouse structure in Denver may not look like much from the outside, and some fans say that’s intentional; that the exhibits introduce visitors to surreal, otherworldly concepts by way of things that are seemingly ordinary, introducing them entire worlds lurking behind the mundane. The original space in Santa Fe, for instance, is a converted bowling alley. When guests enter the building, they’re led down a hallway to what seems to be a lifelike Victorian home. But when you step inside the house’s fireplace, or open the fridge door, you reveal a portal to another universe.
Where did it come from?
Meow Wolf started in 2008 when an eclectic group of Santa Fe artists struggling to carve out a place in Santa Fe’s fine art scene decided to create their own space. It began as a radically inclusive DIY art collective and venue. Artists were welcome to come to collaborate and activate the space with art installations, which would then become a backdrop for live concerts and parties.
The group went on to create a bunch of art popups in Santa Fe and across the country, gaining international acclaim for their interactive, imaginative, out-of-the-box immersive art exhibitions. Eventually, they decided to launch a permanent exhibition in Santa Fe and gained the financial support of Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin to create it.
It was so successful that the group, which started as a collective of misfit emerging artists, became a multimillion dollar organization that’s changing the way the arts world operates. You can learn more about Meow Wolf’s rise to corporate power in the documentary, Meow Wolf: Origin Story.
What can we expect from the Denver experience?
The location at 1338 1st St. will be Meow Wolf’s third, after House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe and Omega Mart in Las Vegas. It’ll also be the company’s largest and most ambitious project at 90,000 square feet, as well as its most narratively complex. Guests will explore four floors and more than 70 immersive, interactive installations designed by more than 300 creatives, including more than 110 Colorado-based artists. There’s also an in-world fast-casual restaurant called HELLOFOOD café, whose menu features items from local businesses like Raices Brewing Company. At night, the installation space will be converted into a 488-person immersive performance venue outfitted with interactive tech and projection equipment.
Like other Meow Wolf stories, Convergence Station‘s narrative is built around the concept of multiple universes. The building’s interior is themed as a quantum travel station, where guests can transport themselves between universes that have been mysteriously melded together in an anomaly dubbed the “Convergence.”
Here’s everything to know before your Meow Wolf Denver visit
As some fans predicted, the installation is centered on “QDOT,” or the “Quantum Department of Transportation,” which features heavily in the Kaleidoscape ride at Elitch Gardens. QDOT allows travelers to cross between four alien universes via the “TRAM,” or Transmonic Rift Access Mechanism system. One page on the installation’s website says that when the four worlds collided, the impact created “Memory Storms,” which scattered “memories, backstories, and personas” out into the worlds, creating a state of disarray and forcing the worlds to carve out a harmonious future. The worlds formed the “Convergence Exchange,” a memory banking organization that helps collect the displaced memories and return them to their creators. It also allows clients to adopt memories that are not their own.
The Convergence also led to the disappearance of four women. Visitors will explore catacombs, cityscapes, cathedrals and six-dimensional sentient habitats, crawl through tunnels, travel through portals and interact with the multimedia installation to uncover the secret of what happened to the missing women, and why the worlds converged.
At no extra cost, guests can also request an optional QPASS, a card that gives you access to the “memories” of the citizens of each world and takes you deeper into the secret stories hidden in the installation. Visitors can view their collected memories at Memory ATMs or online after they leave Convergence Station and use them to piece together the installation’s secret narrative. They can also use their QPASS to help return memories to their original creators or to interact with the exhibition’s other hidden, interactive Easter eggs. And as you get deeper into the story, you might discover that you yourself played a role in the Convergence.
Why Meow Wolf Denver is a big deal and why it’s sparked some controversy
Meow Wolf is a huge tourist attraction with international name recognition . It’s earned hundreds of millions of dollars in Santa Fe alone and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, and at 90,000 square feet, Convergence Station is the biggest Meow Wolf experience yet.
Already Meow Wolf is changing Denver’s landscape, leaving a mark on the city with billboards and train ads and cryptic shrimp memory ads. And it’s also coming to a city already known for its immersive and DIY arts. Its arrival has the potential to make Denver even more of an arts attraction, and has generated both excitement and controversy.
Though a group established under the principle of radical inclusivity, Meow Wolf has come under criticism for the way it treats employees, as well as the impact it makes in local communities. A quick glance at online job reviews shows dozens of people complaining of a toxic work culture in Santa Fe, which some say resembles a “boys club.”
The corporation recently faced a workplace and gender discrimination lawsuit, and also come under fire for balking at unionization efforts last fall after it laid off more than 200 employees during the pandemic. Some critics are also worried about the arrival of a big for-profit corporate arts group landing in Denver, worrying that the massive outside organization might draw business and opportunities away from emerging and local artists, or that the growth it might inspire in the city might further displace artists struggling to afford to live and work here.
Others worry about the impact Meow Wolf might have on the Sun Valley neighborhood it’s based in. In 2018, after Meow Wolf announced its planned location, the Sun Valley Community Coalition RNO approached Meow Wolf about developing a plan to create a positive impact in the neighborhood. Meow Wolf worked with Sun Valley leaders and community members over the course of two years to come up with what is now its Corporate Social Responsibility Plan, promising to include donations to nonprofits and local organizations supporting Sun Valley residents, offering jobs to Sun Valley residents, hiring and paying local artists and making the building ADA accessible and environmentally friendly.
Last year, Meow Wolf Denver announced they’d met more than half of the commitments they made in 2018 ahead of schedule, and were on track to reach the rest by 2021. Some of those commitments offered support for the Sun Valley community through programming like the Art+Sol celebration and donations to the Sun Valley Community Kitchen, which offers services like a food pantry, free meals and afterschool programming for youth. They’ve also hired more than 115 local artists to work on the project, and have made donations to other arts groups in the area. A press release says Meow Wolf has “invested more than $615,000 into the Denver arts community through non-profit support and collaborations with local artists.”
A Meow Wolf Denver Social Impact representative told Denverite Monday that they have no update on the progress of their Corporate Social Responsibility plan at this time, but will likely have one by the end of 2021.
Experience it for yourself!’
Convergence Station arrives September 17th, and will be open from 10 am until 10 pm Sunday-Thursday, and until 12 am on Fridays and Saturdays. Guests over the age of four are required to wear masks, and Meow Wolf has extra masks on hand for those that need them.
Meow Wolf also hosts concerts in the evening. All Concert and Special Event attendees must be fully vaccinated, and provide proof of vaccination upon entry. All of the current health and safety guidelines are subject to change as the COVID situation does.
Tickets are $35 for Colorado Residents, $45 for non-residents and $40 for Children, Seniors and Military. You can buy tickets to Convergence Station now.