In less than a month, Santa Fe — and eventually the world — will be able to see what all the fuss is about in the old bowling alley. A giant robot and a tarantula dominate the parking lot (and, yes, the bowling pin is still there, too).
Inside, a mysterious Victorian house, a forest and a bus pointing up are just some of what’s on display. The House of Eternal Return, by the art collective Meow Wolf, will have to be seen to be believed.
Gala opening day is March 17, with the general public welcome on March 18. To be ready, the hundreds of volunteers and the paid workers building the exhibit are working nonstop. It’s an interactive exhibit — lights, sound, music — that can be enjoyed on repeat visits (thus, the decision by Meow Wolf to sell lifetime passes and annual memberships). To exhibitgoers, the visit is along the lines of becoming a character in a video game, with the story changing depending on the choices made as the tale of the family inside the house unfolds (complete with wormholes and alternative realities).
More than an arts exhibit, the Meow Wolf Arts Complex also has become a small-business engine, employing some 135 people during construction, a number that should hover around 45 once it is open. There will be sales online and in a gift shop of products invented and created by members of the Meow Wolf arts collective. There’s an educational component, so that the joy of creating can be shared with children in classes both at the complex and in schools.
Most intriguing, we believe, is the idea of using art as a place to gather community, with space at the complex for people to use expensive equipment they can’t buy for themselves to make prints or fire sculpture. For a fee — just like a gym — artists will be able to rent space and work, without having to invest heavily. Nonprofit Make Santa Fe and Meow Wolf are teaming up to make this possible. There will be 3-D printers, laser cutters and other high-tech equipment, as well as a ceramics studio and neon work space.
Where it all goes, who knows? The building, formerly Silva Lanes, was purchased by author George R.R. Martin, who also contributed to making the renovations possible. The city of Santa Fe donated $50,000 and the entrepreneurs at Meow Wolf raised more than $100,000 with a Kickstarter campaign. Now, people have to show up and share the vision, enjoying what has been described as a combination “jungle gym, haunted house, children’s museum and an immersive art exhibit. This unique fusion of art and entertainment gives audiences fictional worlds to explore.”
This Friday, there’s an eighth birthday show for the arts collective at the David Richard Gallery. Happy Birthday Meow Wolf! celebrates both an anniversary and the group’s creative force, with works by Meow Wolf’s artists on display. A portion of sales will benefit both the artists and the collective’s activities. (Opening reception is 5 to 8 p.m. at the gallery, 1570 Pacheco St., Suite A1, with the show up through March 5.)
After the celebration, we’re sure it will be back to the grindstone as Meow Wolf and its CEO, Vince Kadlubek, as well as all the artists and workers, return to work on their grand exhibition. With the opening of The House of Eternal Return, Santa Fe’s art scene, its economy — and its fun factor — will get a boost. We can’t wait to see the finished product.