Dizzying. Fascinating. Cool. Astonishing. Colorful. Surprising. Awe-inspiring. Wow.
These words will fall from the lips of visitors as they wander through the Meow Wolf Denver permanent exhibit Convergence Station – a four-story wonderland of art, culture, music and food. Ahead of Friday's planned grand opening the venue has offered sneak peeks daily this week as employees have shown off the company’s most ambitious exhibit to date at 1338 1st St. It's the white building hovering between the Interstate 25 and Colfax Avenue viaducts.
“People have just been craving a physical experience, places to go and being in spaces together,” said Ali Rubinstein co-CEO and chief creative officer. "This is our most ambitious project delivered at a time when there’s so much hunger for art and culture.”
Demand is right – there have been more than 100,000 tickets sold for Meow Wolf’s third permanent installation, after Santa Fe’s House of Eternal Return and Las Vegas’ Omega Mart, which opened in February. The earliest ticket available is Sept. 22.
“Meow Wolf is part of the shift that is making art more accessible,” said artist Stevon Lucero, who created The Dreamscape Lounge. “Creativity is not just for those who see things as an artist. Art lives all around us.”
It certainly lives around every nook and cranny visitors can find at Convergence Station, which took four years to create. There are four floors with more than 79 “unique environments” – which include infamous Meow Wolf portals, wormholes and anchor spaces.
A hallway was transformed into seven portals (door frames wrapped in color-changing LED lights) by Denver artist Collin Parson. He used some space station hallways from the 1968 movie “2001 Space Odyssey” for inspiration.
“They gave me the story and this hallway,” said Parson, a Denver native who grew up near Empower Field at Mile High. “I used the space to its upmost potential.”
And then it gets “trippy.”
Each room is connected by the overall story of Convergence Station. Transportation themes are everywhere, tied to a story line patrons have to discover. That’s part of the fun of Meow Wolf – figure it out.
“Our mission is to inspire creativity in people’s lives so they can transform the world,” said Alex Bennett, general manager of Convergence Station.
In one area, visitors can interact with a huge organ-like musical instrument, while spinning the ceiling with a horizontal ships wheel. In another, a group of eight people sitting in pods can figure out that pressing one area in each pod simultaneously will change the room’s light and sound. A user can shout into an ear on one level, and it will be heard by guests on the level below.
Is it play, fun or cultural? You figure it out.
The backstory was written by 12 writers and parts of it connect to the Santa Fe and Las Vegas exhibits. There are “Easter eggs” everywhere with cultural references and clues to the story.
“If you dive deep enough, you discover how you are part of the story,” said Joanna Garner, senior story creation director.
The theme “Seek the truth before it’s forgotten” is evident throughout.
Meow Wolf held an open call for artists in 2018. They got more than 1,000 proposals and narrowed it to 80 projects by 300 artists (or “creatives” as they’re called). More than 115 of the artists hail from Colorado.
Meow Wolf distinguishes itself as the entertainment industry's sole certified B corporation, a class of enterprise balancing profit and purpose, according to the company. It invested more than $615,000 in the Denver arts community “through non-profit support and collaborations with local artists.”
“We’re not trying to get bigger with each exhibit,” said Rubinstein. “We’re trying to enhance and perfect the experience. … It’s part of our evolution.”
“We’re not a Starbucks or McDonalds, no. We’re not going to rubber stamp each one and go out and do the same thing over and over. It’s going to be a nuanced, authentic art experience,” said Carl Christensen, chief financial officer and co-CEO.
Christensen and Rubinstein talked about how the exhibit is different for each patron because they can experience as they wish – there is no linear path through Meow Wolf.
“You choose your own adventure,” Rubinstein said.
Some people will just wander through and look and listen. Some will hunt everywhere and touch everything in an effort to find secret clues or hidden treasures. Some will buy the extra card that visitors can use throughout to customize their experience, collect memories and obtain clues.
The business encourages repeat visitors – saying patrons never see, hear, touch or experience it all in one visit.
“We did studies in Santa Fe and discovered were getting 20-25% repeat visitors,” Christensen said. “People want to come back and bring their friends and family and experience it in different ways.”
“We’re changing the way we experience art,” Rubinstein said. “Go experience it in a way that inspires you.”
Tickets are available at Meow Wolf’s website.