Meow Wolf, an immersive art experience from Santa Fe, is coming to Texas

Meow Wolf, familiar to many Texans who visit Santa Fe, comes to Texas.

The award-winning arts and entertainment company that creates immersive and interactive experiences is planning two permanent exhibits in the state.

Meow Wolf will open in Grapevine Mills next year and in Houston’s Fifth Ward in 2024 in partnership with commercial real estate developer The Deal Co.

Local artists are recruited to work on the projects, which the company describes as multi-dimensional spaces with “secret passageways, portals to magical worlds and surreal, maximalist and mesmerizing art displays”.

The first Meow Wolf, titled House of Eternal Return, has welcomed 2 million visitors since it opened in 2016 in an empty bowling alley. This project was funded by The iron Throne author George RR Martin. The idea was presented to him by the original founders, artists who wanted to create something very different from the traditional Santa Fe art scene. .

The Texas locations will be Meow Wolf’s fourth and fifth. Two others have already opened, in Denver in 2019 and in Las Vegas last year. The company now has more than 1,000 employees.

Meow Wolf CEO Jose Tolosa said the company has been looking in Texas for a few years. “More visitors come from Texas than from any state where we don’t have a location,” he said.

At Grapevine Mills, the exhibit is built in a 40,000 square foot space that previously housed a Bed Bath & Beyond store. This store has been closed since 2016.

It’s the first time a mall will be the setting, and it was intentional, Tolosa said.

“Shopping centers are such a part of our lives. Our creative team wanted us to open inside a mall,” Tolosa said. He did not reveal the theme, but added that the artists take inspiration from the location.

Meow Wolf avoided the established arts districts of Dallas and Fort Worth in favor of a more central location. It’s another blow for longtime Grapevine Mayor William D. Tate, who actively pursued developments for the city, from the Gaylord Texan Convention Center to the first Bass Pro Shop in Texas years ago.

“Our city is a premier entertainment destination, and the interactive installation these artists will build at Grapevine Mills blends perfectly with the high-quality restaurants, wineries and family-friendly activities we have implemented throughout our beautiful city ​​for decades,” Tate said.

Over the years, Grapevine Mills has added entertainment venues to its flagship store lineup of Neiman Marcus Last Call, Saks Off Fifth, H&M, Burlington, Marshalls and Ross. The entertainment list includes AMC 30 with food halls, Sea Live Aquarium, Peppa Pig World of Play, Legoland, Lunar Golf, Fieldhouse USA, Round Bowling & Amusement and The Escape Game.

Meow Wolf says it’s a destination for all ages, including children.

A preview of the Meow Wolf Convergence Station experience in Denver.

Unlike a traditional art exhibit, Meow Wolf isn’t a linear story, Tolosa said. Each person will have a different experience depending on where they turn and how long they stay.

“The experience always starts in a known physical location and then moves to an unknown location,” he said. In Santa Fe, people step into the “unknown” when they open the refrigerator door in an ordinary home setting.

The average stay at a Meow Wolf exhibit is an hour and a half, but some stay for hours.

Each site costs “tens of millions of dollars” to build and will employ up to 200 people, Tolosa said.

The success of the first Santa Fe exhibit led to a new category of art and entertainment, from exhibits designed to foster Instagram moments to traveling shows with immersive experiences like tributes to artist Vincent Van Gogh or the series televised Friends.

“We all used to sit on the couch and passively watch TV,” Tolosa said. “Now we create interactive stories that people are part of. Games and social networks are part of it.

Tolosa was hired as CEO in January after 14 years at Viacom, where he was chief transformation officer. Once the two Texas expos are built, he says he would like to accelerate the expansion and add two locations per year starting in 2025.

He said he wasn’t worried about cat copies.

“The more people are attracted to the category, the more it will grow.”

A preview of the Meow Wolf Convergence Station experience in Denver.
A preview of the Meow Wolf Convergence Station experience in Denver.

Twitter: @MariaHalkias

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