My Journey into Meow Wolf

A Crazy Immersive Interactive Art Experience

Jonathan Chew

If you ever happen to be traveling in the Santa Fe, New Mexico area, you should DEFINITELY stop by a cool amazing art installation called Meow Wolf.

(This instillation is not about cats and wolves, or really any other animal in particular, but instead houses over 100 local artists work in an incredibly imaginative art space. I guess when deciding upon the name everyone put words into a hat and then they drew two: Meow and Wolf)

It’s built inside a renovated bowling alley that George R.R. Martin donated $2 million dollars to acquire, which is why there are several bowling references all over the place. It’s creation comprised of over 400+ artists. Great for entrepreneurship and the future of how art is experienced.

This is not your average art gallery, art museum, or art anything-you’ve-seen-before.

It feels like being inside something in between a fantasy/sci-fi novel, trippy yet beautiful paintings, and a bizarre dream.

You can approach the exhibit in a few ways. There is a hidden story, a mystery you can uncover where you piece together clues hidden throughout the exhibit, or you can explore the space as an interactive gallery, or you can just run around having a lot of fun and taking cool pictures. You get to decide. You get to explore the way you want to (there’s intentionally no maps here.)

Designed spaces and the way people can potentially explore them is integral to the work we do as Imagineers. As Walt believed, it’s as if guests become cameras when they enter our parks, and it is the duty of our designers to employ techniques like long shots and cross dissolves to make the story experience cohesive, seamless, and empowering. As if a film were playing (and an interesting beautiful awe-inspiring film at that too.)

When I first entered the space at Meow Wolf I wasn’t exactly sure where to venture. I entered what appeared to be a house…with a doormat that warned:

Beyond Here… There Be Dragons Ahead

The house was normal and strange at the same time. I turned a corner and saw people crawling out of the fireplace. I opened a drier only to find a slide to go down laced with clothing and LED lights. Lamps were slightly melted. Floors were slightly bubbling.

When I went to the kitchen to look around I opened the fridge to discover something amazing… a long bright entry into somewhere beyond, a portal into something fantastical and strange.

Inside the house I found lots of other interesting things too: a secret code on a page of a journal that unlocked a safe upstairs; closet door that opened up to hanging clothes… but when walking into it further it became a hallway of stars and a piano.

There was also lots of backstory to unravel, and I spent a good amount of time reading diaries, exploring computers, browsing through books on the shelf, and decoding messages that definitely let me know something strange had happened to the family that once lived in this house.

Doors led to new doors and hallways led to new rooms and I suddenly found myself immersed in a bizarre, thought-provoking journey where I enjoyed rooms that flipped my notions of space, time, and artistry on their heads.

The house had somehow at some point melted into a fantastical world and I wasn’t even sure when or how it happened.

The exhibit was everywhere at the same time and I never knew what to expect from it.

There were rooms where walls made sound when you touched them a certain way. There were rooms where the ceiling became the floor. There were hidden crawl spaces that led to some strange and beautiful nook. There was never any instructions. It was always a journey you had to uncover yourself in your own way.

The artists all use color, sound, light, and even story in different ways. Walking into a new room, or crawling into a new space, is like entering another person’s soul. You see the world, and art, from so many different perspectives and the artist’s definitely reward you for exploring their space thoroughly (hidden delights were everywhere).

I ended up spending close to 6 hours exploring everything and still am not sure if I uncovered all the secrets, discovered all there is to guess about the mystery that the story presents.

I kept thinking to myself that it felt as if I was sitting in a painting.

It was a combination of the City Museum in St. Louis, with Sleep No More/Then She Fell in New York, and a big kids playground. It was a lot of fun needless to say :)

Anyone looking for a place to travel on the West Coast should definitely check it out! and if you’ve been, please share your story here too so we can swap insights with each other!

I’d love to talk more about the experience with you!


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Jonathan Chew

Written by

Disney Imagineer. Startup enthusiast. Sci-Fi/Self-Help novelist on a mission to build a Positopian world. Follow me @JonathanGChew or go to: www.chewsjoy.com

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