Lately, it seems that everyone is stepping up their immersive experience game. Everyone, that is, except Santa Fe, Mexico-based arts collective Meow Wolf. Instead, they’re making the “giant leap for mankind” and redefining what an immersive experience can be.
Founded in 2008, the organization is comprised of nearly 200 artists, spanning an array of disciplines — from storytelling and performance to music and video production with myriad pit stops along the way to virtual and augmented reality, architecture, sculpture, and even painting.
In fact, painting is central to Meow Wolf’s go-to metaphor to describe their work. As CEO Vince Kadlubek told PBS News Hour last February, “It perfectly expresses the type of immersive artwork that is becoming wildly popular around the country. Instead of walking up to a painting, you actually let audiences walk inside of the painting.”
The group’s experiences also let audiences walk into the House of Eternal Return, an immersive art experience that showcases Meow Wolf’s penchant for non-linear storytelling as it reveals its narrative contours through 20,000 square foot Victorian mansion chock-a-block with rooms, secret passages and interactive light and musical objects, all of which invite guests to examine as they try to ferret out what happened to the house’s inhabitants — the Seligs. Apparently, the fictional family conducted a “forbidden experiment” that led to their disappearance.
The House, as it’s colloquially called, went live in March 2016. To break even on its annual budget, the attraction needed to bring in 125,000 paying customers at up to $20 each. It handily outpaced this need, drawing guests and earning $7 million. It was Meow Wolf’s first permanent installation and was made possible with a financial assist from Game Of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin. It has since has won the prestigious THEA Award from the Themed Entertainment Association, which recognizes achievement in the themed entertainment industry, and garnered extensive press for the organization.
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