Meow Wolf to open ‘otherworldly’ art experience in Las Vegas

The last time Meow Wolf was in Las Vegas, it unleashed pillow monsters, slime and a land of ramen on unsuspecting festivalgoers.

Just a year and a half after that temporary Life is Beautiful installation, the Santa Fe-based art collective is creating a permanent experiential space for Area15, the art and tech hub rising just west of the Strip.

“It’s going to be like an open-world video game,” says Corvas Brinkerhoff III, co-founder of Meow Wolf. “Except you’ll explore the world with your body instead of on a screen.”

What started as a ragtag art collective 11 years ago in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has since blossomed into an ambitious art and entertainment production company.

For Life is Beautiful 2017, the group took over the Art Motel, transforming the abandoned motor lodge into 21 disparate rooms that invited visitors to touch, explore and play.

Now Meow Wolf is developing a 50,000-square foot multisensory, transmedia art-filled world that will welcome visitors by the end of the year.

In the beginning

In February 2008, Brinkerhoff and a small group of friends and young artists chipped in on a warehouse in Santa Fe.

By night, they hosted parties and punk shows. By day, they developed their crafts.

“We had all this space and thought, ‘What do we do with it?’ ” Brinkerhoff says.

They settled on collaborating.

“We learned that we all loved making immersive environments together,” he explains. “It worked because writers could do the backstory, painters and sculptors could build it. Musicians made the soundtrack and dancers and performers would live in the world. It was something way cooler than any one of us could do by ourselves.”

From there, the concept snowballed.

“There was no money in it,” Brinkerhoff remembers. “We were just pouring our hearts and souls into the work, continually finding ways to show our work.”

‘House of Eternal Return’

Their first permanent admission-based exhibit, “House of Eternal Return,” opened almost three years ago in a Victorian-style house once inhabited by the Selig family.

Visitors are invited to enter the home and suss out the mystery of why the family no longer lives there. That means turning on the TV in the living room and watching the parents’ home movies. Or poring over the family’s journal entries.

It also means opening the refrigerator door and stumbling upon a portal to another dimension. Looking into the washing machine and the fireplace also carries visitors to other dimensions.

“The family mysteriously disappeared into the multiverse,” Brinkerhoff explains. “The house exists in the same world as we do. The portals take you into other worlds.”

Visitors are encouraged to snoop and uncover the mystery of the Seligs. It’s an ambitious nonlinear form of storytelling where the narrative unfolds through self-guided discovery.

Portals lead to an expanse of rooms with a functional treehouse, corridors of TVs, pulsing walls, technicolor forests and something called a space owl.

“When we built Santa Fe, the premise was that if we could get 100,000 visitors in a year, then that was a successful model,” Brinkerhoff says. “This year, we had 500,000 visitors.”

Inspired to expand, Meow Wolf set their sights on Las Vegas.

Art Motel

In 2017, Las Vegas artist Joel Spencer answered an open call for artists.

“I signed up and proposed an idea for Life is Beautiful to get a room in the Art Motel installation,” Spencer says. “I did a thing called ‘Pink Inside.’ ”

The room was a literal interpretation of the axiom that we’re all “pink inside.”

The gleaming bubblegum-pink room featured squishy surfaces, set to a soundtrack created by Meow Wolf of “stomach and entrail sounds.”

“I saw Meow Wolf in 2015 when they did like a few rooms of the Art Motel,” Spencer recalls. “They were just amazing. For ‘Pink Inside,’ I had the idea to do it and a cool platform and thought they wouldn’t really say no.”

Another Las Vegas artist, Spencer Olsen, was always interested in building immersive spaces. “But that’s usually a pretty ambitious task,” he says.

Olsen met Meow Wolf’s founders at Life is Beautiful 2015, when he designed a mural on the Art Motel mezzanine. In 2017, he was encouraged to submit a design for an Art Motel room.

He collaborated with a handful of other local artists to create a multimedia installation.

Olsen joined Meow Wolf’s creative direction team last year and relocated to Santa Fe. He’s turned his attention toward art direction for the Las Vegas experience. “It’s such a special, life-changing opportunity,” Olsen says. “It’s mind-blowing, getting to be part of this amorphous blob of creativity.”

Las Vegas

“We were looking for fertile ground to take this otherworldly experience to,” Brinkerhoff says. “Vegas has a really good community and market for us.”

Meow Wolf was scouting for property when Fisher Brothers, the real estate firm behind Area15, got in contact.

“When we started laying out plans for an anchor tenant, Meow Wolf got what we were doing and appreciated it,” says Winston Fisher, CEO of Area15. “Who doesn’t want to open a refrigerator and find out that it’s a secret tunnel to an ice cave?”

Brinkerhoff is tight-lipped on the story that will be told through the Las Vegas installation. “It will come out in trailers,” he says. “Like for a movie.” But he promises a thematic, immersive experience.

“There is an incredibly rich tapestry of media content, high production value videos, audio recordings, photos, documents and books you can uncover, all stitched together through a digital storytelling platform.”

Visitors will wear an RFID bracelet that tracks their movements and syncs with a mobile app that helps them navigate and uncover the narrative. The space will take three to four hours to explore.

Visual art, audio, video and lighting will combine to create immersive settings and, ultimately, propel the story forward.

“I truly believe this will be a historic moment in storytelling,” Brinkerhoff says. “There’s nothing like this in the world as far as we know.”

Artists from Las Vegas, Santa Fe and abroad are collaborating to complete the project.

“Spencer Olsen is working with 15 Las Vegas artists,” Brinkerhoff says. “We want the local art scene to feel represented. We’re not coming in and dropping something down, but becoming part of the community.”

The aesthetic will feature what Brinkerhoff describes as Meow Wolf’s “gritty” style. And the $40 million budget — a significant increase over the $3 million invested in Santa Fe — will contribute to the exhibit’s video, digital and multichannel sound system.

“In Las Vegas, we’re leaning into the creative, magical high-tech otherworldly environment,” Brinkerhoff says. “This show will be unique in that way.”

Related

Area15 bringing art, tech, Meow Wolf experience to Las Vegas

Contact Janna Karel at jkarel@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jannainprogress on Twitter.

Entertainment Videos
Masso Osteria first anniversary in Las Vegas
Scott Conant was in town Tuesday to host a one-year anniversary party for his Red Rock Resort restaurant Masso Osteria.
Baked Alaska a specialty at Favorite Bistro in Las Vegas
Award-winning pastry chef Claude Escamilla makes Baked Alaska with strawberry sorbet and vanilla gelato and flames it at Favorite Bistro at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Chili cooks face fierce and friendly competition at Nevada cook-off
Forty chili cooks competed in the Nevada State Chili Cookoff in Pahrump on Sunday, March 17, 2019, with the winners advancing to the World Championship Chili Cook-off in Des Moines, Iowa. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Arcade ‘speakeasy’ leads to secret door and Banksy art in Las Vegas
Arcade ‘speakeasy’ leads to secret door, Banksy art in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hazel in Las Vegas serves modern takes on traditional cocktails
Hazel serves modern takes on traditional cocktails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas celebrates St. Patrick's Day
Tonight the city lit the Welcome sign green, McMullan's Irish Pub and the Guinness store also prepare for this weekend's St. Patrick's Day festivities. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Reuben sandwich at Served in Henderson, near Las Vegas
Matthew Meyer, chef/owner of Served, makes a Reuben sandwich with house-brined corned beef, house-made sauerkraut and gooey melted cheese at his restaurant in Henderson, outside Las Vegas. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Las Vegas day club season returns with big-name DJs
Rick Ross, March 23, at Daylight Beach Club at Mandalay Bay The Chainsmokers, March 30, at Encore Beach Club Marshmello, April 6, Kaos Dayclub at the Palms Chuckie, May 11, Marquee Dayclub at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Calvin Harris, May 11, Wet Republic at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Pizza expert Chris Bianco makes meatballs in Las Vegas
Chris Bianco, who was the keynote speaker at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, demonstrates meatball making for expo attendees. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas pulmonologist talks about new movie dealing with cystic fibrosis
Dr. Craig Nakamura, Director of Cystic Fibrosis Center of Southern Nevada, talks about the upcoming romantic drama “Five Feet Apart” where both of the lead characters suffer from cystic fibrosis. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
World Pizza Champion crowned in Las Vegas
At the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Italian pizzaiolo Federico De Silvestri took the top prize and more than $12,000. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Italian wins Pizza Maker of the Year at Pizza Expo
Federico De Silvestri of Verona, Italy, wins the finals in the non-traditional pizza category during the International Pizza Challenge at the International Pizza Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center Thursday, March 7, 2019. De Silvestri went on to beat winners from each of the four other categories — traditional, pan, pizza Napoletana and Roman — to win Pizza Maker of the Year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Good Pie Coming To Arts District
Local pizzaiolo Vincent Rotolo says Good Pie is coming to the Arts District. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local comedian says "It's ok to laugh, ...the comedy club is dark."
K-Von, a half-Persian comedian, talks about his style of comedy which keeps audiences entertained.
Pizza Dough Throwing Competition
Contestants participate in the World Pizza Games at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Wednesday night. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
World Pizza Games showcased in Las Vegas
The World Pizza Games, part of the International Pizza Expo, drew competitors from all over the world to Las Vegas to compete in events such as dough stretching and box folding. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Pizza competitors dazzle at international expo
The International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center included the first rounds of the World Pizza Games. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas showcases products and trends
At the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, vegan and gluten-free menu choices and compostable packaging were highlighted, as well as Detroit-style and Roman-style pizza. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Chef Dan Krohmer talks about a new restaurant
Chef Dan Krohmer talks about the construction of his new restaurant at Fremont Street’s Fergusons Downtown complex in downtown Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Neon Museum lights up the Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign
The Neon Museum in Las Vegas flipped the switch on its latest acquisition Monday night, the Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
A Taste of Eataly Las Vegas
Executive Chef Nicole Brisson gives a tour around Eataly Las Vegas, located in the Park MGM. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Order a pretty purple cocktail at North Italia in Las Vegas
Order a pretty purple cocktail at North Italia in Las Vegas (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Towering triple decker sandwich at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas
Jonah Resnick, executive chef of Sadelle’s, the newest restaurant at Bellagio in Las Vegas, serves a daunting concoction of roast beef layered with house-made cole slaw, turkey and more cole slaw, on rye bread. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Paris Las Vegas Debuts New Eiffel Tower Light Show
The Paris in Las Vegas unveiled its latest Eiffel Tower light show, Wednesday evening. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video: Las Vegas Omelet House Marks 40th anniversary
Omelet House at Charleston Boulevard and Rancho Drive in Las Vegas, which opened in 1979, is a locals’ favorite, known for fluffy six-egg omelets. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Golden Knights' Ryan Reaves readying new beer
Ryan Reaves, a forward with the Golden Knights, has plans for a second beer, a lager, through his 7Five Brewing Co. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Bellagio Adds Lady Gaga To The Fountain Playlist
Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” has been added to the rotation of classic tunes played for the dancing waters at Lake Bellagio. The song debuted at 6 p.m. Monday. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Comedian uses laughter to bring understanding about AIDS
Comedian Brandon Cox Sanford talks about how he uses his comedy sketches to bring light to his AIDS diagnosis. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
20th anniversary of the House of Blues in Las Vegas
Sasha Rincon-Camacho, regional marketing director, talks about the 20th anniversary of the House of Blues in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Meow Wolf opening an 'otherworldly' art experience in Las Vegas
Meow Wolf opening "otherworldly" art experience in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
ad-high_impact_4
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing