I’ve already written two posts about my recent visit to Meow Wolf, one a general review and one about buying a piece of art from the Art-o-mat® in the lobby. Yet, I still have a lot of photos I haven’t shared.
What’s weird is that while I felt as if I took a lot of photos while in the House of Eternal Return exhibit, when I look through my photos, I realize there were so many photo opportunities that I missed. I was trying to experience the experience and not live behind my camera, but it seems like I left out so much.
Of course, it would be difficult to adequately explain Meow Wolf to you even if I had carefully photographed every single different thing I saw. (Such a task would take a very long time.) There’s so much going on in the place. There are not only objects and paintings to look at, but there’s music happening and ever-changing lights. Some of the lights and music change because of something someone touches. In some places one can play music by touching lights. Almost every aspect of the House of Eternal Return is a multisensory extravaganza.
The only way to even begin to understand Meow Wolf is to make your own visit. Actually, there may be no way to understand Meow Wolf completely. But I certainly can’t explain it to you.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Meow Wolf for me is that those people have an entire bus in there! Is it a reference to Ken Kesey’s bus Furthur? Are the Meow Wolf artists on the bus or off the bus? Did I mention the bus is vertical, with its engine and front wheels in the air? We first encountered the bus on the ground floor. I was beyond pleased when we went upstairs and found the front half of it sticking up through the floor.
But is it art? Who cares? It’s an entire bus (or most of an entire bus…I couldn’t tell if it was all there) inside a building sticking up through the floor. What is there not to love?
Here area few more random things I saw during my visit to Meow Wolf.
Even the long hallway between the ticket counter and the restrooms was full of art. The whole place was about art and life and thought and coolness.
When I go back to Meow Wolf, and I do plan to go back, I will take more photos.
I’m doing something a little different today. Maybe you noticed. I’m using galleries for the first time so I can share many photos at once with you. If you click on the smaller photos, they’ll enlarge so you can see the better. I’d love to know what you think about this format. Tell me what you think in the comments.
I took the photos in this post unless otherwise noted. The low light in the exhibit made for substandard image quality. My apologies.
After a little more than two hours in Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, NM, The Man and I thought we had seen all there was to see. (Spoiler alert: We didn’t. The Man saw a photo of a ship on a magnet in the gift shop and realized we hadn’t laid eyes on the actual structure. We had no idea how to get to the ship at the time, so we decided we were ready to leave. We think we know how to find the ship now, which is one of the reasons we want to go back.)
Anyway, we were on our way to the Meow Wolf gift shop so I could pick up a couple of postcards (and two is all I bought since they cost $1 each), when I saw it: the Art-o-mat®.
I’d heard of Art-o-mat® machines, although the term for them in my brain was “art vending machine.” I’d maybe even seen one, somewhere, but I’d never bought art from one before. I figured if there was ever a time and place for buying art from a vending machine, that time and place was now, in the lobby of one of the greatest art spaces I had ever experienced.
The inspiration for Art-o-mat® came to artist Clark Whittington while observing a friend who had a Pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of cellophane…
In June 1997, Clark was set to have a solo art show at a local cafe, Penny Universitie in Winston-Salem, N.C. He used a recently-banned cigarette machine to create the first Art-o-mat®…The machine sold Clark’s black & white photographs mounted on blocks for $1.00 each…
AIC [Artists in Cellophane] is the sponsoring organization of Art-o-mat®. The mission of AIC is to encourage art consumption by combining the worlds of art and commerce in an innovative form. AIC believes that art should be progressive, yet personal and approachable…
Do you have a $5 bill, I asked The Man. I’d broken my fiver to buy a pair of Meow Wolf chromadepth glasses (a waste of $1, as far as The Man and I were concerned) and spent another buck to have my fortune told by Alva, a robotic soothsayer from Portals Bermuda stationed in a glass cube in the arcade. I was now $2 short of buying a small piece of art from the Art-o-mat®.
The Man pulled out his wallet, rummaged through it, and produced a $5 bill. Yes! Now we could choose which knob to pull.
Oh! What a decision! We had twenty choices after all! Twenty. Choices.
The top row had the name of a specific artist above each knob. Of course, I didn’t recognize any of the names. There was even information about what kind of art would be dispensed above some of the knobs. Did I want a leather key ring? Did I want matchbox art? I was overcome by choices.
On the second row, each knob was labeled “Random Art.” Maybe I would be better off if I let the Universe decide what piece of art I needed. Of course, there were still ten “Random Art” choices. I managed to narrow my choices down to two.
Should I go with creating a rainbow by buying art? (Note: I knew that buying art doesn’t really create rainbows even before I read the disclaimer.) Should a take a chance on an unknown artist? Although I’m not much of a gambler, I decided to go with taking a chance.
The Man fed the money into the bill acceptor of the sort one uses to get change at a car wash or laundromat. Now was my moment to pull the knob.
The aforementioned Art-o-mat® website answers the question What do you get? [from the dispenser] this way:
The experience of pulling the knob alone is quite a thrill, but you also walk away with an original work of art. What an easy way to become an art collector.
Pulling the knob was a thrill. Those old machines were built to be sturdy, so I had to give it a strong tug. I was rewarded with a hearty thunk! when the art fell into the tray at the bottom of the dispenser. I reached in and grabbed something the approximate size and shape of a package of cigarettes, although this item was heavier than the packs of cigarettes I’ve held. I thought the art would come in an old cigarette box, but instead it was wrapped in paper to keep it from getting scratched. I peeled off the paper and found a small painting (or maybe the image was created with markers) on a block of wood.
I’m not sure what exactly is depicted here. Like all good art, it leaves the viewer with some questions. Is that the sun in the upper left? Is that water on the bottom? Is it a lake? An ocean? Why is it jagged? What’s in the space between the sun and the water? The middle space looks really hot. Is it hell? Phoenix in July? What does it all mean?
You can answer those questions for yourself. You can ask more questions if you like. As for me, I appreciate this piece of art and its randomness and mystery. Most of all, I enjoyed the experience of buying art from a vending machine.
The Man and I finally visited Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, NM, and we had an awesome time. I want to tell you all about it, but please know that my words and photographs simply cannot do the place justice.
Actually, even if I could tell you all about Meow Wolf and show you all of my photos, I probably shouldn’t. Part of the fun for me was going in fresh, not really knowing what to expect. Before I went, I purposefully avoided doing a lot of research on the place. I wanted to experience what was there without a lot of foreknowledge.
I did know a little bit about Meow Wolf before I went, and I will share some information with you.
Meow Wolf is an arts and entertainment group based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. [The group was] established in 2008 as an art collective.
The aforementioned webpage says,
Meow Wolf is comprised of over 400 employees creating and supporting art across a variety of media, including architecture, sculpture, painting, photography, video production, cross-reality (AR/VR/MR), music, audio engineering, narrative writing, costuming, performance, and more!
Also, Meow Wolf is housed inside an old bowling alley! According to the Meow Wolf FAQs, the bowling alley closed in 2008 and sat empty for several years. There is no bowling there now and the lanes have been stripped out.
While reading those FAQs to learn more about the old bowling alley, I learned how Meow Wolf got its name.
At the very first meeting of the collective in 2008, everyone put two words into a hat. Then they picked two random words out of the hat and got “Meow Wolf.”
There are some things you should know about Meow Wolf Santa Fe before you go. It is located at 1352 Rufina Circle, just off Cerrillos Road. Regular hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday from 10am to 8pm and Friday and Saturday from 10am to 10pm. Meow Wolf is closed on Tuesdays. Check holiday closures here.
The parking lot at Meow Wolf is rather small, but parking is also available on nearby streets. The Man and I visited at noon on a Sunday and had to park about two blocks away. The parking lot is not available to RVs, trailers, or other oversized vehicles; such vehicles must be parked on the street. Vandwellers traveling with companion animals should note that animal control may be called if animals are left unattended in vehicles in the Meow Wolf parking lot. Vandwellers should also note that overnight parking is not allowed in the lot.
Strollers, backpacks and oversized bags are not allowed in the exhibit, but the items can be securely stored for you for a small fee. Stroller/walker/wheel chair storage is complementary.
An important concern for many people is the accessibility of Meow Wolf. This is what the FAQ page has to say about accessibility:
[T]he first floor of our exhibition is ADA accessible and navigable by crutches, walkers, wheelchairs or scooters, but some areas may require additional navigational guidance from our docent staff (they are here to help!). There is almost always more than one way to access to an area…We do not have elevators…to the second floor, though, and the second floor is much more difficult to navigate as well (more single steps up/down and narrow passageways). Areas with flashing lights are located behind clearly labeled doors. You do not need to coordinate ADA accommodations with staff prior to your arrival – just know that we are here to help however we can.
Also note that there are many places throughout the exhibit to sit and rest. From cushions on the floor to sofas and chairs, you do not have to be on your feet for hours on end. There are also several points where it is possible to exit to the lobby so you can visit the restroom, get a snack or beverage at Float Cafe & Bar, browse in the gift shop, or quietly create art in the David Loughridge Learning Center. You can decide to go back into the thick of things as long as you haven’t left the building.
If you’re concerned about getting overstimulated at Meow Wolf (and this is a distinct possibility for many folks), consider picking up a sensory bag at the front desk. What is a sensory bag? The FAQ page says
[s]ensory bags are a tool guests can utilize to aid in their experience inside House of Eternal Return. Each bag can be checked out upon arrival and has items inside to help ground and re-center folks who might feel overstimulated or overwhelmed while inside the exhibit.
Admission to Meow Wolf is what I consider pricey. The regular adult admission price is $30. The regular admission price for a child over the age of four is $20. Children ages four and under enjoy free admission! (Anyone under 14 needs to be accompanied and supervised by a guardian over 18 years old.) Students, seniors 65 and older, and members of the military pay $25 to get in.
If you’re a New Mexico resident, you’re in luck because you get a discount. Cost of admission for adult residents of New Mexico is $25. Children who are residents of New Mexico pay only $15, and the student/senior/military rate for New Mexico residents is $20. However, every Monday and Wednesday night (4-8 PM) and Second Sunday of the month New Mexico residents pay only half off the New Mexico resident admission rate.
While I typically enjoy activities that are free and cheap, I recognize that my admission fee is helping to pay artists and maintain the Meow Wolf facilities. I can tell you that every aspect of Meow Wolf from the restrooms to the tree houses to the cushions on the floor were clean and in perfect working order.
I was also pleasantly surprised that I did not encounter a single person behaving in an obnoxious way. Although there were lots of people at Meow Wolf the day we visited, people were being respectful of one another. Children were having a good time, but no one was screaming or running or annoying strangers. Adults were well-behaved too, and not once did the word asshat run through my mind.
If you haven’t already figured it out, there’s a lot going on at Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return. There is an actual, full-size house, complete with portals (hint: there are five) to other dimensions. (And here’s another hint for you: start with the house. You can start in the other dimensions, but for your first time, I HIGHLY recommend you start with the house.)
You will see people stepping into and out of household appliances; you can step through some of them too, if you wish. There’s a mystery you can try to solve as you move through the house. (I’m not sure if it’s possible to solve the mystery or if it is meant to remain unsolved, but look for the clues and decide for yourself.) You can open cabinets in the kitchen and find wondrous things. You can sit in the bathtub or on the toilet of the wavy-floored bathroom. You can look into the cookie jar and see what awaits you there.
Once you move through the portals, you enter fantasy worlds filled with art and music and soft lights and magic. Well, maybe not magic; maybe what you experience is technology cleverly disguised to seem like magic. Even if you’ve never dabbled in psychedelics, you will know you’re in a the midst of some trippy shit.
There’s an entire bus in there and a dinner you wouldn’t want to eat even if you could. There are beams of red light you can play like harp strings (or drums), giant birds, and a multitude of items that will make you wonder WTF?Is it art? you may ask yourself. Does it really matter? It’s beauty and fun and color and experimentation and the chance for childlike wonder.
When we left Meow Wolf (after realizing we’d missed an entire reality but too tired to figure out how to get to it), The Man said he’d enjoyed himself but didn’t really feel the need to ever go back. But the next day, we were still talking about our experiences in the House of Eternal Return, and we both admitted we were excited to explore the place again. (Maybe it’s called the House of Eternal Return because so many visitors want to go back.)
I can’t speak for other people who’ve been there, but The Man and I are saving our pennies so we can visit Meow Wolf again.
I took the photos in this post, except for the very last one. The low light in most of the exhibits and the camera on my cheap phone made for substandard photographs. My apologies.