Grandparents go there with their kids and grandkids. Tour buses full of Australians and New Zealanders, Japanese and Chinese (basically, people from all over the world and many of them shuttled in via the Road Scholar travel company) arrive almost daily. Locals return again and again. And hipsters, artists, techheads, nerds and outsiders of all stripes practically live (and work) there.
The “there” in this case being Meow Wolf, Santa Fe’s artistic version of the otherwise pure-science-focused Exploratorium of San Francisco. Only here what you get instead of an experiential science learning lab is an immersive science fiction art installation that encourages if not demands to be touched—and run through and around and tugged on, sat on and interacted with in almost every physical way possible.
Built in an old bowling alley, with help from Game of Thrones creator (and Santa Fe resident) George R.R. Martin, Meow Wolf is actually the name of the arts collective that oversees what is their performative coup de grace: their 20,000-square-foot House of Eternal Return, which they debuted as a fictionalized no-matter-where-you-go-there-you-are spaceship back in 2008, but which they updated and relaunched in their current permanent space last spring as a kind of time-travel-y home to the Seligs, an imaginary Swiss Robinson-like family of space explorers. (A family who up and disappeared, and whose mysterious disappearance, mid-supper, so it seems, is part of the allure of this interactive space, and the “job” of all visitors to reconstruct just who it is the Seligs seemed to be and why they suddenly went AWOL.)
So. Now that the House has been up and running for over a year, the Meow Wolf collective, a collaborative of over 100 artists, technicians and performers (all of whom contributed to the House’s creation and construction) have embarked on an equally ambitious summer venture, one in keeping with the Outer Limits vibe of the entire space.
Billed as their “Summer in the Multiverse,” this summerlong vacation destination celebration will feature over 100 different performing artists: musicians, magicians, acrobats, fencers, lighthouse keepers, belly dancers, snake dancers, firewalkers, stiltwalkers, drag queens, and whoever else might fall down from the sky. All there at the Meow Wolf space, in an area now rightfully self-designated as Santa Fe’s Innovation District, from 10:30 in the morning till closing time.
“We’ll have everything from an intergalactic space-bug hunter leading kids on scavenger hunts to Spanish story hour to somebody playing the tuba in the caves for a couple hours,” says Alexandra Renzo, the Multiverse’s artistic director (who also starred in the Adobe Rose Theatre’s recent production of Time Stands Still, with Broadway Drama Desk nominee Kevin Kilner).
“You might bump into a cosmic fortune teller or a Sno-Cone reader (instead of a tea leaf reader),” says Renzo, who has lured back many of the performers from last Fall’s House of Halloween extravaganza as well other entertainers from Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Colorado. Plus, Meow Wolf has partnered up with Santa Fe’s animal-free circus troupe, Wise Fool, who’ll be around 24-7.
“This is for the child in all of us,” adds Renzo. “We’re all about bringing in creative ideas and activities that are offbeat and sci-fi-ish. And we like to combine all these skill sets people have and embrace them.”
As Joseph Campbell put it in The Hero with a Thousand Faces: “Mythology [which is at the heart of what the folks at Meow Wolf are up to] is eminently untragical. Indeed, whenever the mythological mood prevails, tragedy is impossible. A quality rather of dream prevails. [And] as in dream, the images range from the sublime to the ridiculous. The mind is not permitted to rest with its normal evaluations, but is continually insulted and shocked out of the assurance that now, at last, it has understood.”
“To watch adults get excited about doing something new,” says Renzo, “that’s what it’s all about. And when the space is alive, that’s how it’s meant to be.”