Have a tab open for your flight to Santa Fe? Okay, good. Keep reading.
Founded in 2008, Meow Wolf began as a platform for creatives that didn’t have an outlet in the art world. A collective of over 100 artists across a multitude of disciplines, the Santa Fe-based organization brings fully immersive art experiences to life through mind-blowing interactive installations like the blacklight neon forest and whimsical, towering treehouses of The House of Eternal Return, the collective’s first permanent project.
Harboring a combination of painters, writers, sculptors, performers, video producers, and more, Meow Wolf broadly defines artists as “people who are making things.” Beyond physical pieces, the collective has been making massive social impact with its early explosive success, and is quickly turning Santa Fe into a hub for creatives around the world.
And because you’re probably wondering, the group was christened Meow Wolf during its first meeting as a collective, where members added words to a hat and randomly drew two from it. Hats off to creativity!
ARTISTS FOR THE PLANET
While the collective created more monumental installations, art and real estate became more intertwined as it searched for a home for its work. Founded by your typical starving artists, Meow Wolf has reuse—read: dumpster diving for materials—baked into its ethos. Given its green beginnings, the group wanted to more formally incorporate sustainability into its real estate plans as the collective grew.
And—cat’s (wolf’s?) out of the bag—it’s growing fast! Now undergoing a national expansion, Meow Wolf tapped stok for a strategy that will allow the collective to utilize its real estate footprint for social and environmental good. stok drafted a plan to incorporate high performance standards into each building, as well as helped out a little closer to home, where the collective is expanding its Santa Fe headquarters and needed a fittingly creative plan to reduce energy and water expenses.
With a true passion for understanding how an integrated design process can optimize sustainable outcomes, Meow Wolf has been an exceptional partner in the quest for a sustainable and socially just contribution to the community.
A BUSINESS MODEL BEYOND THE ART WORLD
Past the project itself, Meow Wolf is a bold organization with social justice at its core, and stok is excited to work with a group that’s bringing the bizarre and boundless imagination of artists to the public through an entertaining, educational, and equitable approach.
While most art tends to display in quiet, velvet-roped galleries, you won’t find any “Please Do Not Touch” signs next to Meow Wolf’s work. The crossover art and entertainment experience has something for all ages, and actively connects people in a way that watching something on a screen can’t quite accomplish.
“There’s a huge social impact to just bringing art to a wide audience and having it not feel corporate,” says Sean Dilanni at Meow Wolf. “What’s emerged is an authentic engagement between the general public and the work of artists in an open, non-exclusive environment.”
Beyond community impact, Meow Wolf is innovating a new business model that goes beyond the art world. For-profit may be a dirty word in the art community, but the work of artists is undeniably valuable, and artists deserve to make a living wage. In order to establish a permanent team with full-time employment and benefits, Meow Wolf had to tackle the creation of a new sustainable business model.
Shifting from a non-profit, unstructured organizational model, toward more of a profitable business, Meow Wolf opted to become a registered Benefit Corporation. Aligning with its existing social impact goals, this designation also allowed the collective to move into the business world to create an economic model to support its invaluable artists. Two years into its Revenue Share Program, which distributes a portion of a project’s revenue to artists over time, Meow Wolf will continue to develop its sustainable business model to properly price the value of art and experience, bettering the lives of artists everywhere.
CREATING MAGICAL WORLDS IN A CITY NEAR YOU
The collective is expanding its model to major markets around the country, and eventually the globe. With a strong foundation in Meow Wolf’s landmark installations, its unique, explorable worlds will come to life with content and collaboration from local artists, coloring the streets of countless communities across the nation.
But you won’t actually find these pieces in the streets. To make this a reality, Meow Wolf needs facilities in these new markets to house their installations. The collective is looking for opportunities to do installations in major real estate markets, and is already backed by a wildly successful round of equity crowdfunding that raised $1.07M in just 48 hours. Originally given a permanent space for “The House” by master of fantasy and Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin, it looks like the transmedia arts and entertainment group now has a full army of support for its expansion.
As the collective expands geographically, it’s creating jobs by the hundreds for the creative sector. An economic engine for artists creating mind-blowing experiences for people, Meow Wolf is poised to finally break the barrier between art and business, bringing social justice, sustainability, and strange and surreal spectacles to the public.