VINCE KADLUBEK Now a multi-million dollar attractions operator, Meow Wolf started out as a collective of skint artists. As the company’s third permanent exhibition prepares to open in Denver, co-founder and director, Vince Kadlubek, talks to Kath Hudson about the highs and lows
What is Meow Wolf and how did it begin?
institutions and did some work within the
We’re an arts and experiential arts company
for some 20-somethings in 2008, had turned
which creates immersive multimedia experiences.
into an obligation for 30-somethings by 2014.
We started out in 2008 as an art collective/
We had momentum, but it wasn’t sustainable
social group, trying to break into the Santa Fe
and there was no career for those involved.
art scene. Unable to get much traction in our
Everyone was ready to go their own way,
own city, we felt like we were on the outside
but I was adamant our group had more to
looking in. All the existing players were interested
give and more art to create and suggested we
in a different aesthetic from us. It was prior to
create a permanent attraction which we could
Facebook and Instagram, and before the term
sell tickets to. Money was always the main
Millennial was broadly used, so there was a
issue. None of us came from money, we were
lack of understanding of the value of youthful,
struggling artists, who didn’t have rich parents
trendsetting fashion design and aesthetic.
or good credit. To borrow money everyone
As a result, we decided to open our own
wants to see a track record of success. To
exhibition and found a 1,000sq ft space to
progress things further we needed someone with
deck out. No one had any money, so we
money to be prepared to take a leap of faith.
looked in dumpsters for materials which we stapled to the walls. It was grungy experimentation with spray paint, chicken wire
How did you find a backer?
I had briefly worked as marketing director at
and Christmas lights. The end result was an
a movie theatre owned by Game of Thrones
artistic walk-through version of a dark ride.
author, George R R Martin. The job didn’t last
Was that the breakthrough moment for Meow Wolf?
education system. But what had been a hobby
long, but we became friends. When we found the space which would work for an exhibition, I asked George if he was prepared to invest in
No, but it led to a few years of creating
the property and become our landlord. Luckily
immersive exhibits in different spaces and
he went past the warning flags and took a risk
we managed to get onto the radar of a few
on our passion. With him on board, we could
attractionsmanagement.com AUGUST 2021