Some personal musings on Meow Wolf: Origin Story

I had seen a video walkthrough of Meow Wolf on YouTube before Conrad mentioned it in our group discussion on resources, but apart from my thinking that it looked colorful and fun, I never investigated this group or their installations much more. Then, as I was on some social media app, probably Instagram, I saw a promo for their new documentary about the group and the building of this amazing experiential art palace. It looked good.

And, the doc was good. High production value. Basically, it’s the origin story of this Santa Fe artist group (Meow Wolf), their first installations, art parties, and how they got funding from George R. R. Martin (yes, the Game of Thrones one) to build their giant art fun park in an abandoned 33,000 square-foot bowling alley. I found this film to be really motivational because the art and vision that were able to achieve is astounding. It’s a shame then, that in the end, they adopt such a “world domination” attitude. One of the last scenes shows the group in Las Vegas, walking down the strip and talking about their billion-dollar plans. It seemed to me, in a way, that they had become what they initially despised of the art world. Disappointing.

So, I kinda hated the end. But, this film did get me thinking deeply about artist communities and collaboration. I’ve been really obsessed with art groups, collabs, collectives lately. Mostly because this is the longest time in my life that I have gone without one. When I was in my 20s, I lived in a ramshackle, punk house with four “core” roommates and a changing number of people that were constantly staying there or just hanging out. There was a great friendship/community vibe and a constant stream of DIY projects (like screenprinting) or stupid, pointless “art” (like tiling the walls with Wonderbread. It never molded!). Later, in my 30s, my studio was in a rent-controlled art space (Espanola Way Art Center), and hung out with artists, helped throw art parties, and generally felt part of art-community.

As I have gotten older, I’ve become much more isolated -- in both friendships and work. Some of this is the natural result of people getting married and having kids and getting serious about their jobs, homes, fitness routines… you know, life. Some of the isolation I find myself in, work-wise, I have put myself in. I love to work alone. I am quite happy, to be by myself, in my studio, working away. I like not having to hash out every detail of a project with other people. The pace, the schedule, the failure, the success, it’s all mine.

But there are many drawbacks to this situation. Collaboration can make for wonderful things to emerge when the meeting of minds happen. Somethings, admittedly, I am not that good at, and it would be so much better to have someone else do the photography, or definitely, the writing.

Plus, what about the comradery and the general feeling of being involved with a project larger than oneself? Or just the ability to bitch about obstacles, people, or traffic with some other people over tea? I’ve been craving art community for a few months now. Perhaps it is a side effect of the Goddard Residencies. (actually, yes, I think this IS the reason!) Because part of my Practicum will involve recruiting and working with others to perform my cantastoria, I need to shake off my hermit-like tendencies and reach out to my little Miami art community… or, maybe, make one? But how is this done?

All this lusting after art friends has made me look at some art communities around me to try to find the secret. How have you done this? Any suggestions? It was so much easier when I was in my 20s! I even spent a Friday night scrolling through Miami Meet-ups to see if there was some ready-made art club that I could join to have instant art buddies. No dice. I did email a very nice artist that I have recently met that does art potlucks in her studio and asked her if I could come to the next one. I’d bring vegan cookies, I said! She invited me! So, I guess that’s a starting point.

Meow Wolf Walk-Through here:

Capps, Morgan and Jilann Spitzmiller, directors. Meow Wolf: Origin Story. Meow Wolf Entertainment, 2018.