Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Wildly popular Santa Fe art experience Meow Wolf opens 2 Texas portals

The mesmerizing Santa Fe-based interactive adventure known for enchanting art lovers and amusement zealots with its mind-bending immersive experiences is tripping into Texas with two new permanent exhibitions.

Announced Wednesday, May 11, Meow Wolf will open a new “portal” in Grapevine next year, marking the innovative business’ first permanent installation in the Lone Star State. A portal in Houston will follow, in 2024.

The new Grapevine portal (so called for Meow Wolf’s expertise in transporting visitors to fantastic realms of imagination) will be located in the Grapevine Mills shopping mall and encompass 40,000 square feet in the space formerly occupied by a big-box store. The Grapevine Meow Wolf is scheduled to open in 2023.

Following the Grapevine opening, Meow Wolf aims to unveil its Houston portal, which will be in the historic Fifth Ward cultural district and include Houston-based real estate firm The Deal Co as development partners. The Houston portal is planned for a 2024 opening.

Meow Wolf got its start in 2008 as a DIY collective of Santa Fe artists, growing into a full-fledged immersive-art affair with the opening of the permanent Santa Fe location in 2016. In 2021, the company branched out with two additional permanent portals in Denver and Las Vegas. Each location hosts a unique art exhibition, ranging from Santa Fe’s mysterious “House of Eternal Return” to Las Vegas’ surreal supermarket-themed “Omega Mart” and Denver’s transformative “Convergence Station.”

While additional info on themes, names, artists, and specific opening dates for the new Texas portals — the company’s fourth and fifth permanent exhibitions — will be released in the coming months, and the company declined to reveal the build-out costs for the new locations, Meow Wolf has confirmed that more than 50 percent of the artists contributing to the rooms, dioramas, and murals at the new Lone Star State portals hail from Texas. Meow Wolf says it will actively begin recruiting more artists and staff for the new Texas portals this summer.

The new locations, which the company teased as part of its appropriately mysterious Texas Portals marketing campaign, are part of a larger expansion plan for the arts consortium, says Didi Bethurum, vice president of marketing for Meow Wolf, which will add more permanent installations and roll out other artistic projects in the coming years.

While Bethurum notes that several factors play into the decision-making process when choosing a new Meow Wolf location, she highlights the size and art-loving communities in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas as key criteria.

“Dallas is the ninth-largest city by population in the United States and Houston is the fourth-largest. Bringing Meow Wolf experiences to large cities allows for us to share art with the greatest amount of people,” she says, also calling attention to the Texas Cultural Trust’s 2021 State of the Arts Report, which claims Texas’ arts and culture industry has blossomed by more than 30 percent in the past decade. “We seek to be part of the amazing growth of this sector.”

And considering Meow Wolf has a “legacy of utilizing unique spaces” that allow for artistic creativity to flow — an old bowling alley in Santa Fe, a new experience district in Las Vegas, and football-stadium-adjacent triangular highway void in Denver — Grapevine’s nostalgic mall vibes and Houston’s diverse and historic location make for ideal haunts for Meow Wolf.

Likely also contributing to the Grapevine location decision is the fact that one of Meow Wolf’s founders, Matt King, grew up in the area and was even present at the grand opening of Grapevine Mills in the late 1990s.

“I am thrilled to welcome Meow Wolf to Grapevine,” says Mayor William D. Tate. “Our city is a premier destination for entertainment, and the interactive installation these artists will build at Grapevine Mills pairs perfectly with the high-quality restaurants, wineries, and family-friendly activities we have worked to place all over our fine city for decades. ”

This marks the first time Meow Wolf will open two exhibitions in the same state at roughly the same time, certainly a major undertaking for any arts organization. But given that some 3 million raving fans have already visited Meow Wolf locations and that the company has been eyeing these Texas markets for more than two years, the new portals are destined to become a howling success, enthralling locals with “revolutionary artistic expression” unlike anything Grapevine or Houston have previously experienced.

“The Meow Wolf story universe is expanding, and Texas holds the keys to our next chapters,” says Jose Tolosa, CEO of Meow Wolf. “Opening a permanent exhibition in the largest and one of the most diverse states in the country has been on Meow Wolf’s radar for years, and we are excited to be formally underway. The opportunities this state has presented have already become the touchstones of a vibrant, arts-centric portal of imaginative creativity.”

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