When Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin gave $3.5 million to the art collective Meow Wolf to open a permanent funhouse in his hometown of Santa Fe in 2015, the public hadn’t quite yet embraced its current obsession with immersive environments. They’ve since become one of the most popular ways to experience art and culture, meaning the collective’s House of Eternal Return was a major crowd-pleaser. Another permanent location opened earlier this year in Las Vegas, and while the pandemic scuttled plans to open in Phoenix and Washington, DC, the collective recently unveiled a cosmic-themed funhouse in Denver that’s bigger than both the Guggenheim and the Whitney Museum.
The new attraction, called Convergence Station, promises to deliver hours of intergalactic mayhem within a substantial four-story exploratorium nestled between two freeway overpasses. Each floor represents a parallel universe that merged during a strange cosmic event in 1994. Visitors can traverse a frozen planet trapped in an ice age, a trash-strewn city, a network of catacombs, and a cavernous sixth-dimensional being. The lore zeroes in on the Quantum Department of Transportation, which opened the Convergence Station as an intergalactic tourist destination, but closed after suffering damage at the hands of strange weather events called memory storms. The memories of inhabitants within all four universes have since scattered throughout and become a valuable collectible currency.
“What makes Meow Wolf different from a selfie museum is that we have this narrative that’s been developed for years,” Joanna Garner, senior narrative director, told Artnet News. “We’re running a writers’ room in ways like you might for a TV show.” If it sounds conceptually ambitious, that’s because it is. An in-house staff of 200 programmers, writers, sculptors, painters, designers, and fabricators helped bring the Marvel-style mythology to life. Docents will help guests navigate the plot across 70 installations, many completed by local artists. So far, Meow Wolf has invested $500,000 back into Denver’s arts communities and expects its new location to attract more than one million visitors in its first year.
Coloradans anticipate Convergence Station to become a major boon for tourism. “We don’t know if we’ve got it right until people come in,” co-founder Matt King said during a media preview, “but we have dedicated fans. People are so eager to solve the puzzles when they come in that they’re opening maintenance hatches looking for hidden secrets.” The Santa Fe location has attracted two million visitors since 2016, and a report from the state’s Economic Development Department projects the company’s impact on the state economy at $3 billion.