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Meow Wolf Denver’s proposal materials offer insight into why the collective’s installations stand out 

click to enlarge LINDSEY KENNEDY, COURTESY WWW.MEOWWOLF.COM
  • Lindsey Kennedy, courtesy www.meowwolf.com
Since forming in 2008, the Santa Fe-based DIY art collective Meow Wolf has grown into a powerhouse in the arts world. Travelers from around the globe flock to its flagship installation, the House of Eternal Return, and earlier this year, the collective announced two new locations: one in Las Vegas (opening in 2019), and one in Denver (opening in 2020). Their five-story Denver facility will include 60,000 square feet of exhibition space, and they’ve dedicated 40 percent of it to Colorado artists. Through Oct. 26, artists can submit proposals to design installations for the space.

To help local artists write stronger proposals, Meow Wolf released the “Artist’s Guide to the Multiverse,” a creative direction packet that gives some insight into the design thinking that sets their fantastical installations apart. The key is a formula they call an experience arc. The packet splits the experience arc into three stages: the hook, the exploration and the discovery. The hook draws visitors in and gets them to look closer. Making that land can be tricky, says creative director Chadney Everett.

“What moves people through space,” he asks, “and how do you guide them through space using their interest as bait?”
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Next comes exploration, or how the visitor can interact with the installation beyond the superficial. “It causes you to stop and explore the finer details of the thing,” he says, “and through that, ultimately the process of discovery, is where you have a revelation about a broader story.”

Take one of the more heavily photographed elements of the House of Eternal Return: a blacklit hallway filled with vivid neon trees and rocks. A hallway full of eye-catching colors invites visitors to wander — there’s the hook. But as they look longer, they notice giant fish and a scuba diver, which aren’t obvious from the end of the hallway — there’s the exploration. Soon, visitors realize that they’re inside what is essentially a scaled-up aquarium, echoing a normal-sized aquarium they saw elsewhere in the exhibit — there’s the discovery, albeit one that’s more abstract, Everett says.

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