The Meow Wolf Experience

Delia Rune, Finance Director

A display of fantastical “islands” with windows that allowed visitors to peer inside and see the magic-themed scenes displayed within. That was the exhibit that the organization Meow Wolf showcased at this year’s SXSW. 

Meow Wolf is an arts organization that creates large installations and digital pieces. They have permanent exhibitions in Santa Fe, Las Vegas, and Denver. During SXSW, Meow Wolf opened a pop-up exhibition on Third Street in Austin. Marley Zollman, a Meow Wolf representative at the pop up, explained what the exhibit represented.

“Sometimes ideas get lost over time—they kind of transform,” Zollman said. “They happen in different worlds. So this is Meow Wolf’s attempt at overcoming scarcity and the ideas of failure with collective consciousness and creativity.”

Many visitors came to look at the Meow Wolf pop-up. One of these visitors, Blake Hunter, was from Savannah, Georgia, and spent a lot of time learning about Meow Wolf before coming to visit the pop-up.

“We had a whole day learning about Meow Wolf in my experimental film and installation class,” Hunter said. “They always have lots of great images and cool lighting effects.”

Some visitors were Meow Wolf veterans and came to the pop-up because they enjoyed the permanent exhibits they had seen in places like Santa Fe or Denver. One such visitor, Amy Jacobowitz, thought the new experience was interesting because it was so different from traditional Meow Wolf exhibits.

“Obviously, it’s very different from the Santa Fe one,” Jacobowitz said. “But it’s like you really step into another world. This is amazing. And to be right in downtown Austin and step into this alternative universe is fun.”

One aspect of the exhibit were the QR codes posted around the art pieces to scan for more background on the people in the piece. Visitors got to go deeper into the fictional world of the installation through both the windows in the exhibits and these QR codes. 

“Each island is part of a greater narrative that, if you scan the QR, is interactive,” Zollman said. “This one particular piece has field notes and there are all of these artifacts that are attached to each section in the exhibition.” 

Visitors got the opportunity to dive deeper into each storyline. Jacobowitz felt like this was a nice similarity between other Meow Wolf pieces he’d seen. 

“It’s cool,” Jacobowitz said. “I feel like, as with the very best of Meow Wolf things, you can take it in from here and then you can walk a step deeper and there are other stories to tell.” 

Zollman thought SXSW was a natural location for a Meow Wolf exhibit such as this one. It is a place where many people can experience whatever is being offered. 

“Well, I think SXSW is a meeting of minds across film and tech, and Austin is a really big city coming up in the tech world,” Zollman said. “So I think that it only makes sense that Meow Wolf would come. It’s also in the region—the southwest region—so it makes sense since they’re based out of Santa Fe.”

Zollman explained that the interactive window elements of this art piece allowed it to be whatever visitors wanted it to be. Attendees got to choose how much they wanted to learn about each island.

“You’ll go on a deep dive, or as deep as you want to dive into the stream, and learn a bit about the creative process of these islands,” Zollman said. “This pop-up gives you the chance to learn more about what the greater story is about, rather than a single plotline.”