Meow Wolf, a talented collective of artists based in Santa Fe, is taking the Southwest by storm with its fantastical new exhibit, “House of Eternal Return.”
Housed in a sprawling art complex on the site of an old bowling alley, the show offers an immersive, psychedelic tour of the home of the Selig family – who, visitors are told, have disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
The uniqueness of Meow Wolfe’s house-of-fantasy exhibit is matched only by its business model. The group has ditched the traditional, non-profit model used by small arts organizations and adopted a for-profit business model relying on investment and ticket sales.
“When the founders came through the Creative Startups [accelerator] program they were focused on nailing down their revenue model and getting ramped up for a launch,” said Alice Loy, Co-founder of Creative Startups. “The Meow Wolf business model marries design, technology, art, and family entertainment to provide visitors one of the most exciting new experiences families will see.”
Albuquerque Business First provides further details on Meow Wolf’s business plan:
Vince Kadlubek is the CEO of the unique group that began in 2008 and is described as a collective of more than 100 artists. He created the business plan and it took $2.7 million to get off the ground.
Kadlubek, who said he learned his business acumen through Creative Startups, said Meow Wolf plans to sustain itself solely on ticket sales, which range between $10 and $15.
“I think the art world and business world are stepping back and saying, ‘I wonder how this is going to work out,'” Kadlubek said. “The art world and the museum world is always nonprofit. Early on in the project we had some people say there’s no way we can pull this off and get those numbers.”
He’s talking about 150,000, the number of annual paid visits Meow Wolf needs to sustain its exhibit…
“What people don’t recognize is that we have done the research. We based this business plan on a previous prototype success,” he said, referring to Meow Wolf’s successful “The Due Return” exhibit in Santa Fe’s Center for Contemporary Arts. “What we did was focus on kids, because the admissions-based market is driven by kids. We also didn’t want to alienate adults and teenagers so we still stayed true with very mature themes inside of our exhibit.
Major funding comes from none other than George R. R. Martin, author of the fantasy-novel series, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” adapted into the smash-hit HBO television series, “Game of Thrones.”
NPR reports that, “Martin bought and leased the place to Meow Wolf for 10 years, and spent an additional $2.5 million in renovations. That was enough to help Meow Wolf raise more money from investors to build their art complex, which includes a nonprofit education center for children and a makerspace, offering artists training and access to expensive equipment.”
When Meow Wolf’s building lease ends, Kadlubek expects the group will move on to building installations in larger metro areas.