I haven’t been to the original MeowWolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico yet, but I’ve already been through their new Omega Mart experience at AREA15 in Las Vegas twice during their preview and opening week.
In addition to being a delight of the senses and full of amazing art, interactive installations, and wacky discoveries, it’s also full of some important things that we need the most right now after almost a year of pandemic …. Hope, fun and a reminder that it’s all going to be ok again someday soon. We will go out and play together again. We will push buttons and play games, and dive into blinky light-filled environments and overstimulating experiences together, and it’s going to be fantastic.
Turns out, as of this week in Las Vegas, it’s already possible to play this way. Before folks raise a cautious covid eyebrow at me and assume risky behavior, you should know that the experience is operating at a reduced capacity and with timed entry. Social distancing is possible and encouraged by hosts. Surfaces are periodically cleaned without being intrusive to the experience. The water fountains are off-limits, but the hand sanitizer is flowing freely from dispensers throughout. Masks are required. I doubled up and wore a fiber optic light-up mask, because it’s always more fun to be a part of the show versus just a consumer of it.
I’m glad I ended up with early access, and that I got to go twice, because there is so much to see, do, and discover, that it takes a couple of visits to really explore every nook and cranny. After what I thought was a thorough first visit, I was surprised to find new areas and experiences the second time through. I think it will take a few more visits before I can solve the underlying mystery narrative. Only Meow Wolf can make a trip into a fictional work environment into the most artful experience ever?
The attraction/experience/gallery/theatre/playground/experimental lab/market is the result of a collaboration of almost 400 artists working in every medium possible from digital to analogue, from satire to theatre, and from audio to audacious. I’d like to give a hearty HUZZAH! to Meow Wolf for engaging with so many artists, and for creating a platform for them to showcase and help sustain their work. This is a model and shining example of how creatives with empowered ingenuity can turn unused or empty space into the hottest attraction in town. Commercial developers and retail real estate owners, take note!
Perhaps my one complaint is that there is no way to tell who worked on what pieces of the experience, and when I checked the credits link on the website was broken. Fortunately some of my friends and community contributed so at least I had a few specific treasures to hunt for.
Two interactive robots, one working in Reception, and the other in HR were created by my pal, the multi-talented wizard artist, Tom Sepe. Sadly the cool illuminated circuitboard tie is not for sale in the Omega Mart… or at least not yet.
Known and loved by festival goers, digital fans, and psychedelic explorers globally, artist Android Jones was in the house. Literally in the house, as out of nowhere, he surprised me coming out of the corner for a hug while we were hanging in a color shifting white room covered with mandala shapes and turntable inspired art.
Sprinkles of another psychedelic artist, the legendary Alex Grey, were included in visuals here and there, and in a very effective infinity mirror room full of his signature Chapel of Sacred Mirrors heads and projections.
For myself and many of us in attendance, this was our first real trip out of the house for almost a year, let alone to be swallowed up into a brightly colored multi-story push-the-button playground hidden in the back of a giant grocery store satire and shopping experience.
There are too many experiences and highlights at Omega Mart and AREA15 to cover in one post, so expect more from me in the coming days and weeks. This is just a teaser and an optimistic peak into the future. The future is not just attending one fun attraction in Vegas as we crawl out of a pandemic, but this is the mark and bright light of a new era of immersive, interactive and art-filled experiences which will be blooming around the globe.
For me, after producing Burning Man for almost 20 years, and for a huge and growing community of artists everywhere, this will feel like a kind of homecoming, and a touchstone for human creativity and fun.
For the rest you, if you’ve never done experiences like these before, I highly recommend you start!