Age proves timeless at Meow Wolf Denver

Can people over 50 appreciate Meow Wolf Denver? You bet they can!

Meow Wolf’s third location opened in Denver, Colorado in September 2021 catering to children and young adults, just like its Santa Fe and Las Vegas locations. It’s a fantastical, colorful, touch-everything, Alice in Wonderland, through the looking glass, choose-your-own-adventure playground of conceptual art installations. It’s mind-blowing, larger-than-life; there are animal grunts, bird tweets and enough zig-zagging lines to make anyone feel spacey.

Remember the funhouse with its trick mirrors and shifting floors? That’s Meow Wolf. Just go and have fun. See what there is to see.

The artists want visitors to find things for themselves. The experience is meant to be a pursuit of exploration and discovery. Walk through endless doorways that lead to more adventures. Bring out your inner child. Play again.

Technically there is a story: a fantasy, new-age, sci-fi, hippy-dippy, all mixed into one without a definite ending story. Four wacky worlds collide, people’s memories wash away, all of which converges in a galactic station in Denver.

Meow Wolf Denver is not linear. That’s OK.

Turning 60 this year, I know that concept can be challenging for some people my age. We tend to want to be led. How does this work? What are the steps we need to take to understand?

I get it. That’s how we grew up.

Despite the jumble, Meow Wolf Denver proves multi-generational because it’s really about people, the connections we have to each other and the memories we share. Meow Wolf brings us together to interact with the art, with each other, and even ourselves.

Meow Wolf Denver’s visual storytelling pulls from a collective pool of artists spanning generations from teenagers to seniors, male, female and non-binary, all colors and races, gay and straight. The overall feeling is inclusivity, working together despite our differences to build something.

Guests can participate as they choose. We look at art through the marinade of our upbringing. As one visitor put it, “It’s an experience you can have by yourself, with your partner, or with your grandkids.”

Just as visitors will focus on what attracts them at Meow Wolf Denver, the artists bring to life what they’re passionate about. Artists commentate on very adult issues in a subtle, non-preachy way. Themes of humanity’s past and future, conservation, climate change, memory, dementia, disabilities and even death are approached.

Here are my five favorite installations at Meow Wolf Denver:

Ruptured Time

Meow Wolf Denver, Ruptured Time. Photo by Joanne Galko
Meow Wolf Denver, Ruptured Time. Photo by Joanne Galko

In “Ruptured Time,” two small, dimly lit adjoining rooms represent the human brain, specifically someone who has dementia. Scattered throughout are frames portraying either old photos or flashing reels like old-fashioned home movies. They constantly buzz and shake on and off, representing a patient’s mind and the old memories that can instantly appear and then, just as instantly, disappear.

Designed by a group calling themselves The Church of Many, the five artists include Elsa Carenbauer, Anna Goss, Emily Merlin, Andrea Thurber, and Maddi Waneka. Inspired by a family member who had dementia, the group contributed pieces from their childhood for the project.

Wheelchair Space Kitchen

Meow Wolf Denver, Wheelchair Space Kitchen. Photo by Joanne Galko
Meow Wolf Denver, Wheelchair Space Kitchen. Photo by Joanne Galko

In “Wheelchair Space Kitchen,” artist Kalyn Heffernan addresses disabilities head-on with how it feels to approach each day from the seat of a wheelchair. Kalyn was born with a genetic brittle-bone disease.

Her contemplative creation shows the reality of objects being out of reach. Here, she cleverly hides artwork that is more accessible to those with disabilities and leaves hidden messages to be read from Braille.

Gremlin Symphony

Meow Wolf Denver, C St Geary Alley. Photo by Joanne Galko
Meow Wolf Denver, Gremlin Symphony. Photo by Joanne Galko

The original group of unfunded Meow Wolf artists from Santa Fe reached for trash to voice their art form. Denver artists continue this vein of repurposing materials tenfold.

“Gremlin Symphony” is made from accumulated bits of junk and debris. Bottle caps, yarn, aluminum cans, you-name-it become reincarnated. It is a theme throughout Meow Wolf. Relics pulled from the archives of Denver’s history, such as old street signs, memorabilia, bygone neon signs, and other antiquities, now have another purpose.

You Are Here Hallway

Artist Scott Hildebrandt’s, aka Mr. Christmas, love for miniatures stems from playing with his grandfather as a toddler. His grandfather loved train sets and they would play together for hours around the holidays. Scott’s intricate vintage vignettes, created from repurposed materials and tucked into old radio boxes, TVs, and clocks, align either side of the hallway ceiling to floor. Each diorama tells a story.

Scott intends to have visitors reminisce about their past and childhood as they walk the “You are Here Hallway” connecting the worlds.

Dreamscapes Lounge 

Meow Wolf Denver, Aquakota Nightclub. Photo by Joanne Galko
Meow Wolf Denver, Dreamscapes Lounge. Photo by Joanne Galko

Colin Richard Ferguson Ward, an artist on the Denver Meow Wolf team, died in 2018 when Meow Wolf was in its production phase. His fellow artists Peniel Apantenco and Kim Shively completed his “Aquakota Nightclub.” 

Stevon Lucero and Adrian Molina created “Indigenous Futurist Dreamscapes Lounge,” but Stevon, a Chicano artist for 40 years, passed away shortly after Meow Wolf Denver opened. “Dreamscapes Lounge” depicts a psychedelic dream he had in the 1970s of his soul leaving his body, one of his many metaphysical visions.

A person’s gifts keep giving long after leaving the physical world.

Remember the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.”

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