(2019-03-12) Why Meow Wolf Coming To Phoenix Is Worrisome

Why Meow Wolf Coming to Phoenix Is Worrisome. The psychedelic, Burning Man-esque vibe of the Santa Fe flagship Meow Wolf has been widely popular, seeing large attendance numbers for the small southwest mountain town. However, Meow Wolf has not been loved by all in that community. Some, myself included, have been critical of the vaguely colonial subtext that underlies its permanent installation titled the House of Eternal Return

The interactive, two-story Victorian house is centered on the imagined story of a white family from California. This narrative, transplanted into a brown neighborhood in a city that is defined, predicated on, and commodified around Indigenous identity, can be read as tone-deaf at a moment in this country when decolonial narratives are prominent.

While it is admirable that a group of artists has been able to be so monetarily successful

we have to ask: What is it doing for culture as a whole?

for Phoenix, it is worrisome. It could dislodge local artists from their downtown and south Phoenix studios as more and more development happens on that scale in the “arts district,” raising prices, making it difficult for small galleries to exist, DIY spaces, and the like.

In an article published in AZ Central last year, artists are quoted as speaking out against the rapid development of the neighborhood

A Meow Wolf Hotel just seems part of the larger gentrification that is displacing people with lower incomes to find shelter and studio space elsewhere.

The problem with Meow Wolf is that it is a supreme act of late stage capitalism disguised through the collective’s mantra of the underdog as art savior. It is in fact a corporate entity, partnering with another corporate entity, True North Studio, for the Phoenix project.

While it is good to hear that Meow Wolf wants to collaborate with local creatives in this endeavor, it is important for the creative community here to know what that collaboration looks like. Is it ongoing? Is it a one-off? Are local artists going to be engaged in planning, or will they simply be commissioned for a project here and there to have the illusion of community buy-in?

we also worry that it could be harmful to the city’s cultural framework. The main critique myself and others in Phoenix have regarding this Meow Wolf Hotel is that a huge opportunity was missed to talk with individuals and entities within greater Phoenix about this project prior to the big public announcement. (WWIC)

Meow Wolf Bites Back After Art Critic Labels It "Late Stage Capitalism". When Phoenix-based art critic and Heard Museum curator Erin Joyce slammed Meow Wolf in the online culture journal Hyperallergic this week, the experiential, immersive-arts company bit back, and a pack of supporters followed on social media.

For people who care about art as a political and social tool, Meow Wolf’s emphasis on spectacle can be a turnoff. Skeptics have equated The House of Eternal Return with the Museum of Ice Cream or Disney World, as just another kitschy consumer experience. But fans admire the stories created within the space, spend hours in The House of Eternal Return and look forward to doing so at the company's other installations.

*Meow Wolf was quick to defend itself: "We provide a creative, artful experience to 500,000 visitors per year in Santa Fe (a town of 70,000 people), and we currently employ over 400 artists on salary and with full benefits!"

Ultimately, Meow Wolf dismissed the Hyperallergic story as sour grapes because the company had refused to advertise with the publication.*

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