As the Experience Economy Booms, Meow Wolf Raises $158 Million to Expand Its Footprint Across America

The immersive-art company is opening new ventures in Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Washington, DC.

Meow Wolf, House of Eternal Return. Photo by Kate Russell, courtesy of Meow Wolf.

Meow Wolf, the New Mexico-based art collective turned experiential-art company, is newly flush with cash to fund its upcoming ventures. In its largest round of funding to date, Meow Wolf has raised more than $158 million from 87 investors.

Although that level of funding is more in line with what a tech startup might expect than a museum, Meow Wolf is not a traditional art institution. One of the pioneers of the so-called “experience economy,” Meow Wolf is an Instagram-driven space that provides consumers with vivid visual settings that they can share with their social media followers.

News of the massive investment was reported by Albuquerque Business First, based on SEC filings. The new influx of cash, which follows a $17 million round of funding last May, will be used to fund Meow Wolf’s ambitious expansion plans. Last year, the company announced plans to launch a second location in Denver, where they also designed Kaleidoscope, an interactive ride in the city’s local amusement park, Elitch Gardens, which opened last month.

Then news came in February that Meow Wolf was planning a 400-room immersive-art hotel in Phoenix, as well as an attraction at Las Vegas’s forthcoming experiential mall Area15 when the complex opens later this year. Another Meow Wolf destination is on tap for Washington, DC, in 2022. Altogether, the company hopes to open 15 locations in the next five years.

Founded in 2008, Meow Wolf opened its first permanent art attraction, the House of the Eternal Return, in 2016 in a former Santa Fe bowling alley owned by Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, who invested $3 million in buying and renovating the building for the project.

The exterior of Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, New Mexico on its first anniversary. Photo by Grendelkhan, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The exterior of Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, New Mexico on its first anniversary. Photo by Grendelkhan, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

It became an instant sensation and since then Meow Wolf has drawn more than 1 million visitors to its space in New Mexico, generating $9 million in income in 2017. (Last week, Meow Wolf raised its base wage to $17 an hour, compared to the state’s required $7.50 minimum wage.)

But Meow Wolf’s chief executive, Vince Kadlubek, says the funding is a mixed blessing. “When you have no resources, everything you create is above par,” he recently told the New York Times Magazine. “There’s an excitement around it. I fear losing that sense of artistry that comes from not having the resources. When you come from a perspective of having nothing to lose, there’s a lot of freedom. Now we’ve got something to live up to.”

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