The former site of Bed, Bath and Beyond in Grapevine Mills leans heavily into the afterlife with an otherworldly immersive art exhibit called “The Real Unreal” from Meow Wolf.
meow wolfan art and storytelling company known for its immersive exhibits, it has permanent installations in Las Vegas, Denver, its flagship in Santa Fe, and now the Grapevine.
Each “portal” has its own story that begins in a seemingly normal setting: a transit station, a supermarket, or, in the case of Santa Fe and Grapevine, a family home. But upon further inspection, it’s clear that things are a bit, well,… strange.
Sticky notes, jazz records and a stack of missing persons posters give clues to the two families living under the same roof. Guests can carefully follow these breadcrumbs or they can suspend any attempt to reason and accept that they are unlikely to be able to accurately predict what is in the shed or around the corner.
Writer LaShawn Wanak was commissioned to create the history for this portal. The assignment was a perfect fit for someone who grew up reading science fiction, fantasy, and was deeply inspired by “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
“One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is write a story where there’s a kid who goes into a magical portal and, well, what happens to the adults who are left behind?” she said. “So I decided that I’m going to tell the story from the point of view of adults.”
From the front yard garden to the spice jars in the kitchen, his ideas fill the house at the start of the show. The story provided a starting point, but the artists were also given license to let their imaginations run wild as they built their own worlds around them.
“It’s almost like a game of phone tag where artists put their own spin on things,” Wanak said. “It just turns this conversation into art. We are all speaking the same language. It is experienced and expressed in different ways, but everything is connected. …. And it’s the most fun I’ve ever had.”
The non-linear, self-guided tour is a choose-your-own-life adventure book.
Meow Wolf began as a small collective of artists in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2008. The success of its main site and the company’s ability to expand into new markets have received some criticism for creating corporate art.
Stavo Craft, a multidisciplinary artist on staff, is familiar with this criticism, but said the funding allows artists to make pieces that would be difficult to finance on their own and have access to a team of fabricators, light and sound designers, and others. professionals
“I saw this particular piece and thought wow… These same artists in Santa Fe who were kids in an emerging art collective are funded,” he said. “Yes, it’s creativity and it’s beautiful, but it’s also like they have access to a very high budget level of options in their creativity.”
But they are not precious about space. They encourage people to push buttons, open doors, and crawl through tunnels where they find them.
Asked if he was worried about kids walking into the exhibit and running amok, Craft casually replied, “That’s what we want. We want them to come here and go crazy.”
Meow Wolf wants adults to have that permission to play too. Childhood curiosity gets harder to sustain as we get older, Craft said, but creative spaces and kids can help unlock that.
“Kids are great because they tend to know what to do,” Craft said. “Like you press this and there’s this sequence and it causes this (something else in) the room to continue,” Craft said.
“The Real Unreal” contains works by more than 150 Meow Wolf employees and some 40 contributing artists from across Texas. Meow Wolf’s staff includes many artists of all persuasions, sound designers, muralists, and makers, several of whom have worked across multiple portals. For that reason, frequent travelers are likely to notice elements that overlap or give a subtle nod to the other portals.
At this point, most people who know Meow Wolf know that refrigerator doors serve as gateways to other realms. But what they will find on the other side of the door is unique to each place.
The inclusion of locally designed spaces is part of what gives each site its own distinctive flavor. Dallas-based artist Will Heron said he researched the local art community for about three or four years. As the artist liaison for the Grapevine project, he worked with the team to find a good mix of Texas artists across all styles and disciplines.
Instead of soliciting releases or running a competition, Meow Wolf contacted the artists and asked them to enter.
“If you follow the art scene in DFW, you’ll see a lot of familiar faces doing things they’ve never done before,” he said. “I like to single out Mariell Guzmán, who is one of our big Fort Worth muralist superstars. This is the first time she has done fully immersive work.”
It has several giant sculptures in a disco-jungle themed space.
“This is the first time it’s been sculpted,” Heron said. “I think it’s great that we can showcase our local talent, but also take them to new heights… It’s exciting.”
The Meow Wolf Grapevine location will be open seven days a week, but hours will vary based on demand, weather and rentals.
From Fort Worth, the gateway to the afterlife is about 30 miles away.
Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or at Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of board members and financial backers. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.
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