Meow Wolf announces theme, opening date for Dallas-area attraction
May 16—It's becoming a near-annual event: Santa Fe-based Meow Wolf opening another new adventure in another big city.
Next in line for the arts and entertainment company is Grapevine, Texas, a Dallas suburb where Meow Wolf will open its fourth exhibition, The Real Unreal, on July 14 in the Grapevine Mills mall.
Meow Wolf first emerged in permanent fashion in March 2016 with The House of Eternal Return, built in a former Santa Fe bowling alley.
By January 2018, its first expansions to Las Vegas, Nev., and Denver were announced, and that same year it established a relationship with Grapevine.
Omega Mart opened in Las Vegas in February 2021. Convergence Station followed in Denver in September 2021 and Grapevine and Houston were announced in May 2022. The Houston venue is expected to open in 2024.
"We are always looking at what stories we want to tell," said Dale Sheehan, Meow Wolf's senior vice president and executive creative director. "We are working on future endeavors already."
Denver and Las Vegas are big cities, but Dallas and Houston are the No. 4 an No. 5 largest metropolitan areas in the country. Grapevine Mills is a 6-minute drive from the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, the second-busiest airport in the nation.
"We are doing something wise from a business standpoint," Sheehan said. "We are certainly going to generate a lot of new fans from this location."
The size of the cities wasn't the only draw for Meow Wolf.
"The arts community was the guiding force," Sheehan said. "Dallas and Houston are the most vibrant artist communities that we are excited about."
Among the 150 artists creating The Real Unreal, Meow Wolf tapped 38 from Texas, including sculptor Dan Lam, mixed-media painter Mariell Guzman, game designer Xalavier Nelson Jr. and painter Riley Holloway.
The theme of The Real Unreal focuses on a blended family that has "unknowingly unlocked portals to a different existence," in the words of Meow Wolf. "They will explore rooms that are both unfamiliar yet accessible through unforgettable psychedelic art."
The venue has more 30 rooms with 70 "captivating experiences" from muralists, sculptors, photographers and video game designers.
"The Real Unreal has been in the works for years and takes a bold step forward in our evolution of art and storytelling," Meow Wolf CEO Jose Tolosa said in a news release.
The family story was conceived by a Wisconsin-based writer of speculative fiction, LaShawn M. Wanak, who also edits the online speculative magazine GigaNotoSaurus.
"I can say that it is a story about caring, caring for people, and I hope when people walk into Grapevine, when they walk into the site, I want their first impression to be: 'Oh, this is a well-loved place, and the people inside love each other and care for each other,' " Wanak said in a November interview with Meow Wolf. "It goes back to the caring. I want people to come away with the people in the story, knowing that they deeply care for each other, even though they have disagreements."
Wanak had never visited any of the Meow Wolf exhibitions, which were closed when the company approached her. All the storytelling took shape in a digital writer's room.
"We always want to collaborate with writers," Sheehan said. "We absolutely want to be able to tell stories of communities of all kinds. LaShawn is focused on the family story. We really like her style and point of view in writing."
Sheehan came onboard at Meow Wolf in September 2019 just as work was getting started on The Real Unreal.
"We did all this work during the lockdown," he said.
Meow Wolf Houston is about a year behind Dallas. A title and theme have not been announced.
"We have started work on-site," Sheehan said. "We are nearing the end of the story and development phase so we can start production and artwork."