A woman sits on a chair with her head resting on her chin with various artworks in front of and behind her
Katie Murray is one of the Tarrant County artists who was selected to work on the upcoming Meow Wolf immersive art experience in Grapevine. (Courtesy Katie Murray | Credit Reverie Photo Co.)

When Meow Wolf, an arts and entertainment company known for its immersive art experiences, opens in North Texas, it will feature the work of more than 30 artists from around the state, including several familiar faces from Tarrant County.

Meow Wolf currently has locations in New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and is adding two locations, known as portals, in Texas. The Grapevine Mills location will open in 2023, and another permanent location will open in Houston’s Fifth Ward in 2024.

“Texas has always been kind of close to our hearts,” Dale Sheehan, executive creative director at Meow Wolf, said. “A lot of our fans are from the Texas area and a lot of our company, honestly a lot of colleagues … (have) connections to it personally. But, as with all things, there was a good opportunity there.

The large population center, thriving arts scene and the local talent pool of potential collaborating artists checked important boxes for the Meow Wolf team.

“We want to be part of the communities that we go into and … we find the best way to do that is to simply let the community speak for itself,” Sheehan said.

In addition to working with local artists to design the space, Meow Wolf is also holding community meetings to gather feedback. The company had its first North Texas session in late July, and on Oct. 18 its team will be in Fort Worth at 1300 Gendy St. from 6:30-7:30 p.m. The following day the company will hold a session in Grapevine from 7-8 p.m. at 200 Vine St. East. 

Yana Payusova remembers her trip to the flagship portal in Santa Fe back in 2016. The artist and University of Texas at Arlington assistant professor said she’ll never forget walking into a kitchen, opening a refrigerator door and being transported into what felt like a different universe.

“One of my favorite books of all time is ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ specifically ‘Through The Looking-Glass (and What Alice Found There),’ and so this idea of encountering an ordinary space and then that becomes something completely fantastical has always been very alluring and exciting to me,” she said. “And that’s exactly how Meow Wolf felt.” 

Payusova credits their team for avoiding the overly manicured trappings of a theme park and creating a space that felt authentic. She has enjoyed collaborating with their team so far and is looking forward to being able to reach new audiences who might not normally gravitate to museums and galleries. 

“As an artist, to be able to create and propose a vision and then have the financial and institutional support to be able to execute it is really exciting. The idea of working with other artists in the area and to see their visions come to life is really exciting,” she continued. “And of course, because it’s Meow Wolf, the idea that so many people will come and see your work and spend time with it is amazing as well.” 

Working with Meow Wolf and having the support of their team is a dream come true for Fort Worth artist Mariell Guzman.

“Honestly, whenever I got the first email, I thought it was like spam because I was like, ‘There’s no way that like this is going to happen like this early in my career,’” she said. “So, yeah, I mean I was just shocked and it was very, very very exciting.

Guzman, who is known for her murals and studio work, has been working as an artist full-time for about four years. While she has done installations before they have been on a smaller scale and temporary.

“They have been amazing just letting me really develop the vision,” she said. “And then they understand the logistics of creating these (spaces) and (how to) make (them) in a way that can last and people can be around them and touch them and they’re not going to fall apart.” 

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Katie Murray, artist and cofounder of the nonprofit the Art Room, was also taken aback by the opportunity to participate in the new location.

The portals are designed in a way where one artist’s work flows into another.

“I don’t expect … people to be coming to the space to just see my work and … distinguish one artist from another,” she said. “But if I can inspire somebody or intrigue somebody or create some sort of wonder … that is exciting, even if they never know who I am and vice versa. I love that that energy will exist out there.

Fellow Fort Worth artist Adam Palmer, who originally hails from West Texas, said he is excited that the portal will draw people from all over, which gives the artists the opportunity to help expand people’s ideas of what Texas art can be.

“Not so much people in Fort Worth and the Metroplex, but (other) people have an idea about Texas art. They think it’s jackalope(s) and bluebonnets, and I love that art, too,” he said. “I never sit and draw pump jacks or cacti or longhorns or anything like that. Everything I drew was kind of an escape from what I saw, and it kind of stuck with me into adulthood, too. I never really grew out of that phase of drawing fun, colorful stuff.”

The opportunity is a welcome chance to stretch his skills too, he said.

“I’m not treating it as an opportunity just for me, I’m thinking it is a team sport,” he explained. “Like my team is going to do well in the Metroplex … So I’m going to really step my game up so I can shine with everybody else.” 

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at marcheta.fornoff@fortworthreport.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Marcheta FornoffArts & Culture Editor

For just over seven years Marcheta Fornoff performed the high wire act of producing a live morning news program on Minnesota Public Radio. She led a small, but nimble team to cover everything from politics...