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A strange shopping experience

FractaLife exhibit features panels from Shrine, one of the may areas to explore within Omega Mart. (Kate Russell/Meow Wolf)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Attention shoppers: Omega Mart is open in Sin City.

The most exceptional grocery store has undergone a journey of more than 10 years. It sold out its first weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The project also pushed Santa Fe-based arts collective Meow Wolf to up the ante when it comes to innovation.bright spot

Santa Fe is home to its first permanent installation, the “House of Eternal Return,” which is currently closed due to New Mexico’s public health order.

Omega Mart is the second project from Meow Wolf and is housed in a 52,000-square-foot space — more than double the size of the Santa Fe location.

“We’ve been working on the space for three and a half years,” Corvas Brinkerhoff, co-founder and executive creative director of Meow Wolf Las Vegas, said of Omega Mart. “This is the third iteration. Going back to 2009, that was the first seed. We’ve been toying with the idea for quite a while.”

A creative operator assisting customers at Omega Mart. (Kate Russell/Meow Wolf)

As it opened Thursday, visitors found shelves stocked with more than 100 bizarre, custom food products, which include Impact Corn, Caltucky Freedom Glaze, Americanized Beef, “Lil Meow” Gruel for Cats in Pigeon Mousse flavor, Mammoth Chunks, Organic Moth Milk and Camel’s Dream of Mushroom Soup.

With the opening in Las Vegas, Brinkerhoff said there were a number of changes made to the exhibition to ensure that social distancing and COVID-safe practices are in place.

“Most of the exhibit hasn’t had to be changed,” Brinkerhoff said. “In some cases, we have small passageways or areas you can crawl through. Those have been made one-way.”

High-touch areas are also being cleaned multiple times an hour.

With Omega Mart, Meow Wolf continues to raise its storytelling profile.

Omega Mart features multiple story lines.

The first centers on a mythical energy called The Source. The Omega Mart grocery store found a way to harness The Source and put it into their products. Visitors can also follow the story of DramCorp, the corporate giant behind Omega Mart. It is located in a parallel dimension with clues scattered throughout the exhibits, installation rooms and terrains.

Omega Mart features a number of portals that guests can move through. (Kate Russell/Meow Wolf)

Via various “portals” within Omega Mart — such as a refrigerated beverage case and a camping display — spectators enter what the creators call a parallel dimension with four vast spaces and 60 additional unique environments.

Brinkerhoff said more than 325 artists contributed to Omega Mart.

Meow Wolf was able to get Brian Eno, Beach House and Santigold to contribute soundscapes to the space.

At Omega Mart, visitors will also be using radio-frequency identification (RFID).

Brinkerhoff said each visitor will be given an RFID card at the entrance.

Visitors discover clues to one of the many story lines woven through Omega Mart. (Kate Russell/Meow Wolf)

“The card is part of the narrative and you are gaining access to the space like you were an employee,” Brinkerhoff said. “There is depth to this experience. It will track what’s been seen, so people will pick up where they left off. It’s a space that will take multiple visits.”

Jim Ward, Meow Wolf co-CEO, said RFID is the latest building block in the future Meow Wolf is creating.

“The Denver exhibition, which opens at the end of the year, will utilize RFID,” Ward said. “We’re building for the long term in hopes that, one day, we can create the experience that spans multiple installations.”

Brinkerhoff has seen the idea grow and come to fruition in Las Vegas.

A guest of Omega Mart interacts with one of the exhibits in the grocery store. (Kate Russell/Meow Wolf)

Having visitors in Omega Mart is a milestone.

“Being a founder of Meow Wolf and working on this crazy experiment for 13 years, it’s a dream come true,” Brinkerhoff said. “This show really marks a huge generational leap forward to create experiences. It’s a total thrill and we’re ready to share the work with the world.”

Ward credits Brinkerhoff with leading the Omega Mart push in Las Vegas.

“From a business perspective, it validates a very strong business model,” Ward said. “It validates the vision of Meow Wolf and the visions it wants to create. We’re excited to unleash another.”

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