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Meow Wolf art installation may get city financing

Mat Crimmins makes ribs for a mastodon skeleton out of moldable plastic at the Meow Wolf arts group’s “The House of Eternal Return” installation. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Mat Crimmins makes ribs for a mastodon skeleton out of moldable plastic at the Meow Wolf arts group’s “The House of Eternal Return” installation. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – An art installation by Santa Fe collective Meow Wolf that is scheduled to open in November may get financial help from the city.

The city Business and Quality of Life Committee today will consider investing $60,000 into “The House of Eternal Return” on Siler Road at the old Silva Lanes bowling alley, currently being renovated for the multiuse art complex with help from “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin.

The professional service agreement proposed by City Councilors Signe Lindell and Chris Rivera calls for the city to provide support to Meow Wolf’s efforts to “diversify the economy, revitalize an economically distressed neighborhood and provide a unique family entertainment option for Santa Fe.”

“The thing I like about it, and why I’m willing to co-sponsor it, is that it’s phased,” Lindell said. “And in the phasing it has clear goals for the money to be disbursed. The training goals and employment goals should be an example and a template for the future. It sets clear goals and sets the bar high.”

According to the resolution, Meow Wolf will employ a minimum of 40 people, with the aim of creating 30 full-time jobs and 35 part-time “retainable” jobs, at least 20 internship opportunities for Santa Fe University for Art and Design students, and high-tech job training for employees and community members. It also calls an online gift shop, the development of at least 25 exportable products and a minimum of six patent applications.

In an interview with the Journal last month, Meow Wolf co-founder and CEO Vince Kadlubek called the installation “21st century experimental art that we want to build into the No. 1 family attraction in New Mexico for years to come.”

“The House of Eternal Return” will be a 20,000-square-foot fantasy house where time and space are imagined to dissolve. By touching a wall or a piece of furniture, visitors will seemingly be transported to other planets and solar systems. Kadlubek said last month that Meow Wolf had raised $1.5 million to launch the exhibit but still had another $600,000 to go.

Martin bought the old bowling alley in January for $750,000 to lease property to Meow Wolf. He is financing a renovation of the building expected to cost between $1 million and $2 million.

After operating as a nonprofit venture since 2008, “The House of Eternal Return” will mark Meow Wolf’s transition from an informal artists’ collaborative into a for-profit business. The arts group also has become part of Santa Fe’s political scene. Kadlubek supported Mayor Javier Gonzales’ successful 2014 mayoral campaign, and Gonzales recently appointed him to the Planning Commission.

Kadlubek recently caused a stir with comments he made about City Councilor Patti Bushee, one of Gonzales’ mayoral opponents last year. Kadlubek accused Bushee of “divisive politics” and said she “blatantly undermined compromise” over a controversial proposed assisted living facility that the mayor wants the Planning Commission to reconsider.

Asked whether the Meow Wolf contract was a way to “pay back” Kadlubek, Lindell said, “I think when you look at this proposal it stands on its own merits. With the metrics it has with it, they have performance guidelines. They either make them or they don’t. They won’t be funded if they don’t meet the performance goals.”