Our Year in Listening

Community, Collectivism, and Outreach in 2018, Meow Wolf looks back on an important year.
by Christopher J
Dec 30, 2018
Students from Milagro Middle School work with Art Smart and Meow Wolf on a mural in the David Loughridge Learning Center. Photo by Kate Russell.

At Meow Wolf, we recognize that so many have given their resources to help make us what we are today. As such, we are grateful to be able to give back to DIY organizations, art education platforms, and community-minded and art-driven projects. In 2018, we’ve made a concerted effort to do the most with this privilege. Yet, as we grow and expand, we recognize the importance of keeping these values at the forefront of our efforts. Moving forward, we must continue to find ways to give back, not just to New Mexico, but to the entire nation of art that fostered our own growth.

The Wheelz performing at 7th Circle Music Collective in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Kate Russell.

In reflecting on the past year, we have the opportunity to examine where we’ve succeeded in giving back and where we have room to grow. Generally, we’ve approached community outreach through sponsorships, offered programs, and partnerships with established organizations. A large piece of this puzzle is our DIY Fund, a funding project to which anyone nationally can submit. From meowwolf.com:

“In 2017, Meow Wolf’s annual DIY Fund made its first payout of $215,000 directly to DIY community art and music spaces across the country. Selected from among hundreds of applicants, Meow Wolf helped 106 small-scale arts organizations in 21 different states with rent, infrastructure, safety improvements, materials, and equipment.”

In 2018, our goal is to give out even more and to more organizations! We’re going through our 2018 applicants now, and those to receive funding will be notified this December.

Meow Wolf sponsors the adoption fees of a pet each month from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society. December’s pet is Oogie!

Outside of this national program, we’ve put an emphasis on giving back locally. In 2018, Meow Wolf made donations to 52 local organizations, including: St. Elizabeth Shelters & Supportive Housing, the LOBO FUN RUN for Education, Kitchen Angels, Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society, and several grade school sports teams, as well as many other organizations, institutions, and one-off events.

The 2018 Meow Wolf Monster Battle on the Santa Fe Plaza. Fun for all ages! Photo by Kate Russell.

Of course, as a B Corp, it’s paramount that we continue to find ways to improve our local contributions. With a mission of ethical economic community partnership, this means a dedication to improving employee life and being ecologically responsible. It means continuing in our efforts to hire people local to the markets in which we work, being responsible for our waste, and conserving our water and energy consumption. To date, Meow Wolf has succeeded in providing our employees with no-cost, full-coverage healthcare, in addition to building corporate community through in-company events meant to foster collaboration, mutual awareness, and respect amongst coworkers.

Meow Wolf was a proud sponsor of the 2018 Las Vegas Pride celebrations. Photo by Kate Russell.

Still, as we develop our brand and move toward expansion in Las Vegas and Denver, we can’t rest on our laurels. Our goal is to partner with those communities and extend to them our B Corp ideals. In Denver, for example, we have employed people with voices that seek to address their local community and the unique issues of their city:

“In Denver, we have a group of eight [employees] that are currently working on community outreach. They’re all residents of the city. They’re people who’ve been there for years, says Director of Community Outreach, Danika Padilla. “We didn’t bring in any outside employees. We hired locally and we asked them for their ideas and their help; this is really important. Of these eight, all of them had originally reached out to us to voice their concerns about our moving to their community.”

Danika Padilla at Meow Wolf’s presentation of its Corporate Social Responsibility at the Steam in Denver, CO. Photo by Kate Russell.

Together, Padilla and the Denver Eight put together a Corporate Responsibility Plan:

“It’s our first Corporate Responsibility Plan and it’s a living document. It puts our ideas about social justice, social inclusion, and equity into writing to help establish our goals. We broke down our responsibilities into four different goals: Respect to communities…Respect to artists…Respect to local economics…Respect for the environment. It’s something we’re very excited about.”

In addition to the Corporate Responsibility Plan, Meow Wolf sponsored numerous events and organizations in Denver over the course of 2018.

Meow Wolf was a proud sponsor of the 2018 Las Vegas Pride celebrations. Photo by Kate Russell.

Naturally, each city we encounter has needs of their own. In Las Vegas, Meow Wolf is helping visiting artists and emerging installation artists through a partnership with UNLV. Our goal is to bring the Las Vegas artist community closer together through a series of micro-funding events that center around pitching projects and sharing a dinner. As Padilla skillfully notes, “Las Vegas is an entirely different project from Denver; an entirely different community.” It is with this in mind that she and her team approach the brightest city on earth as a unique challenge.

A local child gets a free haircut at Denver Days Sun Valley. Photo by Armando Geneyro..

Yet, at the end of the day — at the end of the year — our community outreach successes could also be considered learning experiences. As we extend and increase our funds and support for years to come, we hope get better at listening and truly hearing from each community in which we have a presence. Our greatest lesson from 2018 is this: every city is unique, from the needs of their neighborhoods to the arts they foster. Coming from our background of collectivism, this is something with which we’re familiar. Yet, familiarity does not mean expertise. We’ll continue to learn, to listen, and to offer support, whether here in Santa Fe — our home — or in our new markets such as Denver, Las Vegas, and Washington D.C.,  we seek to support arts communities, collectives, institutions, and events.