Community
Making an Impact During COVID
Meow Wolf remains dedicated to providing social and economic benefits to our communities, including our artists and workers.
BY
Danika Padilla
December 29, 2020

This year was unlike any other for Meow Wolf. Like so many other businesses, we had to close the doors of Santa Fe’s House of Eternal Return in March and have not re-opened. Despite this significant challenge, we remain dedicated to making an impact!

As a Certified B Corporation, we strive to provide positive social and economic benefits to our communities, no matter the obstacles. The reality is that COVID-19 has brought financial challenges to Meow Wolf, meaning we’ve had to adjust and change our impact strategies. However, this change has allowed us to slow down, reset, and really dig into our long-term impact planning. 

Though the path looked different this year, we are proud to have continued our crucial work in giving back. We did this through a series of targeted measures guided by our B Corp Assessment. This tool helps us track and guide our impact, which focuses on four main areas: 

  • Respect for Community
  • Respect for Collaborating Artists
  • Respect for the Environment
  • Respect for Our Workers

One of our biggest initiatives this year — outside of our Las Vegas and Denver projects — was to complete and submit our 2020 B Corporation Assessment. This is huge for us because it renews our commitment to be a more responsible company.

Through this article, we’ll review some of the social impact we’ve made in 2020. 

Respect for Community

We believe in community engagement efforts that focus on historically marginalized people and communities. Our work in this area encompasses a wide range of community projects and support, including investments, COVID-19 relief efforts, and more. To support this effort, our staff participated in 1,932 hours of community service and volunteer work directly supporting nonprofit organizations in our communities. 

This year, the majority of our projects focused on COVID-19 relief for indigenous communities through the generosity of our staff and supportive community. 

COVID-19 Relief

In March, we started working with partners like Christus St. Vincent Hospital and Make Santa Fe to assess whether Meow Wolf could help produce personal protective equipment (PPE). We learned a lot during this process and were able to prototype and produce 12 desk shields (valued at $7,500) for Christus St. Vincent Hospital to protect frontline workers. 

Meow Wolf recognizes that we need to do more to honor and support indigenous people. We partnered with many of our local indigenous communities who have been hard hit by the pandemic to give back, supported by the generosity of our staff. Our COVID-19 relief efforts to support indigenous communities included:

  • $7,000 in staff donations to the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Relief Fund
  • 1,300 face masks and gaiters donated to the Navajo Nation
  • 100+ lbs of food and supplies to the Santa Fe Indigenous Center
  • 300+ lbs of food donated to the Blackrock Chapter House of the Navajo Nation.
  • 250+ lbs of food and supplies donated to the Pueblo of Cochiti
  • 200+ lbs of food and supplies donated to the Pueblo of Jemez
  • 800 KN95 masks donated to the Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Cochiti and Pueblo of Jemez
  • 1,000 nitrile gloves donated to the Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Cochiti and Pueblo of Jemez
  • 100+ lbs of food and supplies for the Las Vegas Indian Center
  • 160 toys for the holidays donated to the Santa Fe Indigenous Center

Danika Padilla, Sr. Dir. of Social Impact for Meow Wolf ships a box of 500 N95 masks to Navajo Nation hospitals


Community Investments

In 2020, Meow Wolf invested over $72,850 into projects that positively support artists and long-term arts decision-making in our communities. We typically focus these investments on supporting artists directly and supporting free art programming for historically marginalized people. 

With the financial challenges COVID-19 brought to our business, we made a decision in early 2020 to fulfill our existing financial commitments to local partners, but not make any new commitments. You can read more about our investments here:

Respect for Collaborating Artists

We’re artists who love collaborating with other artists on projects, events, and our exhibitions. Though we couldn’t get together in-person this year, our signature work with artists continued. Our goal is to hire diverse artists and provide our large platform for their work and storytelling.

Pay equity among our collaborators is a priority. This year we worked on our artist fee model to benchmark our artist payments among national groups. We also worked with consultants to review our RFP process for fairness and clarity. We will continue to review and adjust our structure to pay artists fairly. 

Upgrades in House of Eternal Return

We worked with artists Corrinne Loperfido and Damon Williams on their first large scale installation and first collaboration, Trash Temple. Made entirely of found and recycled materials, it has no glue, only screws, and uses only free or recycled paint. The work really speaks to the moment we are in as a world with landfills filling up, a lack of recycling, and the realities of climate change. Their art is giving new life to trash, and will be a physical relic of garbage in hopes that we might reevaluate our relationship with waste. 

Artist Paolo Puck works in felt, creating larger than life, often pastel-colored sculptures of mythical characters. We worked with him to bring his sculpture “Sarah” to Meow Wolf Santa Fe to delight our guests. His work inspires us with the power of storytelling...we’re all just creatures anyways. 

Las Vegas Collaborating Artists

We collaborated with local artists on our upcoming Meow Wolf Las Vegas exhibition, which is currently in the final stages of completion. While more artists’ work will be shared as it becomes available to the public, we can share that we have already seen works completed or in progress from Shine, Heather Herman, Eric Vozolla, and Cary Thompson.

Denver Collaborating Artists

We signed contracts this year with over 110 Colorado-based artists to work with us on our Denver exhibition. This group was found through our first ever open call for artists in 2018, where we received over 1,000 applications to work with us in Denver. We’re proud of this diverse group of artists from historically marginalized groups, with 50% self-identified as BIPOC individuals, 20% as LGBTQ+ individuals, and 50% identifying as women.

Respect for the Environment

This year we have worked to expand our commitment to the environment through a series of targeted actions. Though we are a start-up, we are investing in the long-term sustainability of our company.

We continued our work with the B Corp Climate Collective. This group is made up of more than 50 sustainable business leaders in the U.S. and Canada, and we met earlier this year at Taos Ski Valley (the only Certified B Corporation Ski Area in the World) to re-center our work on climate justice. Together, we believe that combating climate change starts with acknowledging the disproportionate impacts of change on historically marginalized communities. We collaborate with this group to amplify actions, learn and share best practices, and understand that we are all interconnected. 

The biggest positive impact on the environment this year comes from the solar panels installed on our roof at Meow Wolf Santa Fe. We generated 171 MWh of electricity from renewable solar energy installed on the House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe. This accounts for 121 Metric Tons of CO2 not going into the atmosphere - which is equivalent to taking 26 passenger cars off the road. We also installed a new monitoring system, which helps us track our energy usage to ensure our panels are at full capacity.

A few other highlights include:

  • Tracking energy and water usage at our facilities and offices in Santa Fe
  • Establishing Exhibition Sustainability Guidelines for the operations of our exhibitions
  • Creating Building & Construction Sustainability Guidelines for the physical build of our new locations
  • Reuse of 90% of our packing and shipping materials for our exhibitions
  • Eliminated single-use poly bags from our merchandise shipments

Respect for Workers

Our team is the creative that keeps us going. We strive to provide social and economic benefits to all of our employees.

Volunteer Time

The Meow Wolf team is an incredible group of people. In 2020, our team volunteered more than 1,932 hours with local nonprofit organizations in all of our communities.

Time to Vote

We believe in civic engagement and have provided all employees with time off to vote. All FTE staff were provided with a company holiday on Election Day, and non-exempt staff were provided with 2+ hours off to vote. We also hosted voter registration agents at our offices, and shared details frequently on deadlines, as well as where and when employees could cast their ballots. 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

With the national call for racial justice, Meow Wolf has invested in our journey to be a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization. We know we have work to do, and we know we cannot go on this journey alone. In 2020, we partnered with a Black-owned, fellow B Corporation on an initial assessment of our company to begin our staff healing process. We will review the assessment and recommendations from our consultant in early 2021 to inform our long-term strategy.

We are also working to perform an internal pay equity audit. This audit is looking at internal factors such as gender, race/ethnicity, and job function to help Meow Wolf level the playing field and ensure that all staff are being paid fairly. The audit is also looking at local and national pay benchmarks for creative professionals to help us understand our industry. 

All people should be able to access and enjoy our exhibitions. We are actively working to make our projects and corporate culture more accessible to people with disabilities. We’ve partnered with Denver-based Artful Access to implement more accessible design into our experiences and provide training for our team. We are also working with Opportunity Village, a nonprofit organization based in Las Vegas to hire people with different abilities for our team and provide training for all new staff. 

In our work to be a more inclusive company, we acknowledge that we have not done enough to honor indigenous peoples whose land we live, work, and build upon. We worked with an internal expert and member of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, Fawn Douglas, to deliver a workshop on Cultural Appropriation to our Creative Directors and Art Directors. 

Summary

To some, 2020 may feel like a lost year. To Meow Wolf, this was a year of impact. We know we have more to do to uphold our values and ensure positive social and economic benefits for our workers, artists, and communities, but we are proud of the progress we have made this year, and we look forward to making an even greater impact in 2021!


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