We’re often asked what one should expect when they visit the exhibition. People want to know about the experience of House of Eternal Return. What makes it ‘art’ or a ‘museum,’ and what moves the story forward?
Yet, what we’re asked more often than any of these is "who is Meow Wolf for? Is it for all ages?" It is! Our artists themselves range in age from their early twenties to their mid-eighties, and it is with all of their input that House of Eternal Return took shape. I’d like to take a little time to touch on the experience for a wide range of ages from our youngest niños to our venerated abuela’s. So here's our all-ages guide to House of Eternal Return.
Photographs by Kate Russell.
Truth is that we’ve had positive responses for all ages and all ages get something a little different out of our exhibition. I’ve tracked these experiences online through reviews and in person through conversation. This article will explore the experiences of four age groups. Kids: ages 0-21, Young Adults: ages 22-39, Regular Adults: 40-65, and Seniors: ages 66-Infinity.
The kid experience is perhaps the easiest to grok. Kids love Meow Wolf. House of Eternal Return is a place for them to explore and to create for their explorations any story that suits them. The House also fosters in them a thirst for their own creative expression. For the child entering our space it tends to be a magical experience. Kids are used to being told, “don’t touch this,” and, “look only, sweetheart.” For me, personally, this was one of the most difficult challenges of being a child, that is the level to which the "adult" world was off limits.
At House of Eternal Return the spirit of engagement and hands-on interaction is off the chart. The House is, for children, a purely imaginative experience complete with climbing, interactive light, sound, and pure creativity. As with many things in childhood, it is their experience which is truly singular. Every child who enters our space makes for themselves an experience that is replete with meaning, a story that, more often than not, fits into their own personal world.
That makes sense, because we as artists create from that same place of the wonder. We’re lucky to work from this place, but for children wonder is the default experience. Children at Meow Wolf find themselves in an intuitive environment that bends itself to their own desires. The niño experience is truly special. If you’re so lucky, talk to a child you know and ask them why they think House of Eternal Return is a special place.
Princess Nokia at Meow Wolf. Photo by Kate Russell.
Young adults are, perhaps, our second most natural audience. For them Meow Wolf doesn’t just tout the exhibition, but an essential night-life location within Santa Fe. Our venue space, located within House of Eternal Return, has two or three shows a week, sometimes more. Shows range from DJs providing dance music to comedians, and solo singer/songwriters to full bands. With the venue located within House of Eternal Return and Meow Wolf’s new, fully operational drink bar, it has become a Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico destination for nighttime entertainment. Furthermore, our space’s narrative elements are very much modeled on an exploratory-style storytelling similar to those found in modern video games, so for those who grew up alongside games, following the story is like returning to some of their favorite early experiences. Myst, anyone?
Our next age group, which I am calling regular adults, is those who are 40-65. This group is less versed in video game models of storytelling, but they're just as into our space as the two previous age groups. For this audience it is the natural evolution of a museum-style setting that captures their imagination. They’ve been able to see museums grow, develop and change. Museums of science and technology have been moving to experience-based programming for many years. For this audience Meow Wolf brings to an art museum what Chicago’s Museum of Science and Technology and the New York’s Natural History Museum have been developing for a long time. Experience-based learning and exploration.
And Meow Wolf is experience-based learning. Through interaction you discover our narrative, play music and activate spaces in different ways to alter the environment you’re exploring. This age group is further delighted to have a place to bring the niños that doesn’t bore them or dumb things down for a younger audience.
And now: seniors, abuelos. Carol Cassara put it, writing for Sixty+Me, "A visit to Meow Wolf should be saved for a day when you’re ready for anything."
Not everyone in this age group may be able to climb and crouch and explore in all the ways that the other age groups can, but there’s still a lot to enjoy. Of course there’s the story level, which of course doesn't require physicality but instead incorporates sound, environmental narrative and text. And our biggest interactive installations are all in easily accessible locations.
But abuelos, more than any other age group, tend to explore the artistry behind House of Eternal Return. Interactivity aside, Meow Wolf offers a new kind of art museum, one you walk within, rather than through. There’s lots to see at surface level and deeper — that doesn’t require you to move around on your hands and knees.
So we think that Meow Wolf is for everyone and more than that, we think it's for families. Family is different for different people, but it almost always involves people of all ages: the kids, young adults, regular adults and seniors all. A way to explore House of Eternal Return that is perhaps better than any other is to go with your family. Talk about your visit together afterwards and admire what each family member took from their own experience.