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Blog

This Artist-CEO Built a Collective That Tells Immersive Stories Through Art

Oct 17 2018

Vince Kadlubek is a visionary. He leans into tension, ruffles feathers, and has spent more than a decade constructing new worlds with the art collective Meow Wolf. In 2016, they transformed an abandoned 20,000-square-foot bowling alley into the House of Eternal Return—an immersive experience full of creativity and curiosities—drawing more than a million people to Santa Fe, New Mexico for a dose of childlike wonder. Now their sights are set on two new activations in Las Vegas and Denver, as they aim to create the modern-day Disneyland. As an immersive experience designer, I’ve been personally inspired by Meow Wolf and the big-thinking and resourcefulness of Vince, the collective's CEO. I was stoked to chat with him about his inspiration and aspirations for the future.

In one sentence, who are you?

I am Vince Kadlubek, CEO and cofounder of Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

What do you do? How did you learn it?

I am a momentum artist. I have dedicated my life to the study and sculpting of momentum, which primarily entails finding authentic, collaborative understandings and influences with the brilliant people around me.

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What does a typical work session look like?

I'm usually dealing with these questions: What is the brightest vision? How do we articulate that vision? What steps are necessary for the most effective articulations? Work sessions are meetings or checking email. Those are the two kinds of work sessions I have these days. Sometimes I get to have creative work sessions, which are really just big meetings with beer and Indian food.

When it came to building something like the House of Eternal Return, we imagined, then found scrap armature materials, started producing structure and skin, utilized a bunch of air drying sculpting medium, and started turning large amounts of the exhibit into plaster forms. Lots of stuff was sculpted around the armature produced by the architects and general contractors, using more standard finish practices like painting.

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Image by Kate Russell

3 favorite possessions?

Oh gosh. Together, “favorite” and “possession” are kinda an oxymoron for me. All I can think about are non-physical things like my memory, my spirit, and my compassion.

How do you get over creative block?

Collaborate with someone who is not stuck in a creative block.

What was the last item on your to-do list?

The last item on my to-do list was to donate money to Beto O'Rourke. But as for work, my last to-do item was to send our SVP of art direction a copy of a PowerPoint that she can use in an upcoming presentation.

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Image by Kate Russell

The Due Return, "an inter-dimensional ship settled on an alien landscape."

How do you see the world in 2078?

Um... well, warm. And I also see a massive network of interconnected spatial computing, photo-realistic artificial intelligences, the liveable internet, monumental creator tools that result in instant manifestation—essentially, we will have transitioned into the 5th dimension.

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Image by Kate Russell

What’s your number one bucket list item?

Chilling poolside in the Oia Village in Santorini, Greece with a bottle of Krug Clos d’Ambonnay 1998 and three of my closest friends.

Who are you creative crushin’ on lately?

Young Thug, constantly. It is actually a problem. I have a hard time getting excited for any other musician. And I have recently fallen for food and cocktails, so Grant Achatz from Alinea in Chicago is on my mind a lot. LeBron James is creating a reality that is mind-blowing and way beyond basketball; the world is wrapped in his storytelling. And finally, I am a huge coaster guy and what RMC is doing in the coaster world is unbelievable—Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point has completely flipped the script.

  • Scott Shigeoka

    Lead, Community & Design, OpenIDEO and IDEO, IDEO San Francisco
    Scott designs immersive ways for organizations and individuals to act on societal challenges together (often bridging across difference). His spirit fruit is the mango and he draws energy from freestyle rapping. He's currently working on his first book.