ALBUQUERQUE — Last week, George R.R. Martin, writer of the Game of Thrones books, made his second multimillion-dollar property investment in Santa Fe’s entertainment and tourism industry. The usual buzz that follows celebrity activity has apparently left him short on words.
“I just came back from the press conference at the Silva Lanes site,” Martin emailed in response to my request for comments. “I really said all I have to say there.”
In 2013, Martin reopened the Jean Cocteau Cinema, valued at around $1.9 million, as an “eclectic movie house” in Santa Fe’s Railyard District. More recently, he pledged $2.7 million in renovations on his purchase of a 33,000 square-foot bowling alley, the aforementioned Silva Lanes, which closed in 2008. He’s leasing the property to art collective Meow Wolf for 10 years to develop an art center.
The King of Gruesome Fantasy got involved with Meow Wolf through the collective’s CEO Vince Kadlubek, who used to work at the Jean Cocteau. Martin immediately gravitated to Meow Wolf’s fantasy, role-play aesthetic, Kadlubek says. Meow Wolf, founded in 2008, considers itself to be Santa Fe’s first alternative arts and music venue, with a focus on “fully-immersive exhibits.”
Taking over an abandoned building in Santa Fe’s neglected, and largely Latino, Southside, the collective — which Hyperallergic named in its top five Chicago shows of 2013 — positions the Meow Wolf Art Complex as family-oriented and community-driven. Comparing it to the City Museum in Saint Louis and the Exploratorium in San Francisco, the press pack describes the complex as a “unique, interactive, arts and entertainment experience.”
All but a few thousand feet will go to a permanent installation called “The House of Eternal Return,” scheduled for 2015 and billed as the follow-up to the group’s first, definitive installation, “The Due Return” (2011). “The Due Return” was a massive, interactive, “inter-dimensional” ship that contained items plucked and pillaged during a fictional voyage (though the Meow Wolf crew has avoided the pirate reference). The piece attracted more than 25,000 visitors in three months, according to press materials.
Meow Wolf estimates that the “The House of Eternal Return” will be 10 times bigger than its predecessor with the potential to attract 100,000 visitors a year. Entry to the installation will run from $8–$15 with discounts for local families.
The complex will also include 19 artist studios, a gift shop, a traditional gallery space, and the David Loughridge Learning Center, a 2,000 square-foot workshop named after a Meow Wolf member who died suddenly last year.
While Martin will remain the sole owner of the property and will therefore be responsible for its infrastructure, Meow Wolf will operate the complex under a new business license, officially restructuring the informal, seven-year-old collective into a for-profit LLC. The group received a $25,000 boost from the Albuquerque “accelerator” Creative Startups, and is attempting to fund the complex building with a $100,000 Kickstarter campaign.