AOA, a leading immersive experience design, production, and project management company, is celebrating Meow Wolf’s latest project, Omega Mart at the AREA15 immersive entertainment and events complex, which opened in February 2021.
For this experience, AOA provided support in project management, design, and installation. Omega Mart is a 25,000 square foot celebration of surrealist art, transforming a grocery store into a psychedelic interactive art experience as guests discover hidden portals.
Meow Wolf continues to innovate
“We’ve been working with Meow Wolf for just over two years to assist them in delivering their Las Vegas venue,” says Mike Ostendorf, Co-founder and CEO at AOA. “AOA is proud to have partnered with Meow Wolf from concept to completion on this project, along with some other new projects they have in the works.”
In spite of the challenges presented by the past year, the Meow Wolf team has worked hard to make the project a reality, under the leadership of co-CEOs Ali Rubinstein, Carl Christensen, and Jim Ward.
Art Zargaryan, Project Director, speaks about how the teams worked together closely, following an early “summit walk” where all participants walked through the space and committed to teamwork and real-time collaboration:
Collaboration is key
David Kucinski, Senior Production Designer, praises the team atmosphere, saying: “everyone wanted to see it come together. Every electrician, carpenter, and carver were among the best tradesmen I’ve ever worked with. No one ever said ‘no, we can’t, no way.’”
Production Designer Alexandra Campbell also notes the crucial role the team played in bridging the gap between the general contractors and the artists and creative minds at Meow Wolf. “Understanding the end goal in the minds of the artists was just as important as knowing how to actually build it,” she says.
Rachel Blake, Show Set Design Lead, worked with AOA’s show set team to develop creative designs, incorporating not only the multi-dimensional art exhibits but also the technical components.
“The Meow Wolf artists have some insane ideas, so it’s fun to help them try to figure out how to bring them to life,” she says. “We are helping Meow Wolf design and build something that’s never been done before. It’s by far the most unique thing I’ve worked on.”
Travel restrictions during COVID made the project more challenging and meant the team needed to come up with innovative solutions. For instance, Omega Mart features an art installation called Juke Temple by Carey Thompson and Brian Pinkham, where a room is filled with otherworldly mechanical shapes, each made up of multiple layers of materials and LED lights.
As Thompson was unable to travel to the site, a controllable webcam was set up so that he could work with Pinkham, Kucinski and the rest of the team on the installation and programming, a task which took eight to ten hours per day, for six days.
Adam Lentz, Associate Project Manager, relocated to Las Vegas to wrap up the project. “Meow Wolf pushes the creative limits to produce an experience unlike any other,” he says. “Being a part of the team that brought those ideas to life was special.
“The artists of Meow Wolf have a way of approaching things that was unlike anything I’d ever seen. While that provides the opportunity to create things that have never been done before, it is also quite challenging from a construction standpoint. I think AOA learned a lot from these artists and, on that same token, the artists learned some things from AOA as well.”
Speaking about overcoming challenges and introducing creative solutions during COVID, Steve DeMichele, Senior Superintendent, says “We had to come together as a team and find the best way to keep pushing the job forward to meet our production schedules. We worked a lot of extra hours to make up for any hold-up on materials or manpower.”
For the AOA team, this was certainly a project to remember. “This place is so hard to describe. When you’re in it, you can feel the labour of love,” says Campbell.
“As AOA continues to build new experiences with Meow Wolf and expand this imaginative brand into the future, we also look forward to continuing to build our great working relationship,” concludes Ostendorf. Much of AOA’s Omega Mart team has now shifted to continue work on Meow Wolf’s upcoming project in Denver.