Meow Wolf has raised $17.5 million for expansion. The Santa Fe-based immersive art attraction will not only expand its location-based entertainment hubs but will also create a digital presence.
Meow Wolf, the innovative and imaginative ‘fun-house’ based in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico, is one of the most successful examples of the burgeoning ‘creative economy’.
Now the public-benefit corporation has closed $17.5 million in convertible debt. This comes from a variety of new investors, including Alsop Louie Partners, Sun Mountain Capital, and MK2, the French digital production firm MK2, alongside continued support from existing investors. George R.R. Martin, of Game of Thrones fame, is famously Meow Wolf’s landlord and an investor in the company. He also acts as a creative advisor to Meow Wolf.
The attraction has become a huge success, both with locals and visitors. According to Buzzfeed it is New Mexico’s top Instagrammed location. Since opening, over a million visitors have enjoyed Meow Wolf. The zany art installation employs more than 300 full-time and part-time “creatives.” It has 125 employee-owners, and also supports more than 60 artists by selling their work in its gift shop. Meow Wolf draws in more than $1 million per month in revenue from ticket sales and gift shop, food and beverage purchases. Events also raise revenue.
End-game is state of the art production house
“People want to see this stuff,” says Drew Tulchin, Vice President of Capital and Investments for Meow Wolf. “It’s wow.”
In an address to the Albuquerque Economic Development quarterly luncheon he says that art is not just about going to a museum. Meow Wolf is making “art about something tangible that you engage with and learn from, and that is entertaining.”
Tulchin says location-based entertainment is merely the launchpad. Meow Wolf has launched a creative studio that will start producing digital entertainment and media. The end-game is to create a production house to rival the likes of Marvel or Disney.
“We have 275,000 people who come see us regularly online,” Tulchin said when he spoke at the Albuquerque Economic Development quarterly luncheon. “We want to be able to offer them content and fun things they’re able to discover.”
The financial potential of the creative economy
The deal shines a spotlight on the largely untapped financial potential of the creative economy. Arts and culture are generally seen as an area that contributes purely to quality of life. However they also generate jobs and contribute a figure in the region of $700 billion of gross domestic product, to the economy of the US.
“This does not mean impact capital is not flowing to the creative economy,” comments Laura Callanan of Upstart CoLab. “It is just not doing so on purpose.” Callanan is on a mission to bring the potential of the creative world to impact investors. “When creative people pursue businesses that have a social purpose, they can have a catalytic impact on job creation, the economy, and social wellbeing,” she wrote last year in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Business collaboration is key
Tulchin says they attribute Meow Wolf’s growth to their collaboration with other businesses: “If we all can use the connections we have,we can have world-class stuff here.”
Lee Rand, a partner at Sun Mountain Capital which invested out of their New Mexico fund, clearly sees the potential. “Look, it’s a high flying company, with tons of press,” he says. “They’re darlings in New Mexico and have managed to attract national money.”
This is a set of individuals using creativity to drive financial value
Rand says Sun Mountain was particularly impressed at the way Meow Wolf has unlocked the potential of local creatives. “They run it like a business,” he says. “This is a set of individuals using creativity to drive financial value. They’re giving artists the infrastructure to succeed.”