In July, Meow Wolf launched The Real Unreal, a 29,000 sf exhibition in a former Bed, Bath, & Beyond, featuring 70 immersive rooms created by Meow Wolf’s 150 staff artists, 40 Texas collaborators, aiming to bring art, magic, and community to the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs.
Community-building and accessibility were pivotal to the project, driven by deep listening, community sessions and constant innovation. In just two months, over 150,000 participants pioneered new neural pathways in Texas, matching the 2.7 million visitors across all Meow Wolf locations in 2022.
The narrative–and location– begins similarly to House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, but with a different house and family, and a new boy, Jared Fuqua, vanishes into a multiverse through a portal in a bid to help his chosen family. Visitors start at Jared’s house, unraveling the mystery through art spaces that may be familiar to Meow Wolf fans–a forest, a fridge, an alley–but each reimagined with new details to discover. The Real Unreal is a deepening of Meow Wolf’s collective imagination, emphasizing diegetic storytelling with thoughtful breadcrumbs, interactive elements, and the principle of “you’ll discover as much as you seek.”
Meow Wolf has always fostered inclusivity. Recognizing the elitist nature of the traditional art world, their artists created spaces allowing awe inspiring connections regardless of identity, social position, or previous experience with art. In 2023, they unveiled several new approaches to accessibility, understanding that to be truly accessible, they had to center inclusivity.
Sound designers also worked with artists to ensure the immersive experience within the art is multi-sensory in new ways. Researching sound, they were able to identify and integrate frequencies within ranges proven to encourage meditation and reduce anxiety. This technology was utilized in multiple rooms meant to provide a space to decompress within the exhibition, creating an intentional atmosphere of calm in a sensory rich arena.
The team behind The Real Unreal approached the project with a commitment to accessibility that pushed past what’s required and created an experience that is truly inclusive to all.
For example, you may find a fridge that spills white light when opened, revealing a portal beckoning you to enter – but this time you can roll a wheelchair or scooter through it. All are welcome in “Brrrmuda.”
Maximalism is best experienced with brief palate cleansers, so zen spaces or “chill spots” have been built into the wayfinding and floor plan to prevent fatigue or feeling overwhelmed. This revision was a lesson learned as all of our 4 exhibitions underwent training to become Certified Autism Centers this year.
Over 600 staff interacting with the public completed training giving them the resources to support autistic and neurodiverse individuals. Autistic individuals are not a monolith, and making an effort to understand the different approaches to meeting their needs in such a sensory rich environment has been enlightening.
While The Real Unreal may, on the surface, appear more analog to a casual observer, the Meow Wolf tech team implemented an innovative audio and lighting program using proprietary software created in-house to geodirect sound to prevent overwhelming while enhancing the experience. The designers also worked with artists to enhance the art in multisensory ways. Researching sound frequencies, they were able to integrate frequencies within ranges that encourage meditative states and reduce anxiety for decompression spaces between sensory rich environments.
And for blind/low vision guests, Meow Wolf partnered with Aira, an app that allows guests to access live, on-demand visual descriptions for free.
We recognize that the process of creating accessible and inclusive spaces in an ongoing journey rather than a fixed destination. We are eager to continue on this path, striving to further enhance the accessibility of our spaces.