Four Kitchens

The Future of Content episode 37: The frontier of human imagination with Meow Wolf’s Vince Kadlubek

27 Min. ReadImmersive technology

The Future of Content Episode 37: Meow Wolf's Vince Kadlubek

Key ideas

  • By pushing boundaries and challenging traditional norms, Vince Kadlubek and the team at Meow Wolf have redefined what it means to create immersive storytelling experiences.
  • By engaging all the senses, Meow Wolf’s creations encourage a sense of wonder, playfulness, and imagination, reminding us of the power of embracing our childlike curiosity.
  • Vince believes the next frontier is not space, the ocean, or any other physical destination — it’s the human imagination. With the advent of technologies like AR and VR, Vince believes people of the future will use imagination to “paint” their realities much in the same way we use language to navigate the world of today.

Our guest

Vince Kadlubek’s innovative vision has propelled Meow Wolf to unprecedented heights. Recognizing the need for artistic experiences that transcend boundaries, he founded Meow Wolf in 2008, with the aim of creating immersive storytelling experiences. Vince’s leadership and artistic sensibilities have set the stage for Meow Wolf’s success by inspiring a team of talented artists and collaborators to push the boundaries of creativity

Meow Wolf’s allure lies in its ability to engage all the senses. Through vivid colors, intricate designs, and thought-provoking narratives, Vince and his team create a multidimensional experience that transports visitors into fantastical worlds

Whether it’s exploring a derelict spaceship or wandering through a surreal forest, Meow Wolf’s installations invite visitors to immerse themselves fully, allowing them to temporarily escape the constraints of reality.

The true frontier is not space. And the true frontier is not the ocean. The true frontier is the mind. And that’s where the endless possibilities exist — within the imagination.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Meow Wolf is its ability to evoke childlike wonder in adults. Vince understands that developing an adult identity can sometimes hinder the ability to embrace imagination and playfulness. Meow Wolf’s installations offer a safe space where adults can shed their inhibitions and rediscover the joy of exploration. By merging art, technology, and storytelling, Vince has created an environment that appeals to the inner child in all of us

At Meow Wolf, the line between reality and fantasy blurs, as visitors step into artistic representations of fictional worlds. Vince’s vision goes beyond mere make-believe — it involves creating a cohesive narrative and universe that visitors can explore and become a part of. The intricate attention to detail in each installation guarantees that every corner holds surprises and hidden stories, making the experience truly immersive and enchanting.

Episode transcript

Note: This transcript may contain some minor wording and formatting errors. Apologies in advance!

Todd Nienkerk: I was genuinely excited and frankly surprised when I heard that you were willing to invest some of your time in talking with us because I have been enjoying Meow Wolf since probably months after the Santa Fe location opened. I’ve been to House of the Eternal Return probably six times. Convergence Station. Let’s see if I can remember — the Unreal Real?

Vince Kadlubek: The Real Unreal

Todd Nienkerk: The Real Unreal. Okay

Vince Kadlubek: Yeah

Todd Nienkerk: Working from memory there. I live in Austin, so I’m just a, you know, relatively short drive away, so thank you for coming to Texas. We appreciate it, and looking forward to Houston as well. So I have a lot of questions, of course, about the history of Meow Wolf and your role there and how that’s evolving and all of that. Before we get into that, I’m curious how you envision Meow Wolf. Is it a brand to you? Is it an ethos? Is it a creative collective? Is it a business? Is it everything? How do you describe it to people?

Vince Kadlubek: Um, yeah, I mean, the simplest thing, you know, the simplest way to describe Meow Wolf, like where we are today, is that we’re an arts and entertainment production company that produces large-scale immersive storytelling experiences. And we do that through, you know, multimedia art forms. And we’re a benefit corporation. So we have a social impact mission behind, you know, the company. And so, like, that’s kind of where we are today, but, you know, I would honestly say that all the things that you just said are true. And ultimately, I think it’s a movement. It’s a wave. It’s like, it’s a bundle of energy that has, you know, that moved into the realm of business because that was where we could reach the most people, and that’s where we could like express that momentum and express that energy most at the greatest scale. But it’s more than just, I think, a business. I think the business is the vehicle through which the Meow Wolf energy or Meow Wolf spirit is expressed. And I don’t think that it’s the last vehicle that it’s expressed through. I think that there’s many different iterations and forms in our future

Todd Nienkerk: So, for example, Meow Wolf is also a theme park attraction. Is it safe to call it a roller coaster or an attraction?

Vince Kadlubek: No

Todd Nienkerk: What’s the word you’d use?

Vince Kadlubek: It’s not a roller coaster. It’s a dark ride

Todd Nienkerk: Dark ride, okay

Vince Kadlubek: It’s a small little dark ride in Denver, the Kaleidoscape. We went in and we looked at this dark ride and it was pretty old and shabby and we said, ‘What if we took this over and did a Meow Wolf version of an amusement park ride?’ It’s really fun. It’s artful. It’s like psychedelic. And it’s kind of a precursor, you know, narratively, to the project that we opened down the street in Denver, the Meow Wolf, you know, the Convergence Station project

Todd Nienkerk: One of the, you mentioned being a Benefits corp, a B corp. One of the things I have heard — and please correct me if I’m wrong about this — is when you choose locations, and Convergence Station is maybe the best example of this because it’s a structure you built from the ground up, whereas other locations have had some pre-existing infrastructure, right? That — when you’ve looked at certain places — and I had heard through the rumor mill that Austin was being considered for a while, but that there wasn’t a place that that you or the organization felt comfortable opening shop because of the impact that would have on the hyper-local economy and community, and possibly starting to tread on things like gentrification and the traffic that would bring and all of that. Is that indeed true, essentially? And how far can you extend that as being a B Corp if you’re going so far as to consider even where you set up shop and how that will impact the neighborhood surrounding it?

Vince Kadlubek: I mean, there’s so many choices that we can make on a weekly basis, on an annual basis, like on a day-to-day basis, that is… you know, has intention behind it, understands its impact, you know, recognizes that we aren’t, you know, that we have an impact, you know? We have an impact in the community that we enter; we have an impact on the economy; we have an impact on where our dollars go. And so there’s so many choices, you know. I think the example that you brought up is totally right on. I mean, we can’t be this location-based attraction that is hoping to bring, you know, a million people a year through the door and not think about what that does to surrounding neighborhoods, or what that does to property values, or what that does to developer interests. So when we were in Denver, we had multiple sites that we were looking at. And there were a couple sites in the RiNo district that we were interested in. But we would be standing on these sites and like looking directly across the street and neighborhoods and being like, ‘How is this going to be for them if there’s a million people and like this parking lot and this like traffic and you know, the gentrification is happening.’ It’s like happening in that district one way or the other, but we still have a choice as to whether or not we’re going to accelerate that or whether or not we’re going to be part of that story. So we found a site in Denver that really was an infill project, an infill project that didn’t have such close proximity to the neighborhoods. There are neighborhoods nearby, but then we doubled down and recommitted to those neighborhoods and kind of put together a social impact strategy that supported those neighborhoods directly. So in situations where we are making an impact, I think it’s important for us to counterbalance it — offset it — whether it’s offsetting carbon footprint or offsetting gentrification. It’s like, what can we do? Even if we — Because there’s plenty of decisions that we have to make that we just have to make as a business, but then we can offset it with other decisions. So we have a foundation that we just launched. We have a whole side of our company that’s a social impact department. So we have a lot of activity and capability supported from the board level, all the way to the employees that put our money where our mouth is

Todd Nienkerk: Yeah. Convergence Station, for those who aren’t aware, is a five- or six-story structure

Vince Kadlubek: It’s five stories

Todd Nienkerk: Five story structure built in an awkward triangle space in between three highway flyovers. And it’s the kind of space that when you walk around a city would be a total dead zone. It would be unusable space or maybe —

Vince Kadlubek: Yeah

Todd Nienkerk: — People would throw some cargo containers under there and just, you know, or maybe there’s a parking lot, but really kind of unusable. But to build this custom structure tailor-made to this experience — and it also has a live performance venue, and I think you just announced a cocktail bar — there’s a lot going on within this structure. But it has such a creative use of this space that also… is thematically aligned with what you’re doing at Convergence Station. Not only are the highways converging overhead, but it’s a space that is sort of like a space out of space, which is exactly what Convergence Station is about as a plot. How did you make something like that happen? Like, who do you talk to say, ‘I wanna use this weird plot of land that seems almost untouchable?’

Vince Kadlubek: Yeah. I mean, the unsung heroes here are, you know, is this group called Revesco, and Revesco is the landlord. They’re the ones who built the building. They’re the ones who took a gigantic risk on this project. All we had was Santa Fe. All we had was the House of Eternal Return. And we’re going around Denver looking for sites, and Revesco comes forward and says, ‘We own this property over here.’ You know, they were using it as an HR office for the amusement park, for the Elitch Gardens amusement park that they owned

Todd Nienkerk: Ah

Vince Kadlubek: And so it’s on a big stretch of land that they own along the river. And they said, you know, we’re not going to use this for anything else. We could, you know, build a building here. And so we did some early drawings, and an architect that they’re working with came back with some incredible drawings. Five-story building that fit perfectly in this triangular shape that towered over the top of the highways. And it was like, ‘All right, well, if they’re willing to do this and they’re capable of doing this, then that’s the site that we’re gonna go with.’ Cause it was just like, it’s an art piece in and of itself. And there’s so many sort of deeper values that resonated with us. And so once we kind of knew that’s where we were going, or we started asking the same questions that you had, you know, like, what does it mean for all these roads to be converging? And just down the street, you have, you know, the convergence of two rivers. And so there’s all this convergence happening. And, and so we kind of took that into our creative process and, and use that as the, you know, as the influence for the story and for the, the experience — right down to like, you know, the transit station and kind of the significance of transit there and the history of that site and the neighborhood that’s right down the street, Sun Valley, has a prominent role in our narrative and in our creative development. So yeah, we really kind of took the site and used that as the first influence for how the project was going to evolve

Todd Nienkerk: I’d like to take a step back, because it occurs to me that as somebody who’s really familiar with Meow Wolf, I just want to dive into all the nuts and bolts of how this works. But to explain briefly to people what Meow Wolf is, I guess, let’s think about House of Eternal Return — the original. Without trying to spoil anything, the experience that I had years ago… You line up at a door, there’s a strange video that plays that sort of tells you what’s going to happen, and sort of doesn’t. And you walk into this sort of black box theater-type space — at least that’s what it feels like at first — but there’s a full two-story house inside. And it feels like you’re on a dark street and there’s a mailbox and like, here’s this house and you walk inside and there are other people kind of milling around the house and then you see somebody open the fridge and they walk inside. And that moment — that specific moment — and then doing it, and then walking around the whole experience, then coming back to that point and watching other people do it for the first time, that moment of discovery and pure wonder — that like this isn’t what it seems that everything around me could be something else that there are other things happening. How do you capture that? What’s the creative process used to evoke those moments of real wonder almost like it’s like a childlike feeling right of ‘This world is not what I thought it was and what else is there to be unlocked.’

Vince Kadlubek: Well, we have a lot of like adult characteristics and adult programming that is purposely, you know — We’ve purposely evolved into having these things in order to protect ourselves, in order to feel safe, in order to feel structured and predictable, and to, you know, to kind of create environments around us that are understandable. And all of those adult characteristics, you know, stem from the development of an identity, which itself, like, all right, our identities are these systems of understanding, and systems of knowing, and systems of safety, and systems of predictability. And they all are — all of those things get in the way of childlike wonder. They all get in the way of exploration and discovery. They all get in the way of awe. They get in the way of that sensation that the world is possible. Or the sensation that the unknown is exciting. And so we ask like, ‘What’s our creative process?’ Well, it’s really important to dissolve — a lot of those developed characteristics. It’s important to dissolve the identity that we’ve created and fall and allow ourselves to enter into a childlike space ourself. And so that’s at the core of Meow Wolf. It’s the artistic process. It’s what a lot of artists do, which is fighting against, you know, kind of like resisting against the predictable. And attempting courageously to enter into an unknown space and achieve the unpredictable, achieve the unknown. And somehow we’ve been able to do that. Somehow we’ve been able to manage this “attempting at the unprecedented” while also, you know, being able to make our investors feel comfortable and making general contractors and city permitting feel comfortable. So it’s this — it’s this balance, you know, between both of those things, because it’s, you know, it’s — And I think that that’s the impossibility of Meow Wolf, really, is that we have been so unpredictable and so beyond precedent. But somehow we have made it comfortable enough for people to come and visit. For it to get built at all, you know, that’s like that balance. So, yeah, I mean, we’ve been working against our own identities. as individuals for quite a while, you know,

Todd Nienkerk: And this sort of helps unlock that or unblock that, I guess. Discovery plays a really huge role in the Meow Wolf experiences. Everything —

Vince Kadlubek: Yeah

Todd Nienkerk: — from finding a room that you walked past a dozen times or meeting up with somebody and you’re looking through photos or they say something like, Oh, did you see this or did you see that? And then you have to go find it again. Or opening a drawer and reading a letter that contributes to a larger narrative. Obviously, this is intentional, but —

Vince Kadlubek: Oh yeah

Todd Nienkerk: — how much of this do you feel is reliant on that sense of discovery?

Vince Kadlubek: It’s so much, I mean, it’s all about, it’s all about exploration and discovery. Like the entire experience design is centered around exploration and discovery. But the thing that people have a hard time with — the thing that a lot of creators have a hard time with, or operators or IP holders or lawyers or financial people or contractors — is that in order to really activate exploration and discovery, you have to create a context of the unknown, a known context. If you create a known world, a known context, a known operating model, a known sensibility, then that knownness, there’s no reason to explore and discover in a context that’s already known. So you have to create a context that is unknown. And that part is really hard to do. You know, we — not to say that even Meow Wolf right now — it’s like we’ve already done this now three times, and we’re about to open a fourth exhibit. We need to be careful not to just do something that people already know. Because then the exploration and discovery is mitigated, and is lost. And so it’s kind of constantly stepping out of who you have been and stepping out of what you know as a way to do things and moving into a space of unpredictability so that exploration and discovery can be present

Todd Nienkerk: I’m a big fan of immersive experiences in general. And I’ve done things like the Disney Star Cruiser, or I love the idea of theme restaurants where there’s some kind of a backstory or an attitude that everybody has and everybody commits to it. But what strikes me as very distinct about the type of immersion found in Meow Wolf is that it’s rooted in art. Whereas something like Disney World is rooted in IP and narratives you know and are comfortable with, and you get to sort of live a predefined story. How is it that and how and when did you make that connection between immersion and art as opposed to immersion and, I don’t know, like a known theme?

Vince Kadlubek: I mean, honestly, it came out of like — I mean, we’re all artists. And so when we started the collective in 2008, you know, long before we started the business, we wanted to create art together. And so we’re coming at it from a perspective of like, ‘We don’t even really know what theming is. We don’t really even care about theming.’ That’s not a term that we even had in our brains. What we cared about was creating art. And we started to then, we watched as a couple of our founders worked on the first exhibition back in 2008, and how they just filled every square inch, and how they created little zones. And those zones started to have themes to them. But it was like, it was art, you know, it was an artistic representation of a theme. And so we just kind of rolled with that, you know? And we got more and more literal with our theming, but we still made sure that it was art — it was an artistic representation of a theme rather than the theme itself. You know, we’re not trying to make people, it’s not, it’s like for us, it’s not make-believe. You know, this is when you step into Convergence Station. It’s not like you’re in a make-believe world. You’re in an artistic representation, which is a very real fictional world. And so, you know, oftentimes one of our founders and creative directors, Katie Kennedy, will say like, ‘We’re not trying to trick people into thinking that that’s a tree. We’re just, we’re making a sculpture that is a representation of a tree. And we’re like, it’s an honest thing, you know? Whereas in Disneyland, it’s like, they’re trying to make you believe that it’s something

Todd Nienkerk: Yes, they’re trying to make you feel like you are actually in a place and that place needs to be either photographically realistic or artistically realistic to the point that it exactly resembles the source material

Vince Kadlubek: Exactly. Yeah. And for us, it’s like, we would rather like, you know, somebody sends back a concept drawing of something that’s like, ‘Okay, here’s your, you know, here’s the tree from your numina planet.’ We would be like, ‘Okay, make it weirder. Like make it look less like it’s supposed to look, you know, do something, do something un- unpredictable with this, like step into the unknown of the artistic process and do something that’s that is unpredictable because that’s you know way more interesting to us and we think that that’s way more interesting to like the people coming through the doors.’

Todd Nienkerk: What are some of your other guidelines for creating engaging immersive experiences? One of them here is obviously don’t try to simulate reality or simulate a known thing, but embrace the strangeness of it. Make it, if it’s supposed to look not real, make it look not real. What are some of your other guidelines for doing this and achieving this?

Vince Kadlubek: Yeah, I mean, just the basic thing of like, you know, unpredictably, unpredictable dimensions, unpredictable layouts, like people are so used to building with 4×8. So you have 4×8, 4×8, different multipliers of 4x8s. And it’s like, let’s do 2.5×3.7 as a dimension that we’re going to work with. Or people are used to right angles. Let’s not use right angles at like — let’s try not to use right angles. And so there’s things like that. You know, there’s also going from a small space into a big space, back into a small space, back into a big space. This idea, this feeling of, you know, emerging out of is really powerful. You know, I think we also care a lot about the idea of making something accessible. I’m talking a lot about the unknown on this, on this podcast here. But honestly, the familiar is very important to what we do, you know? And the familiar is very important to art. If you don’t have familiar — if you don’t have some aspect of familiar, then it’s really hard to engage with the work. So we kind of take that to the extreme, and we provide a familiar landscape that then gets subverted in an artistic way that then opens people up, you know, to the unprecedented. Yeah, so these are some of the design qualities that I think you can pinpoint out of Meow Wolf

Todd Nienkerk: Humor, too, is such a core part of the experience. I mean, the most obvious examples, I suppose, would be the products sold at Omega Mart. The parody, it’s a satire of grocery store, convenience store. But also the writing, and the ways in which you talked about sort of subverting expectations, like humor is — a lot of humor is derived from doing exactly that you expect one thing and you get another. And that there’s something about the combination of art for the sake of doing art, and making things be different for the sake of them being different, and playing with people’s expectations and being funny about it that leads to I guess is the word for that whimsy because there’s a lot of that too, right?

Vince Kadlubek: Yeah, I think whimsical is good is a keyword for us. You know, and also, the humor is always sort of best when it’s used as commentary. And same with art, to be honest. I mean, it isn’t just art for art’s sake or humor for humor’s sake. It’s most effective when there’s like a truth beneath it that you’re revealing. You’re revealing through the art or you’re revealing through the jokes, through the writing. And so, you know, that’s where it then starts to be almost like an inside joke. It’s like we’re telling a joke and you can kind of tell the joke that we’re telling right now because you, cause you experienced it too, cause you feel it too. And that’s why Omega Mart works so well. Cause, the entire joke is the obsession of consumerism. The obsession of, you know, productization and how ridiculous it is and how ridiculous, you know, the marketing and the branding campaigns are for products. And so our humor is really a commentary on that. Um, and that’s why I think it resonates for people

[ad break]

Todd Nienkerk: There’s obviously a strong storytelling element. And there are — In the two installations that I’ve experienced, there are levels of storytelling that you get to sort of choose how deep you want to go and how complete you want to make that narrative. But it got me thinking about how narrative and meaning is constructed. And one of the things that I come across a lot in just my daily work of running an agency is the idea of where people sort of create narratives. When you lead a team, there’s a practical level of needing to supply enough information to have people understand and to not use their imagination to create narratives or situations that don’t really exist. Because when there’s a gap in knowledge, the imagination will fill that space. So there’s a sort of a practical need to do this, but it’s something that I’ve always really been fascinated by is who is really creating the narrative? Is it the storyteller, or is it the audience? Because there’s — We’re so good. It’s like improv comedy, right? They aren’t really creating a narrative, not really. It’s the audience that finds things and creates connections where connections really do not exist. But somehow they feel really satisfying in that moment because there is such a human need to create narrative and create meaning out of potentially disparate points and facts and bits. What is your perspective on storytelling when you think of these multilayered, sometimes open-ended aspects of the stories that exist in these spaces?

Vince Kadlubek: Yeah. Immersive experiences are best when they are mimicking — when they’re able to capture the way that things already are, like the way that reality already is. And the truth about our everyday reality, like our everyday nonfictional reality, is that there’s so many story threads. There’s endless story threads. And we choose which ones we want to put our energy towards. And not only that, but we then influence that story by our perception, by our actions, by our choices; by our interpretations, we then impact that. And so this is just how things are — how storytelling already works, you know? Not every — our lives are not driven by these like major, this like single thread major plot point thing. We do experience a pretty major thread-like experience in our lives. Like when we look back, we can say like, ‘I went to this college, and I got this degree, and I got this job, and I met this person, and I had this baby, and then I had this, you know, then my mom passed away’ or whatever. We can string together this thread, but —

Todd Nienkerk: It seems inevitable, but —

Vince Kadlubek: — Really, it’s just us constructing it. You know, and I think that we have the freedom to construct that. So I think as experienced designers, we also want our participants who are coming through our doors to be able to construct freely, however they choose to construct the narrative. But in reality, if you dig deep, there is connection points. You know, it’s not like you go down a rabbit hole. In reality, you get to a dead end and you realize, ‘Oh, this isn’t actually connected.’ Like most of the time it actually is connected, you know, and so I think that that’s a challenge for us too. We don’t just put out loose ends. There is a connection. There actually is a connection if you look, you know, but we don’t force you to look. It’s not imperative that you follow a certain track or a certain thread. You know, so we’re still figuring this out, too, by the way. You know, it’s not like there’s a playbook on this. You know, we’re trying to do something pretty ambitious and unprecedented with our storytelling. And I think the experience that the guests are having, that the participants have inside of our exhibitions is parallel with the experience that we’re having as artists. We’re also discovering the story. And we’re also learning what is an actual thread that leads to a meaningful payoff versus what’s just kind of a random rabbit hole. Those are things that we’re discovering. We oftentimes say that we’re not the architect or we’re not only the architect. We’re also the archeologist. At Meow Wolf, the artists and the writers — we’re half-architect, half-archeologist. We’re discovering this stuff, too

Todd Nienkerk: There have been, maybe it’s just one or two instances, but there have been times when certain aspects of an installation have been closed or reworked. And is that part of that process? Is it driven primarily by the idea of being an architect and an archaeologist and realizing, ‘Well, there’s actually maybe an opportunity to do something differently here’ or to add to this experience, or maybe the thing that you had there is actually confusing the experience, or maybe isn’t as effective as you hoped it would be. Is that what drives that? Or is there a more pragmatic reason for it? Like the licensing agreement expired and you can’t use that artist’s work anymore or something like that?

Vince Kadlubek: I mean, lots of time — most of the time — it’s that we’re inspired by other work that we see. And, you know, that drives a lot of it. It’s like, you know, and the space is asking for it. You know, we’ll walk through the House of Eternal Return, and it’s almost like the project is telling you, ‘This room needs to be something different.’ You know? Not dissimilar to an artistic process one might go through on any sculpture of like looking at it and being like, ‘That’s not actually right. I think it needs to be more like this. Like it’s telling me that it needs to be more like this.’

Todd Nienkerk: Yeah

Vince Kadlubek: You know, and so I think that ends up being primarily what we’re driven by. But that’s starting to change. I think we’re always evolving. So I think that we’re now starting to think about how changing out certain rooms is part of a narrative, part of a narrative trajectory that we are uncovering. This multiverse that Meow Wolf is exploring is vast, and we know it’s connected, and we know that there’s something really important happening in this multiverse. But we’re just chiseling away at the artifacts to understand exactly what’s going on, you know, with these characters and with these people and these environments

Todd Nienkerk: What do you think is on the horizon for immersive experiences? And that maybe starts to get into the world of AR and VR and mixed reality and things like that. But maybe not specifically the digital aspect of immersion, but just physical immersion — people interacting with spaces and senses and things like that. Where do you feel this is headed broadly?

Vince Kadlubek: You know, I think we’ll have an entire generation of people — you know, Gen Z and Alpha Gen — who become the predominant money spenders in this world. And their orientation to their lives and to the experiences that they wanna live, it’s gonna be towards the blurring of fact and fiction. I think to us, you know, Gen Xers and millennials, you know, we grew up in a time when nonfiction and fiction, or what was real and what’s not real, was very clear. And this dissolution, for us, is very scary. And, you know, but for somebody who’s a kid right now, by the time they’re an adult, they’re gonna have lived through an entire era of humanity where what’s real and what’s not real is very subjective and hard to determine. And they’re gonna find comfort in that. And they’re gonna find like, that’s gonna be their zone. That’s gonna be their world. And so I think that they’re then gonna expect to be in highly quote-unquote ‘fictionalized spaces.’ So, to me, it’s almost like it’s gonna become a necessity for almost any business, any location-based business to consider how they are attracting these younger generations

Todd Nienkerk: The type of location-based business that immediately came to mind for me is stuff like, I think it’s called the Ice Cream Museum. It’s social media-driven, you know, Instagrammable scenes and props and rooms and things like that. What are your thoughts on spaces like that as they relate to immersion? Do you feel like there’s sort of a self-indulgent performative component to that? Or do you see them as simply being immersive and physical and interactable in this very similar way to something like Meow Wolf?

Vince Kadlubek: I mean, I think that I’m a fan of pretty much all artistic expressions, you know? Like I don’t have a judgment against certain artistic expressions or others. And I think that when it comes to immersive art and providing experiences for people that they’ve never seen before and opening people’s minds to how interiors, you know, how the sub-realities that we create are, you know, can be vast, it can be diverse, quite diverse. It can be driven by art, you know? I don’t know. I, I’m in all support of, full support of Museum of Ice Cream and Otherworld, and all of the immersive experiences that have popped up. I think there should be accessible, fantastical, whimsical, beautiful art in every town, and multiple opportunities for it in every town, you know? So I oftentimes say, at one point in human evolution, spoken language was incredibly rare — like go all the way back to Neanderthal days. And spoken language was a very rare thing. It would happen, but we had no idea how much spoken language was gonna take over our experience of reality. And I think that we’re in a similar place with regards to the imagination, where like right now, the imagination, and the expression of the imagination, and the experience of the imagination is a small little fraction compared to how it’s gonna be, you know, in the next 500 years. You know, we’re going to be fully engrossed in the imagination all the time. And so I think that these, any instance of the expression or experience of the imagination, in my opinion, is a positive for the human trajectory

Todd Nienkerk: The idea of being fully immersed in imagination, say, all the time, why not all the time, to the degree that we are fully immersed in language and communication right now, how do you see technology playing a role in that? I guess specifically things like AR, VR, mixed reality, and artificial intelligence

Vince Kadlubek: I mean, if you, you know, we all saw the announcement for the Apple headset. So we know that AR headsets are right around the corner. They’ll go from headsets to glasses. They’ll go from glasses to contact lenses. Um, we’re going to be able to paint our reality with high-fidelity digital content and combine that with AI and creation tools. It’s not just Mark Zuckerberg putting us into horizon worlds and telling us, you know — putting us into his version of what the imagination is, which kind of sucks. It’s actually us as individuals getting to create the reality around us, you know? And you know, you can take it farther than contact lenses. I mean, I think that the truly vast — You know, to me, the true frontier is not space, and the true frontier is not the ocean. The true frontier is the mind. And that’s where the endless possibilities exist is within the imagination. And cracking that is, you know, is what we’ve been doing since the beginning of time. We’ve been consistently evolving as organisms and as life towards being able to utilize the capabilities of the brain. And that trajectory is going to keep going, you know

Todd Nienkerk: I can’t think of a better way to end the conversation than that. It’s sublime and deeply intriguing, and, I’m glad that we are talking right on the heels of the announcement of the Apple Vision OS and all of that, because that is absolutely one of those technologies that I feel like we’ve been kind of waiting for — something that does seem to do all of the things that a lot of technologies have promised for years and years, and its impact on how we decide to, as you put it, paint our reality is pretty profound. So thank you. Thank you for your time. Is there anything that you’d like listeners to know or any projects that you have on the horizon that you’d like to make sure people are aware of?

Vince Kadlubek: We’re opening in Dallas in July. That’s gonna be our fourth exhibition. So if you’re in the Dallas area, that would be definitely a good stop. It’s right near the airport. It’s like 10 minutes from the airport, five minutes from the airport — from DFW. So definitely that. And then also just — I don’t know if it’s been fully grasped yet, just how monumental the Meow Wolf Denver project is on a global scale. The Meow Wolf Denver project is something that is truly unprecedented and you have to see to believe. And so, if you — Denver’s not a place that people tend to like to go to, but it’s like Meow Wolf Denver is a reason to go to Denver

Todd Nienkerk: I fully agree with that. I’ve been there twice and I spent a full day — I mean, from opening ticket until close, exploring and re-exploring Convergence Station, and it is just endless. It’s an incredible experience. And I will be there the day after Grapevine opens. Just missed opening day. But I’m super excited to see what you and your team have come up with. And also —

Vince Kadlubek: Thank you

Todd Nienkerk: — you’ve collaborated with Walkabout Mini Golf to create some VR-based mini golf levels, correct?

Vince Kadlubek: Yeah, yeah, we’re doing an 18-hole VR mini golf course with Walkabout. And if you haven’t played Walkabout mini golf, it is a brilliant —

Todd Nienkerk: It’s incredible

Vince Kadlubek: — VR experience, social, like really pleasant. And so yeah, it’s actually a creative collaboration that we’re really psyched about

Todd Nienkerk: That’s super cool

Vince Kadlubek: That should be coming out sometime in the fall, I think.