For Meow Wolf CEO Vince Kadlubek, being a responsible addition to Denver and its arts community was important from the beginning. It was the reason Meow Wolf chose the location that they did, one that was surrounded by Interstate 25, Elitch Gardens, Pepsi Center, Broncos Stadium at Mile High and not much else.
“You can stand at our site and look around and you don’t see any houses (…) and so that felt better to us,” Kadlubek said during the unveiling of the Santa Fe-based arts collaborative’s corporate social responsibility plan for its new Denver venue.
But when Meow Wolf announced it was going to set up in Denver's Sun Valley neighborhood, officials immediately began hearing from people, including community organizers Zoe Williams, asking what they were going to do about the residents living in Sun Valley. It was a question Kadlubek admitted he was totally unprepared for.
“I was honest with her,” Kadlubek said. “I said, ‘I’m not sure. Can you help?'”
Right away, staff began reaching out to community organizations and nonprofits, said Danika Padilla, Meow Wolf’s director of community development. They established a 15-member community advisory committee featuring artists, local business owners, nonprofit workers, community activists and Sun Valley residents.
The first stages of Meow Wolf's Corporate Social Responsibility Plan will focus on community, artists, the environment and an inclusive economy, Padilla said. That includes a 90 percent ADA accessibility rate, priority hiring for local residents as well as women and people of color and a goal of 30 percent of its energy generated from renewable sources.
Denver artist and Meow Wolf Community Advisory Board member Javier Flores said he’s excited to see the proposal.
“There’s been so much gentrification, so much change in our community, and that’s one of the things we really focus on on the committee is keeping Meow Wolf accountable,” Flores said. “And, to their credit, they always step up to the plate.”
Included in Meow Wolf’s strategy:
- Have a 90 percent ADA accessibility rate at Meow Wolf’s Denver exhibition space
- Offer discounted admission to Colorado residents, including a daily 10 percent discount and a once a month 50 percent discounted rate; partner with Sun Valley organizations to distribute free passes on a regular basis to neighborhood residents
- Advocate for Sun Valley residents on priorities such as affordable access to daycare, after-school and summer opportunities for youth; access to healthy and culturally-relevant foods; and access to employment opportunities that provide livable wages
- Provide artists with paid opportunities as well as a living wage and leverage its relationships with other groups to create more paid opportunities for artists overall
- Showcase local art in the gift shop with a goal of featuring 100 Colorado artists by 2021
- Dedicate 40 percent of the Denver exhibit space to work by Colorado artists
- Prioritize and recruit Colorado artists from a variety of backgrounds
- Install solar panels by 2025 with a goal of 30 percent energy generated by renewable sources
- Use biodegradable or reusable serving materials
- Focus on local vendors to limit the venue’s environmental footprint
- Incentivize employees to use alternative transportation, including providing MyRide cards for RTD
- Hire 30 percent of its subcontractors from women and minority-owned businesses
- Focus on hiring locally, particularly residents from Sun Valley and surrounding neighborhoods
- Prioritize hiring women and people of color in its hiring practices
Meow Wolf will feature a 90,000 square foot art exhibition space. The venue is set to open in late 2020 and expected to bring an estimated 1.5 million visitors to the area each year.