The City of Houston broke ground on a new interactive arts museum on Thursday in the Fifth Ward area just northeast of downtown Houston. It's the city's latest efforts to highlight its thriving diverse communities.
Meow Wolf is a $42 million entertainment venue that will help revitalize a historic building built in 1917, located at 2117 Opelousas. It will feature multi-media art installations from local artists, art gallery spaces, restaurants and retail shops.
Houston City Council approved an ordinance on May 18, 2022 to allow for development, construction, and operation of the venue. Meow Wolf was founded in 2008 by Santa Fe, NM based artists who all shared an interest in displaying public art and working together to develop their skills. Fifth Ward will be its fifth location in the U.S. with other museums in Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Denver, and Grapevine, TX.
"The good thing about this is that the artist actually creates the installation, and [I'm] really excited about the jobs it's going to be bringing," said District B Council Member Tarsha Jackson who represents the area.
The museum is expected to bring in over 100 jobs and plans to use 32,242 square feet of a historic 115,000-square-foot warehouse with hopes of attracting more tourism for visitors and residents.
Jackson said she was instantly sold on the museum when she visited its Las Vegas location not only because of the job opportunities, but because of its focus on community involvement.
"It's community centered," she said "I'm a community organizer, I'm always about engaging the community, and this is what Meow Wolf is doing."
The “groundbreaking” wasn’t a typical one. Community leaders spray painted the Meow Wolf logo on the wall to signify the start of construction. Fifth Ward is one of Houston's designated cultural arts districts, an area that’s often overlooked for development. Mayor Sylvester Turner said the community deserves a new museum.
"This is so important because it will attract people to an area that's been underserved for a long time," he said. "It will be a catalyst for other investments that will come."
Turner said the museum is setting the tone to shed light on artists, who come from communities like Fifth Ward who might not have the same opportunities as others.
"It places a focus on the arts where there's so many of our kids all over the city who are highly talented and sometimes you can not be what you can not see," he said. "By Meow Wolf being here, it makes it available for them to see, be inspired and be encouraged."
Jose Tolosa, Meow Wolf's CEO said its purpose is to open possibilities for participants, artists, employees, and the community. He said he wants Meow to be impactful.
"Community matters to us, underrepresented artists matter to us, creating jobs matters to us, "he said.
Tolosa said once the museum is open, Meow plans to partner with community organizations and education institutions to help the Fifth Ward community and the City of Houston.
The museum is expected to open in 2024.