Meow Wolf Denver’s Convergence Station features High Country artists
Kia Neill, others create part of immersive experience
Denver has a new public transportation system three years in the making. Called Convergence Station, the third permanent exhibition by arts collective Meow Wolf opened in September to let visitors explore four unique worlds in a fantastical setting. The 90,000-square-foot, four-story building houses over 70 installations that tell the tale of the Quantum Department of Transportation and a rare cosmic event where memories are currency.
The immersive experience was made by 300 artists, over 110 of which are from Colorado.
Some of those artists include Justin Gitlin, who contributed three art pieces to Breckenridge Music’s AirStage in the summer, and Kia Neill, who resides in Alma but has lived and worked in the area for roughly the past five years. Neill teaches various classes for Breckenridge Creative Arts, instructing snowboarding at ski resorts and hosting for TV8 Summit.
The multidisciplinary artist mostly combines her photography with drawing and painting. She first worked with BreckCreate as an artist in residence at the Tin Shop in 2010 while living in Texas before she moved to Denver in 2014.
Having over a decade of involvement with the arts organization, Neill keeps coming back because of the facilities and the nonprofit’s mission to help people at all different skill levels. Some might be beginning their artistic journey while others are looking to expand their skills.
“It’s a great opportunity for locals to kind of pick up more contemporary art concepts from practicing professionals around the nation, and even around the world,” Neill said. “At the same time, it’s a place where locals can just start to even incubate their own creative expressions.”
Aside from teaching, locals might recognize Neill from painting barricades for Breckenridge’s Walkable Main or adding a splash of color to Silverthorne’s storm drains. Wanting to do larger pieces is what led Neill to apply for Convergence Station.
The process started with the first application round in about October 2018, followed by a second, more detailed pitch to Meow Wolf in May 2019. Neill began installing “Melting of Mines,” the abstract, vinyl wall wrap in February 2021 and finished roughly three weeks later.
Though she hadn’t been to the flagship Meow Wolf experience in Santa Fe before applying, she knew she couldn’t pass up the chance to be a part of Convergence Station and take advantage of the location, funding and creative freedom.
“As an artist, you don’t get a whole lot of opportunities to work big in these sorts of ways,” she said.
Yet it wasn’t easy with the building being constructed from the ground up at the same time artists were crafting. Located on the fourth level of a section known as Eemia, Neill’s hallway placement meant dealing with high foot traffic. Materials used also had to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and fire codes. It was something she didn’t usually have to consider with less-permanent gallery installations
“It was definitely the most involved and challenging project I’ve ever been involved in,” she said. “I definitely learned a lot from it.”
Get there early
There’s a lot to experience at Meow Wolf’s Denver location, and tickets are broken down by time as well as date. Select the earliest option so that you don’t rush through all that there is to see. Take it slow, talk to some of the inhabitants in character and explore to your heart’s content to increase immersion.
Buy a Q Pass
A key component to Meow Wolf’s work is interacting with everything as much as possible, and this optional, $3 purchase opens a narrative world via a radio-frequency identification card. Watch videos, collect memories and read clues as you press the card to stations throughout the area. Note, terminals can be scanned multiple times after a brief cool down period if you find yourself short of your goal.
Visit the gift shop
Mugs, shirts, magnets and more can be found in the gift shop. However, some of the neatest items for sale are copies of text and other artifacts from the exhibit. Buy a book for more information on Convergence Station and take the lore home.
Some portions of Convergence Station tie into the exhibit’s larger narrative with riddles or other interactive components. However, Neill was encouraged by Meow Wolf to make her own surreal art that didn’t connect to the plot. She focused instead on local inspiration such as abandoned mines and snowy mountains. To add a bit of dimensionality, she made wooden beams that come out from the mine shaft hallway.
Neill collaged and mirrored images together to create a sort of monstrous creature, giving the wall energy, and it ended up fitting in with Eemia’s icy biome.
“I wanted to play around with the landscape as a beast,” Neill said. “It’s not just rocks and trees and stuff. It’s an actual life form, an actual animal.”
Also located in the ice world of Eemia is work by The Worst Crew, a Denver-based duo that painted a mural on the side of Outer Range Brewing Co. in Frisco last fall and vents in Vail this past summer.
Comprised of Jaime Molina and Pedro Barrios, the pair first collaborated for a New Belgium Brewing Co. mural in 2013. They have been admirers of each other’s work and were acquaintances beforehand.
“I used to live in the Vail area for a number of years, and friends I met there actually went to high school with Jaime,” Barrios said. “… I knew our styles would work for that particular project.”
Though they still have independent art jobs, most of their time is spent as The Worst Crew. That first commission snowballed and led to one after the other. Barrios usually paints the geometric, abstract backgrounds while Molina does the figures.
“It was never really an intentional choice that we were going to end up working together,” Barrios said. “It was just something that happened organically.”
Barrios enjoys the collaboration. He said it’s nice to have company since some projects can take multiple weeks or months, and the feedback is good, too.
“I often times will paint something, and maybe I’m not sure about it,” Barrios said. “And I’ll ask Jaime, and he’ll just paint right over it or vice versa, and it’s always for the best.”
They followed the same application process as Neill and ended up assigned in a hallway on the fifth floor right above her work. Called “Thought Canopy,” their piece also acts as a singular entity like Neill’s. The mural has patterns and ideas coming from the duo’s signature characters in addition to 3D relief components.
“Our colors ended up working perfectly with everything else with the room next door and the outside area kind of by chance,” Barrios said. “It’s just really a happy accident, I would say.”
Because the exhibition can be a bit of an overwhelming experience due to the stimulating sights and sounds, The Worst Crew also put a bench in the hallway. Barrios said they wanted it to be a sanctuary for people to gather their thoughts.
Convergence Station — 1338 First St., Denver — is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays. Visit MeowWolf.com for more information.
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