Your Quarter’s Worth Sneak Peek at Meow Wolf Convergence Station
With Artists Andrea Thurber and Elsa Carenbauer
The wait is almost over!
Next Friday, September 17th, Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station will open the doors to it’s latest and largest installation to the public.
Whether you’ve visited one of Meow Wolf‘s immersive art experiences or are one of the uninitiated, 5280 Geek has a treat for you!
Your friendly neighborhood Wanderer recently had an opportunity to chop it with some of the artists involved in the creation of Convergence Station, and we’re stoked to share the exclusive inside scoop.
We are privileged to be joined today by Andrea Thurber and Elsa Carenbauer, of the Denver artist collective The Church of Many. These hyper-talented young women designed and built a room within the new mega-installation.
Quarters Worth: What are you allowed to tell the 5280 Geeks about Meow Wolf Denver?
Elsa Carenbauer: It’s a really amazing experience. The location is named “Convergence Station” and there is a new storyline to follow–If you’ve been to the other MW locations, they each have a narrative that flows through the exhibits. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure to navigate the building. You can follow the story or just enjoy the art at your own pace.
Over 100 Colorado artists were selected to contribute to the installations.
QW: What are you not allowed to tell us, but are going to anyway?
EC: There are some callbacks to both the Santa Fe and Las Vegas Meow Wolf locations hidden throughout the exhibits. You’ll have to go to all 3 to make sure you get the full experience!
Andrea Thurber: Our room is on the third floor.
QW: How’d you end up involved in creating Convergence Station?
AT: The application was on a whim. My sister sent me a call for artists she had seen on the news.
I love making big, weird projects out of unconventional materials–created a knitted lightning storm that you would walk through, competed in Paper Fashion Show twice.
It was a two round application process with over 1,000 applicants. I definitely cried when we got the acceptance letter.
QW: What is The Church of Many?
AT: We’ve been constructing the bones of a feminist art collective for years, working in small collaborations focusing on social justice and women’s rights. It’s a weird dream, but I’ve always wanted to start a church that genuinely served the community and was focused on positivity and kindness rather than othering and exclusivity.
Emily, Anna, and I had done a couple of screen printing projects, the first focused on the relationship between Donald Trump and the Malleus Malificarum, an anti-woman treatise that served as an unofficial guidebook on how to detect and destroy witches. It will be fun to see what this project becomes in the future.
EC: Official members are Andrea Thurber, myself, Anna Goss, Emily Merlin, and Maddi Waneka. You can check out the @the_church_of_many insta account to get our individual info.
We were #blessed to have had a lot of help from volunteers in the build, and I’m endlessly thankful for the extra help.
QW: What did The Church of Many design and build for the project?
EC: The entire installation was built by hand by the COM team and volunteers–aside from some TVs and fabricated gold frames–with a lot of help and guidance from the team at Meow Wolf.
Our room is the inside of a brain filled with nostalgic fabrics, craft techniques, synapses, and glitched home video. There are elements for most of the senses–a custom soundtrack was created by Reed Fox and Ben Weirich of deCollage media, fabric sculptures padded with foam, TV static wall sculptures that can be grabbed and rubbed.
The room is mostly pink and the synapses contain LED lights that change colors. I suppose you could smell your fellow explorers and lick them if you want to include the last two senses.
I am glad to say that even with all of the elements in the room, it’s not too overwhelming and is a very relaxing and calming place to hang out.
AT: Due to fire code restrictions, Elsa and I worked pretty closely with the Meow Wolf team to redesign found objects to build from the ground up. 85% of the project had to be constructed with Class A fire materials, so we had to figure out how to make carpets, a sofa, and tvs with materials we had never used before.
In addition to reconstructing everyday objects, we also had to navigate abstract ones too–how do we bring this concept to life? The installation is meant to be experienced with the senses, so the brain material is soft and squishy.
Some of the materials we worked with: over 30,000 fabric strips from 50 yards of fabric, over 1500 cd pieces, more than 864 feet of wood, 450 individually addressed led lights, 288 feet of acoustic foam, 240 feet of aluminum dryer duct, 114 steel pipes & fittings, 125 pounds of Class A fire-rated sculpting epoxy, 75 yards of pink fabric, 45+ home movies, and 100+ old photographs.
QW: How long did your room take to finish, beginning to completion and approximately how many labor hours?
EC: I can’t and don’t want to begin to estimate the hours we put into this. . .
AT: I put together the RFQ in July 2019, so it’s been 3 years from start to finish. With five team members, two contracted seamstresses, and eleven volunteers we logged over 8,000 hours from beginning to end.
I was still editing video until late June. We finished up the paperwork and tech walkthrough in July and we’re finally wrapped up!
QW: How do you feel now that you’re done?
AT: It’s surreal to have gotten to create art on such a large scale. I don’t know if there’s any bigger achievement for an artist than to get to share what you love with millions of people.
The positive response has been overwhelming and a wonderful. I am so proud of the work we created. . .and a little sad that it’s over, but mostly very excited for the world to get to enjoy what we made.
EC: It’s really a special project to have been a part of, and I’m very happy to be able to sit back and enjoy what’s come of years of hard work. And very grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute.
QW: The Church of Many is an all female collaboration. How important was this to you?
AT: The art world and the design world are still largely dominated by men. Some statistics say that 70% of design students are female, but only 25% of leadership roles in the industry are filled with women. So much time is dedicated to dealing with having your art taken seriously as a woman- it still feels like there’s a glass ceiling.
In terms of the collective, most major religions were created by men, for men, so the idea of creating an ideology from the perspective of a woman feels pretty radical.
QW: Meow Wolf frequently discusses how important diversity is in its vision for Denver. How did you see that come alive on the inside?
EC: It’s definitely a melting pot. I can say without a doubt that is why the art is so compelling.
There are so many voices contributing to this project. A lot of stories will be getting exposure in a huge way. The contributing artists and management team are from all walks of life. It was such a blessing getting to work with the experienced Meow Wolf team and a talented internal team.
AT: It was a very amazing experience to get to work with such a talented group of collaborating artists and the Meow Wolf staff. Everyone brings such a unique perspective to the table, there are a lot of powerful pieces in that building.
QW: What’s next for you?
AT: I’ll definitely be exploring textiles on a larger scale and finding new ways to keep making weird stuff. I love experiential design and I’m hoping to continue to grow in that industry
EC: Hopefully more art projects! Working on this project reinvigorated my love of creating physical things. I’ll still be doing graphic design as well.
QW: What other ways can the 5280 Geeks support you and the work you’re doing?
EC: Go check out all the amazing work at Convergence Station and tell everyone to take photos of themselves in our room and tag @the_church_of_many!
QW: Is there anything else we haven’t asked that you’d like to communicate?
You can find us on instagram at: @the_church_of_many
QW: One final question for Elsa. Your glasswork is on IG. So dope! How do we cop a piece?
EC: Thank you! I take an occasional commission but with my daily workload, it’s slow going. The best way to keep up with the newest work is via my Instagram page.
QW: Thank you both for your time and insights.
There you have it, Geeks. Be sure to check out The Church of Many’s “brain room” at Convergence Station. And thanks once again to Andrea Thurber and Elsa Carenbauer for joining us. We’re all anxiously awaiting our turn to visit!
Convergence Station is located at 1338 1st St. in Denver, Colorado. Tickets are selling out fast! $35 for Colorado resident adults and $30 for their kiddos or $45 and $40 respectively for out-of-state guests.
And from our previous visit to Meow Wolf’s original location, House of Eternal Return, a visit to Meow Wolf is worth every penny and then some. See you there!
Interview by The Wanderer.
Edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk.