Following years of pandemic pauses and the opening of several new locations in Colorado, Nevada and Texas, Santa Fe-born arts mega-corp Meow Wolf will once again hold court as mutants and monsters flock to the Plaza to indulge in the DJ-led dance-off known as Monster Battle. For the uninitiated, Monster Battle, which first kicked off way back in 2008, is a little bit kaiju, a little bit arts ‘n’ crafts and a whole lot of dance party. Attendees are encouraged to dress in their freakiest costumes and makeup, to get weird, to party hard. But what of those who don’t know where to start or have never assembled a DIY costume before? Attendance to Monster Battle becomes all the easier with a free costume creation event led by local costumer, burlesque veteran and circus arts performer Shannon Otto (aka Shannana Bananigans) at Meow Wolf’s new open arts space Rainbow Rainbow (2 pm Wednesday, July 19. Free. Meow Wolf, 1352 Rufina Circle, (505) 395-6369). The actual Monster Battle itself with DJs Snaggy, Spoolius and The Muse goes down on Tuesday, July 25 from 4-9 pm on the Plaza, but you’ll want to have your look before then. We spoke to Otto about what aspiring goblins can expect from her upcoming workshop. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. (Noah Hale)
You’re a costumer who has worked on a variety of different projects. How are you involved with this year’s Monster Battle?
This is my first year being involved directly with Monster Battle. We’re offering a workshop in the new community room that Meow Wolf has—it’s called Rainbow Rainbow. I don’t know if you’ve seen that, but you should. We want to allow community members and guests to come in and create things inside of that space...you can create elements for your costume or make a whole new one. We’re going to make masks, tails and maybe capes—just different elements that you can take to Monster Battle.
How has your experience prepared you for an event like this?
I’ve been doing costumes in a variety of settings, like in the burlesque scene and also in circus arts. I was a part of Wise Fool Santa Fe for years. That’s an organization that’s really close to my heart, and we would often put on shows and create costumes for acts that we were doing. And I think that building upon that type of limited resources has kind of given me this way that I can set up these little stations with recycled things or with scraps or with parts of old materials they didn’t use [in Meow Wolf exhibits]; I can use all those little things and allow people to use their own creativity to come up with something [to wear] and just kind of foster that creativity in them and help them. I’ve been a part of circus teams and burlesque teams where we’re working towards a bigger goal—where everybody helps each other. Prior to ever becoming a performance artist or a clown or a costumer, I was a social worker, and I did a lot of art therapy with kids, so I think that I’ll really be bringing some of those experiences in also.
Will people need to bring their own costume materials?
No. We are going to have so many materials. We’ll have different stations, like a mask station and a crown station. And they can use any of the materials that we have, but they are welcome to bring a costume that’s already in progress if they maybe want to embellish it or if they want some advice. They’re welcome to bring something that they’re already working on if they want to. I think we’ll also have a sewing station set up. It’s just to kind of foster that creativity in the community. Because when it comes down to it, everybody is an artist. Meow Wolf has really branched out, but their roots are in DIY, and it’s kind of nice to foster that in our community where we all have started; to stay true to our roots.