Even Santa Fe's homegrown arts and marketing juggernaut Meow Wolf isn't immune to closures, cancellations and the economic fallout of the statewide COVID-19 stay-at-home order.
After continuing to pay salary for many employees over the last several weeks, the Meow Wolf leadership triad of Jim Ward, Ali Rubenstein and Carl Christensen sent an email to staff this morning warning of big changes on the way.
"Given the devastating economic impact of the pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding the time of recovery, in addition to the need to properly position the company for survival and future success, the OCEO, the Founders, and Board of Directors have been forced to re-evaluate all operations and make many difficult decisions that directly affect our team…we are heartbroken. Because today we will have to part ways with a significant portion of our family through layoffs and furloughs," read the email obtained by SFR.
It went on to say that employees would be contacted via the Zoom video chat platform throughout the day in regards to their futures. With Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return installation hit by the non-essential business shutdown, plus live music and other such events being canceled throughout Santa Fe and Taos—where the company holds its massive annual Taos Vortex festival—it is no doubt feeling the revenue crunch. Numerous posts on social media have already been popping up from laid off employees.
"Today, we have notified 201 employees that their positions were eliminated, and an additional 56 that they are on furlough until further notice," reads a statement provided by Meow Wolf just after 5 pm. "However, we are maintaining nearly 200 positions to continue to move the company forward and share our art with the world through exciting and audacious exhibitions in the future."
The statement also says that laid-off employees will be provided "generous financial severance packages," along with "months of support in many ways," including help with filing for unemployment benefits.
The Santa Fe venue closed to the public on March 13, but the layoffs represent employees across all of Meow Wolf's locations, including upcoming installations in Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Washington DC. While those have yet to open, many are staffed up and well under way. In the provided statement, Meow Wolf says those locations are still "very much alive."
In New Mexico, tens of thousands have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and over 80,000 have applied for unemployment benefits in the last week according to recent numbers from the Department of Workforce Solutions.