Tragic news out of Santa Fe, as SFR has learned Meow Wolf Co-Founder and Senior Creative Director Matt King died over the weekend. He was 37.
Originally from Arlington, Texas, King was either a lead or participating artist in more than two-dozen Meow Wolf projects at least, including the popular Wiggy’s Plasma Plex video arcade and Fancy Town, also known as the live concert space, within Santa Fe’s House of Eternal Return.
A cursory glance at his bio page on the Meow Wolf website shows an impressive number of other projects from his time with the arts company.
“I would say Matt’s spirit was the energy that drove Meow Wolf, that energized us to do more than what we thought possible, and that’s from the first time we met all the way to where we are today,” former Meow Wolf CEO and King’s friend Vince Kadlubek tells SFR. “He was always pushing me and everyone around him with love and excitement—that we could do more, be better artists.”
According to Kadlubek, King was present at the first-ever Meow Wolf planning meeting in 2008 and throughout its earliest immersive installations and dance parties that took place in the shabby old warehouse on Hopewell Street, where the company began. At one point, Kadlubek reminisces, King worked three jobs to help keep the rent paid at a time when community donations were scant.
King was also pivotal in the 2016 opening of Meow Wolf’s flagship Santa Fe location, House of Eternal Return, as well as Las Vegas, Nevada’s Omega Mart and Denver’s Convergence Station. At the latter, Kadlubek says, King’s vision led to the much-ballyhooed Cathedral room, another room-sized piece dubbed Gremlin Symphony and other projects.
“Matt was driven like a pure force, and he was also willing to do any task that would allow for creative expression to happen—his own and others,” says Meow Wolf co-founder Sean Di Ianni. “He was also a true artist, and I connected with him, really, at first, as an artist, though that grew to be a super-deep friendship. There was no task too small or large for Matt if he knew it was in the service of creativity; if he wasn’t expressing something of his own vision, he was stapling a mattress to the ceiling. He was a natural and true leader who was completely authentic to himself and kind to others. It makes me grateful to have had Matt in my life.”
Others echo thoughts about King’s kindness and commitment to art, including Meow Wolfer and musician Cole Bee Wilson, who tells SFR he’ll miss how easy it was to be King’s friend.
“I met Matt at the very first Meow Wolf show, when [my band] Apple Miner Colony played,” Wilson says. “I did this whole performance art piece where I cut into a blood pack through my shirt and got fake blood everywhere, and as soon as I was done, this stranger came right up to me, wrapped his arms around me and stamped himself with my big, soggy art-ness. That was Matt King.”
A social media statement from the Meow Wolf Workers Collective union, which represents employees in Santa Fe, reads, in part: “Matt was an enormous talent. His work has inspired and will continue to inspire millions of people.”
Meow Wolf CEO Jose Tolosa said in a statement that “Thousands have been deeply touched by the artistic genius of his work, and nothing speaks to Matt’s influence more than the Meow Wolf community who is coming together in his honor.”
Still, to really get the size and scope of someone, turn to their community. All across Santa Fe social media in recent days, dozens of artists, friends, co-workers, allies and hangers-on are voicing their anguish over King’s death in a way rarely seen in our small community.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I haven’t been able to make any sort of online post, but I think that it comes down to how everybody has nailed it on the head with everything they’ve been saying about Matt being this beautiful, electric, magnificent rainbow wizard,” Wilson adds. “All of that is true. And for me? He was my buddy.”
A cause of death was not made public.
On Thursday, Meow Wolf released a public invitation for a gathering and tribute to King slated to take place at the Scottish Rite Temple on Friday, July 15 (5 pm. Free. 463 Paseo de Peralta, (505) 982-4414).
”Matt was a force of nature, a ridiculously beautiful man, a great friend, son and brother,” the invitation reads. “There will be an opportunity to leave notes, drawings, stories and burnable offerings for Matt’s altar.”
Per the statement, parking will be available at the nearby Santa Fe Community Convention Center or on the street, and black or formal attire is not required.
”Dress as your You-est you,” it reads.