DENVER (CBS4)– The immersive arts experience Meow Wolf under construction near Interstate 25 and Colfax will open in 2021. Before that happens, the company wants to support local DIY spaces by offering funding for the third year in a row.
“When I first read about it, I thought this is us, this was designed for places exactly like us,” said Christopher Fogal, the owner and operator of Black In Bluhm Music. “It’s always hard to find a good place to rehearse and that’s only gotten harder over the years.”
Fogal and his business partner started their company six years ago to provide a reliable recording studio and rehearsal space for local artists. Bands and musicians could lease space monthly while having access to it 24/7. But earlier in the year they had to close off all their practice rooms as they work to renovate the building and expand into another next door. The city says they need to get up to code before they can use that space.
“We want it to be a safe place, be a legitimate space,” he said. “It’s these kind of spaces where artists can do whatever they want.”
The situation Black In Bluhm faces is not unique. Other art spaces supporting those without a steady income often are trying to maintain older work spaces that need to be up to code. After a fire at the Ghost Ship arts and music space in Oakland, CA back in 2016, Meow Wolf launched its DIY Fund the following year.
“We can use all the help we can get,” Fogal said. “Any opportunity that comes our way to try and get help, get a little bit of funding, we’re going to jump on it.”
Meow Wolf is an art collective based in Santa Fe that opened in 2008 with its unique walkable exhibitions that create alternative realms visitors can experience all around them. The company will expand to other cities over the next few years including Denver. Construction underway has started to rise above the city’s major roadways. Before they put the roof on their facility, they are hoisting and lowering some of the largest art pieces into the building, which is 90,000 square feet.
The DIY Fund has supported 30 different groups in Denver since 2017 with more than $90,000 in funding, according to Meow Wolf. The company has also donated more than $200,000 to dozens of other groups in separate funding over the past three years.
“Most of the musicians that we know are not made out of money,” Fogal said. “You need a place to be all the time.”
Fogal says the real estate market has squeezed many artists and musicians struggling not only to find a place to live but a location to rehearse. He says his business is meant to help anyone in that situation without the need to make a profit, he says breaking even is all that is necessary to keep them going.
“It’s a place for artists to grow, musicians to learn, these are the kind of places where art comes from,” he said. “There’s room to grow still but the physical spaces are limited.”
The complex they are developing is 8,000 square feet in total so they are seeking funding from multiple sources but believe the Meow Wolf program could help get them a lot closer to their goal. Fogal believes they share the same culture with the company of that Do It Yourself or DIY approach. Many local artists take on that concept by booking their own shows and tours as well as building their own studios. But he hopes his business can help local acts remain independent without the burden of such a high upfront cost for facilities.
“DIY is kind of like a work ethic that flows throughout the independent music community,” he said.
One way the company is helping its own clients cover the expense of studio time and practice space is the Black in Bluhm Project. A nonprofit that subsidizes the cost for both services based on the needs of artists who sign up for the program. Many musicians live in small apartments where they neither have the room nor the ability to rehearse because of noise restrictions.
“All this runs very parallel to the housing crisis in Denver, if there’s not affordable housing, there’s not going to be affordable practice spaces,” said Tyler Breuer, founder of Black In Bluhm Project.
As a longtime client, Breuer believed the need was there and the existing setup at that space was the perfect spot to host the nonprofit. Some of the future practice rooms will be just for those artists part of the nonprofit. Breuer says he already has a waitlist of more than 50 artists looking for financial support.
“Denver is working to help out its own people. Meow Wolf is reaching out from a far to help us out,” he said about the combination of funding from local and national groups.
He and Fogal admit the music scene is thriving locally but not everyone can enjoy that growth without the space and the services to help develop new and younger talent.
“For every bigger arena or venue that opens, it has to be met with this other alternative option,” Breuer said.
The application process for the 2019 DIY Fund is now open and runs until the end of September. Fogal and his partner are working on their application and optimistic about the potential funding they could receive from the program. A friend recommended they look into the application and they know others that have received money from Meow Wolf in Denver.
“Anything like this comes along it’s a huge opportunity for us, it’s not like people are handing you money every day,” Fogal said. “To have anyone to help is great.”
LINK: Meow Wolf DIY