Arts & Entertainment

A first look inside Meow Wolf’s immersive exhibit opening July 14 at Grapevine Mills

‘The Real Unreal’ art exhibition includes work by more than 40 Texas artists.

A busy neon kingdom straight out of a sci-fi movie. Tim Burton-esque heads mounted across the walls. A massive 16-foot blob of sparkling colors, dripping onto the floor. These are just a few details in the immersive spaces inside Meow Wolf Grapevine.

The Arts Access team got an exclusive first look inside the new location before it opens next week. “The Real Unreal” exhibition takes place inside the home of a fictional multigenerational family and follows the story of the characters who live inside. The story’s protagonist, Jared Fuqua, takes a journey through different portals across his imagination, as his family searches to find him and bring him home.


From dark, leafy forests with tiny glowing lights to a mysterious refrigerator portal, visitors will be able to navigate through more than 30 rooms and hallways inside this seemingly ever-expanding house, which put the details of Jared’s life and mind under a psychedelic microscope.

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Will Heron of Dallas, artist liaison for Meow Wolf Grapevine, opened a refrigerator door that acts as a portal in "The Real Unreal" exhibition at Grapevine Mills on Thursday, June 29, 2023. Doors in some rooms throughout the exhibition lead participants into other spaces full of art. (Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

“Everything in our exhibit, we really want to be exploratory,” said Will Heron, the artist liaison for Meow Wolf and a contributing artist himself. “We want visitors coming in and discovering for themselves. We don’t like to say that we’re a super linear story, but rather letting people discover in different forms and fashions what is being told here in this house.”


Exploration is at the heart of Meow Wolf’s mission. The Santa Fe-based arts and entertainment company is known for reimagining visual art spaces. Their off-the-wall interactive exhibitions are meant to make art feel accessible to all.

“Meow Wolf is an opportunity for people to get lost and to discover something different, to kind of awaken their curiosities,” said Kelly Schwartz, Meow Wolf Grapevine’s general manager. “We’re an arts organization that is looking to remind people what it’s like to be creative and to remind us all that that creativity lives inside of us.”

An arcade-inspired room glows under black lights at Meow Wolf Grapevine. (Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

More than 40 Texas artists across a variety of media worked to build “The Real Unreal.” Schwartz said part of what makes the project unique is its distinct Texas flavor.

“I think that’s going to be a really cool thing for guests in the area to come and see and to know that so much of this art was created by artists working in our own communities,” she said.

Celebrated local artists like Dan Lam, Sergio Garcia and Yana Payusova each created their own artistic worlds for the exhibition.

“Kunstkamera,” by artist Yana Payusova, is one of more than 30 rooms that can be explored by guests at Meow Wolf Grapevine. (Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

Payusova, a painter and sculptor who teaches ceramics at the University of Texas at Arlington, created a room called Kunstkamera. The red-and-yellow room is a re-creation of the stores that popped up around Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Payusova designed the wallpaper in the room to act as a backdrop for the whimsical ceramic heads of presumed customers that are hung up across the walls. Her colorful, gothic style is evident in the variety of intricate ceramic pieces she created for the store, such as a pair of dentures in a jar, medicine bottles and a clever tea set labeled “normalitea, calamitea, moralitea and anxietea.”

“She has these remembrances of the kind of hodgepodge mishmash of objects they would be selling in these stores after the fall of the USSR,” Heron said.


A soundscape produced by local musicians plays in each room. Kunstkamera’s soundscape immerses visitors in the eerie hustle and bustle of crowds inside a market.

A space of color and whimsy, Yana Payusova’s "Kunstkamera" room is full of faces and objects the artist remembers seeing in stores after the fall of the USSR.(Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

Lam helped design her soundscape to match the energy of Macrodose, an almost 16-by-16-foot tower of color that is seemingly melting onto the floor. The track features liquid bubbling and dripping, creating a soothing, meditative vibe for visitors.


Macrodose is her largest sculpture to date. Like Lam’s other pieces, it was initially modeled on a much smaller scale. The piece was then 3D-scanned to create a computer rendering, which helped Lam puzzle together a larger version that was hand-sculpted, sanded and then painted.

“Macrodose” seems to melt to the floor in a room by Dallas-based artist Dan Lam at Meow Wolf Grapevine. (Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

Lam’s and Payusova’s rooms are just two of more than 30 rooms in the exhibition. Construction in several rooms is still ongoing, but Schwartz said after years of planning and building, it’s exciting to finally see the magic shine through.

“There’s a creative heartbeat inside us all, and I hope that our guests come here and are able to discover that,” she said.


Meow Wolf has locations in Santa Fe, Denver and Las Vegas, and another permanent location is set to open in Houston in 2024.

DETAILS: “The Real Unreal” opens July 14. Tickets are $50 for general admission and are on sale now.

CORRECTION, 6:45 p.m., July 5, 2023: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the name of a room is Kunstcamera. The correct name is Kunstkamera.

Arts Access is an arts journalism collaboration powered by The Dallas Morning News and KERA.


This community-funded journalism initiative is funded by the Better Together Fund, Carol & Don Glendenning, City of Dallas OAC, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Eugene McDermott Foundation, James & Gayle Halperin Foundation, Jennifer & Peter Altabef and The Meadows Foundation. The News and KERA retain full editorial control of Arts Access’ journalism.