“Maybe it’ll be a two-week quarantine, and then we realize it’s a month and longer and longer,” said Susan Garbett, general manager of the House of Eternal Return. “We’ve been having discussions about reopening since March last year.”
The art collective now has a light at the end of the tunnel. They’re preparing to reopen on March 19 with plenty of COVID-safe additions to go along with it. “We’re obviously going to have mandatory face masks for all of our visitors and staff. We’re going to be doing temperature checks upon entry,” said Garbett. “We are encouraging social distancing within the exhibit and with our staff. We’ve kind of reconfigured our retail shop to allow more space for social distancing. Same with our cafe.”
They’ve also upgraded the ventilation system with UV light and added more cleaning staff to keep high-touch areas disinfected every 10 minutes. However, this year, they’re also making changes to the exhibits, themselves, to make them COVID-safe.
“We have kind of looked at everything in a new light,” said Garbett. “The modifications that we’ve made have been thoughtful. We haven’t removed too much and what we have altered, we’re really just doing out of concern for our visitors and staff.”
They’ve replaced palm-reading door openers with “elbow scanners.” As for researching the House of Eternal Return’s story clues, that will all be done through your smartphone, replacing newspapers and books with QR codes.
“We wanted to still make it a fun interactive thing so we put a cover on the handprint and we wrote ‘elbow scanner’ and you bump your elbow on the pad and the doors open,” said Garbett. “We’ve kind of done these crime scene outlines of papers and put QR codes so people can scan the QR codes with their phone and they’ll be able to access all that digital narrative content from their phones. It’s been really fun working with our creative team to look at ways that we can still make the exhibit special and interesting and interactive, but kind of removing some of those touch elements.”
Still, some popular features remain closed. One of those is the laundry room portal, which would be hard to keep sanitized. “You would slide down this blue tube and end up in a fun room of dirty laundry and socks that was glowy and hang out in there. That’s a space that we just don’t feel confident that we could maintain during this time,” said Garbett. “That area is blocked off. You can still do a fun photo op with it, but no one’s going to be crawling into the dryer tunnel for a while.”
Still, after a rough year for the Santa Fe location, there were still some good moments for the company. Meow Wolf says opening the new Las Vegas location a couple of weeks ago was a shining light. With Meow Wolf’s Denver location slated to open this fall, they’ve got a big year ahead.
“To be able to welcome folks into OmegaMart and see the fruits of our labor come to life was such a boost for the company,” said Garbett. “It’s really exciting to know that by the end of this year, we’ll have three Meow Wolfs open.”
Tickets are on sale now ahead of Meow Wolf’s Santa Fe March 19 opening. Capacity will be limited to 25%, open from Friday to Monday each week.