Transforming Communities Through Art: The Meow Wolf Impact - s11 ep61

Julie Heinrich Leads Impact at the Art Purveyor’s Foundation, Focusing on Fostering Growth in the Creative Community

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Devin: What do you see as your superpower?

Julie: This might seem a little bit unconventional, but for me, I think it's really an embrace of a beginner mindset.

In the realm of immersive art and entertainment, Meow Wolf stands out not just for its kaleidoscopic, mind-bending exhibitions, but for its profound commitment to using art as a vehicle for social impact and community development. Founded as an artist collective in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Meow Wolf has evolved into a significant force in the experience economy, redefining what it means to engage with art. Under the leadership of Julie Heinrich, Chief Impact Officer, Meow Wolf's mission transcends the conventional, weaving together creativity, inclusivity, and societal change.

At its core, Meow Wolf is about immersive experiences that invite participants of all ages to step inside the mind of an artist. The exhibitions, spread across locations in Denver, Las Vegas, and soon in the Houston area, offer a unique blend of art and storytelling, where every narrative is interlinked, creating a vast, interconnected story universe. This innovative approach to art is not just about spectacle; it's about creating a space where art becomes a shared, tactile experience, fostering a deep connection between the audience, the artists, and the narratives they explore.

Julie Heinrich's journey with Meow Wolf underscores a narrative of creativity and community. The organization's inception as an artist collective was a response to the restrictive nature of the traditional art scene, aiming instead to build a community grounded in generosity and inclusivity. This ethos has carried through to Meow Wolf's operations today, with a significant emphasis on hiring local artists and creating art that is accessible and engaging for diverse audiences.

The Meow Wolf Foundation, led by Julie, embodies the organization's commitment to leveraging art for societal benefit. The foundation's initiatives focus on art access, healing, and transformation, particularly targeting grassroots projects, BIPOC-led or serving organizations, and youth-focused initiatives. This strategic focus not only amplifies underrepresented voices in the art world but also demonstrates a belief in art's power to catalyze positive change within communities.

One of the foundation's notable strategies is its emphasis on supporting projects that make art accessible to broader segments of the population, including those in rural or underserved areas. By funding programs that, for example, facilitate school trips to cultural spaces or promote cultural sharing in indigenous communities, the foundation ensures that the transformative power of art reaches beyond urban centers, touching lives across diverse social and geographical landscapes.

The story of Meow Wolf, from its humble beginnings to its current status as a cultural powerhouse, is a testament to the potential of art to bridge divides, inspire change, and build community. The involvement of notable figures like George R.R. Martin, who provided early support for the venture, adds a layer of intrigue, illustrating the unexpected intersections between popular culture and the art world.

As Meow Wolf continues to expand, both physically and into digital realms, the question of how art impacts society becomes even more pertinent. With Julie at the helm of impact initiatives, Meow Wolf is not just creating art; it's crafting experiences that challenge, delight, and, most importantly, bring people together in a shared journey of discovery and transformation.

“We've always been, as I mentioned, very community-minded since those early days of art making in the warehouse space,” Julie says. “Our artists were even dumpster diving for trash to create beautiful, expressive, maximalist creations.”

In a world where the arts are often sidelined in favor of more "practical" pursuits, Meow Wolf's success story serves as a powerful reminder of the essential role creativity plays in fostering vibrant, inclusive, and dynamic communities. Through its immersive experiences and community-focused initiatives, Meow Wolf isn't just changing the way we see art; it's changing the way we see the world.

Throughout her time with Meow Wolf, Julie has employed her superpower, a beginner’s mindset, to help her drive impact.

AI Episode Summary

1. Julie Heinrich is the Chief Impact Officer of Meow Wolf, an immersive art and entertainment company that provides creative experiences for people of all ages.

2. Meow Wolf started as an artist collective in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as a reaction to the restrictive local art scene, leading to the creation of large-scale immersive experiences.

3. The company, which employs hundreds of artists, has exhibitions in New Mexico, Denver, Las Vegas, and Texas, with plans to expand further.

4. Author George R.R. Martin, who resides in Santa Fe, was the original landlord and financial backer for Meow Wolf's first exhibition.

5. Julie leads Meow Wolf's newly launched nonprofit foundation focused on art access, healing, and transformation, primarily supporting grassroots, BIPOC-led, and youth-focused initiatives.

6. The foundation's grants are distributed across the regions where Meow Wolf operates, supporting local artists, cultural accessibility, and the preservation of cultural practices in diverse communities.

7. Julie's superpower is embracing a beginner's mindset, starting each day fresh and open to new experiences, which she believes is key to personal growth and transformation.

8. She credits a guided meditation and a moment of silence in nature for inspiring her to pursue her current role at Meow Wolf, highlighting the importance of allowing space for creativity and new ideas.

9. Julie advises exploring the intersection of art and healing, suggesting activities like drawing, singing, dancing, and spending time in silence to foster creativity and personal well-being.

10. To learn more about Meow Wolf and the Foundation, visit MeowWolf.com and connect with Julie on LinkedIn; the grant application process is currently a closed system due to limited resources.


How to Develop a Beginner’s Mindset As a Superpower

Julie’s superpower revolves around consistently embracing a beginner's mindset, which involves starting each day fresh and being open to new experiences and ideas. This approach allows her to approach challenges and opportunities with a fresh perspective, unburdened by previous setbacks or the constraints of routine. It's a mindset that fosters learning, growth, and innovation, and she hopes to inspire her team at Meow Wolf with this same outlook, emphasizing the potential for renewal and the chance to approach tasks with rejuvenated energy and creativity.

Julie illustrates her superpower through her personal journey toward her current role at Meow Wolf. Embracing the beginner's mindset and being open to joy and creativity led her to reach out to Meow Wolf's leadership, driven by her admiration for their work and the desire for more creativity in her life. This proactive step was fueled by moments of silence and reflection, including a profound experience in the Ojito Wilderness under a full moon, which culminated in her decision to seek a significant career change and reconnect with her roots.

For developing a beginner's mindset as a personal strength, Julie suggests:

  • Exploring the intersection between art and healing and considering how creative activities like drawing, singing, or dancing can be therapeutic and open new aspects of oneself.

  • Allocating time for silence and reflection without pressure, allowing space for creativity and new ideas to emerge, especially during activities that encourage a state of flow, such as walking, being in nature, or driving.

By following Julie's example and tips, you can make a beginner’s mindset a personal skill. With practice, it can become a superpower that enables you to do more good in the world.

Remember, however, that research into success suggests that building on your own superpowers is more important than creating new ones or overcoming weaknesses. You do you!

Guest Profile

Julie Heinrich (she/her):

Chief Impact Officer, Meow Wolf

About Meow Wolf: 

The Meow Wolf Foundation: The Meow Wolf Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity founded by Meow Wolf in 2022 and launched in 2023. The Meow Wolf Foundation supports and honors artists, cultural-bearers, and the uniqueness of place, exploring the ways that art and creativity help our communities thrive. For more information about the Meow Wolf Foundation's community grant program, please visit meowwolf.com/foundation.

Meow Wolf: Meow Wolf is not your typical arts and entertainment company; they’re the creators of extraordinary, mind-bending experiences that transport millions of adventurers of all ages into breathtaking realms of imagination and wonder. As the proud recipients of numerous accolades, including Time Out's #1 Immersive Experience in the US (2023), Fast Company's World's 50 Most Innovative Companies (2022 and 2020), and USA Today's Top 10 Best Immersive Art Experiences (2022), Meow Wolf is committed to engaging curious seekers through the magic of discovery and play. They are distinct in their collaboration with hundreds of visionary artists who infuse creativity into every Meow Wolf experience.

The journey began with the THEA Award-winning House Of Eternal Return in Santa Fe (2016), a mystery house with hidden passages and mesmerizing art exhibits. In Las Vegas, Omega Mart (2021) presented a surreal grocery store experience. Denver's Convergence Station (2021) appeared as a maximalist architectural marvel linking four alien worlds. In July 2023, Meow Wolf unveiled The Real Unreal in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and plans to open a new location in Houston in 2024. As a certified B-Corporation, Meow Wolf leads in themed entertainment, innovating and celebrating human imagination. All are invited to join a journey that defies convention, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy.

Website: MeowWolf.com and meowwolf.com/foundation

X/Twitter Handle: @MeowWolf

Company Facebook Page: facebook.com/meowwolf.sf/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/meow-wolf/

Instagram Handle: @meow__wolf

Biographical Information: Julie Heinrich serves as Chief Impact Officer for Meow Wolf. She oversees the company’s social and environmental impact, community engagement and employee volunteerism, government affairs and heads the Meow Wolf Foundation. She joined Meow Wolf after eight years at award-winning global strategic communications, marketing and consulting firm, Weber Shandwick in Washington D.C., supporting clients in corporate social responsibility, sustainability, clean energy and tech, and public affairs. Julie worked with leading corporate brands, start-ups, nonprofit organizations and large global foundations seeking to innovate; provide cleaner, more sustainable solutions; engage critical stakeholders; and tell stories of equity and impact. Julie’s early career began in local government as a chief communications officer for a former mayor and digital media director for the City of Albuquerque. She has served on nonprofit boards that include the award-winning Explora Science Center in Albuquerque. Julie is married to Martin Heinrich, a U.S. Senator (NM). They have two boys, Micah and Carter, who adore Meow Wolf, in addition to cat Opal and dog Ella. She expresses her creativity through music and dance.

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