Meet Meow Wolf’s Art Director Las Vegas Native Spencer Olsen

Learn how Las Vegas became the home for the surreal Omega Mart experience at Area15

By Rob Kachelriess

Spencer Olsen brings a homegrown Las Vegas touch to Omega Mart. Born and raised in Sin City, he moved to Santa Fe a few years ago to join Meow Wolf in designing the interactive art installation, which takes guests on a journey through a bizarro world grocery store and the fictional company behind it. He’s happy to be back home seeing the 52,000-square-foot space come to life at Area15 (3215 S. Rancho Drive).

As Art Director for the project, Olsen’s job is to define and articulate the vision of the creative team, which includes Executive Creative Director Corvas Brinkerhoff, Creative Director Emily Montoya and Senior Creative Producer Marsi Gray.

“They had an idea for this cyber-spiritual, metaphysical mining facility, and it became my role to flesh that out,” he says. “What does it feel like? What does it look like? What is the experience?”

A Grocery Store Years in the Making

It’s been a dramatic transition from years of concept development (“a lot of meetings working with artists, designers, architects and project managers”) to the eight-month installation process inside Area15—tweaking and fine-tuning ideas the entire way. 

“We really wanted it to feel like this homogenous machine,” says Olsen, noting that Omega Mart could remain a work in progress much in the same way Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe typically receives a yearly update. “There are unprogrammed spaces and areas that we would like to upgrade (to) just kind of keep it fresh.”  

Posted by Spencer Olsen on Thursday, January 28, 2016

Before joining Meow Wolf, Olsen was the Lead Visual Designer for Walls360, a graphic mural company. Over the years, his collaborations ranged from Strip hotel giants like The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and MGM Resorts to platinum-level music acts like The Killers and The 1975.

“I’ve always been very interested in immersive art you can experience. Art that appeals more to the emotional side. Projection mapping, large-scale dioramas, things that just totally envelop you.” 

Stephen Olsen

Life Is Beautiful Wormhole

Olsen’s interactive exhibit, Wormhole, was originally on display in the Meow Wolf Art Hotel at the 2017 Life Is Beautiful festival in Downtown Las Vegas. The piece, which combines music with lights and other visual effects, is now part of Omega Mart (in the “factory” section) with the addition of a slide in the center of it—a “portal that takes you to another world.”

So where exactly does it go? You’ll have to visit Omega Mart to find out. Meow Wolf clearly has a playful side but is also commanding a valuable role in Las Vegas as a showcase and outlet for Olsen and other local artists. 

“I think it’s just a wonderful platform,” he says of the all-encompassing Omega Mart installation. “It’s a place to show work that’s more ambitious than what you may be able to do in a white wall gallery center. There’s nothing like it in Vegas.”

Read: ‘Absinthe’ Sets March 17 Return to Las Vegas Strip

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