Highlights of the Convergence Brings the Psychedelic Art of Meow Wolf To Blind Travelers

Located just outside of downtown, Denverites can escape reality and enter a realm of breathtaking oddities at Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station. Become a traveler of the intergalactic cosmos in this interactive four-story immersive art exhibition — housing the grooviest out-of-this-world art pieces in all of Colorado, and perhaps the world. But, what about those who are visually impaired? Are they still able to come to Meow Wolf and get the full experience? Enter Highlights Of The Convergence, an all-new tour with the goal of bringing accessibility to low-vision travelers.

What It Is

Meow Wolf, Art, Denver,

Photo by Kori Hazel

Meow Wolf’s groundbreaking new Highlights Of The Convergence tour is all about bringing accessibility to art. This new tour is intended for blind and low-vision travelers who visit Convergence Station, allowing everyone to explore Meow Wolf’s imaginatively bizarre new world. Travelers are transported to the four colliding alien worlds, all of which are joined together by the cosmic event known as the Convergence. A partnership between Meow Wolf and Artful Access makes a once visual-heavy attraction more accessible than ever, allowing those that are low-vision or blind an opportunity to go on a guided tour and give in to their child-like sense of wonder. 

READ: A First Look At Convergence Station, Meow Wolf’s Newest Interactive Exhibit

Over a period of 18 months, Artful Access said it had a fantastic experience of accessibility consulting with Meow Wolf Convergence Station. The organization also partnered with Meow Wolf to create the audio description tour, and Artful Access founder Beth Rypkema personally wrote the 72-page script for the tour.

Rypkema is a life-long arts professional — she works as an artist and in the administrative, business, programming and event sides of the arts. “I have a special interest in the impact of the arts experience, particularly among underserved individuals and communities,” she said. “This led to my work in cultural accessibility and audio description for the blind.”

How It Works

On the second Saturday of every month at 10 a.m., Meow Wolf offers a two-hour audio descriptive tour, Highlights Of The Convergence, at no additional cost. Led by Meow Wolf’s QDOT team, The tour offers an expert guide on describing key visuals — designed to enhance touch exploration and interactive play elements of Convergence Station. While encouraging discovery of the Convergence, it takes visitors through the various alien worlds present and the Convergence Station. Explore the narrative and lore through tactile interactions with the exhibits, paired with the guidance of an enhanced audio guide crafted by Meow Wolf’s expert storytellers.

What Separates This Tour From Other ADA Tours?

What makes Highlights of the Convergence so groundbreaking compared to other ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) tours in Denver is the immersive saga that travelers get swept away in. Meow Wolf is meant to be an enchanting odyssey for the body and mind. Their new tour does a fantastic job of helping the visually impaired uncover the secrets hidden around the sci-fi paradise.

Rypkema had the audacious task of creating the first of its kind tour. “This audio description tour is groundbreaking, as it hasn’t been done to date in immersive arts experiences. We did not have any models to follow, so we definitely invented the wheel. It was both terrifying and thrilling to create something that hadn’t been done before,” she said. “It was an honor to work with Meow Wolf in this capacity, and all Meow Wolfers were extraordinarily imaginative and committed, with great generosity of spirit. At this time, they have developed a long-term approach to accessibility.”

Other ADA audio tours for museums and art exhibits have the patron walking around while listening to a narrator explain the piece in front of them. Compare this to Meow Wolf, which allows for a more hands-on and interactive encounter with the mind-bending art. Melissa F, a visitor of the audio descriptive tour, said, “We all have different levels of sight here…there was just so much to immerse yourself in, for all different levels of vision. It was just very interactive.”

Why Inclusivity and Accessibility Is Important In Art

In order to get a better understanding of art accessibility in Denver, 303 Magazine spoke with Ann Cunningham, a Denver-based tactile artist and advocate for the blind. She got her start in art accessibility by chance. “I stumbled into it — I was at an exhibit and wondered if someone who is blind could figure out what the pictures were,” she said. “It was a turning point in my career in the early 90’s and I couldn’t let go of that question. So my whole career has been in pursuit of that.”

While Cunningham does not work with Meow Wolf, her work is helping to bring attention and accessibility of art to the Mile High City for everyone. “We are all part of the same society and want to engage in whatever our interests are. Just because you are blind, doesn’t mean you don’t have certain interests. People who are blind are just like any other population; they have different interests and the ability to pursue those interests is really important.”

Meow Wolf’s Highlights of The Convergence tour is making strides to remove the barrier that separates the visual and tactile worlds so that everyone can enjoy the exhibits to the fullest. “Whenever something is tactilely accessible, it’s not like the only people who want to touch it are visually impaired, everyone wants to touch it,” Cunningham explained. “We are multi-sensory creatures, and whenever we can add more ways to learn about it, we’re going to engage with more people. If we can make it tactilely accessible to those who are blind, we’re gonna make it better for everyone.” By using the other five senses, travelers of all abilities are able to get a better understanding of the art in front of them and help to fully conceptualize it.

Rypkema says audio description gives a descriptive narrative about visual elements and action, and is used in performing and visual arts, film, TV and events. “Since 1984, it has been used to provide access to arts experiences for the blind/low vision community and beyond,” Rypkema added. Since then, audio description has been integrated into the cultural zeitgeist to allow more inclusivity for all.

Why Highlights Of The Convergence Matters

Denver, Art, Meow Wolf, entertainment,

Art is a cornerstone of culture. Denver’s culture is heavily influenced by many different artistic expressions throughout the city that are able to be seen and enjoyed by millions. But what about those of the visually-impaired community? What are they supposed to do? Why is it important for art to be accessible? Rypkema had these same thoughts when she first visited Meow Wolf in Santa Fe.

“It changed my life. When I stepped into the magic spaces of Meow Wolf, I was transported,” she said. “But what about my friends in the accessibility community? How could they have their own experience in what has become known as immersive arts? As I wandered through Meow Wolf that day — gaping at the art, playing with interactives — everywhere I turned, I could see opportunities for access and inclusion. I went home with a vision, and I began playing with ideas.” Those ideas eventually turned into Highlights Of The Convergence.

Art should be able to be accessible to anyone and everyone that is interested in it. Far too often though, anyone with a disability is often faced with roadblocks that make it difficult for those who are blind or visually impaired to appreciate the art of Denver, which can lead to alienation and a loss of interest in art. Cunningham explained it like this: “Sighted people get visual references non-stop and much of it is graphics. When someone can’t access that visual information, they are cut off from a lot of culture. What is it about the Mona Lisa? There’s no way to make a tactile version of the Mona Lisa that is equivalent to the painted picture. But it provides an idea and understanding of the cultural reference. The same way a map is important to you or me, a tactile map is important for someone trying to navigate their world.”

“Programs like Highlights of The Convergence are expanding the reach of art to society as a whole,” she added. “Allowing different marginalized groups the chance to enjoy Meow Wolf is important, but more accessibility also allows for a more robust adventure for everyone. Being a good citizen, you want to care about your whole community. Also selfishly you get more bang for your buck when you go to a museum that has more ways for you to learn about the information you are interested in.”

Meow Wolf and Artful Access seem to agree with Cunningham’s words and offer myriad ways to further interact with the art, adding more depth and complexity to the Convergence. The more time and effort put into these inclusive tours, the more enthralling the experience becomes. 

Highlights of the Convergence is here to stay, welcoming all travelers from the multiverse of every level of vision to enjoy an enhanced version of the unforgettable exhibit. Crafting more tangible interactions is one way this tour is expanding the accessibility of art at Meow Wolf, and beyond into the greater world. So get ready traveler, we’ll see you in the Convergence. 

Meow Wolf Convergence Station is located at 1338 1st St, Denver. You can sign up for Highlights Of The Convergence tour here.

All photography by Kori Hazel.

Editor’s Note: The article has been updated to include Artful Access as Meow Wolf’s partner for supportive services and accessibility options.