Venue Voices — Meow Wolf’s The Perplexiplex is an Otherworldly Testament to Creative Collaboration

Venue Voices is a monthly series shining a spotlight on all the incredible venues Denver has to offer and the people who keep them running. Denver is one of the greatest music cities in the country, having become a mandatory destination for some of the biggest names in music while fostering a vibrant, thriving local scene made up of artists of all types. The over 30 venues that exist in Denver and the surrounding areas make this possible, for there would be no music scene without places to dance with those you love the most and strangers alike. From massive stadiums to intimate rooms, Venue Voices will take a deep dive into a different Denver venue each month, speaking to the people who run them in order to learn each venue’s history, challenges and triumphs while also taking a look at what the future holds. 

For the next installment of Venue Voices, 303 Magazine spoke with Kristin Hutton and Duke Ducheneaux, two of the people responsible for running and maintaining Meow Wolf Denver’s The Perplexiplex, with Hutton acting as Director of Events and Ducheneaux as Event Production Engineer.

READ: Venue Voices — Globe Hall Nourishes the Soul With Music and BBQ

For the uninitiated, Meow Wolf began as a small visual art collective in Santa Fe, New Mexico. After growing in personnel and notoriety resulting from their increasingly elaborate interactive art pop-ups, they found themselves in need of a permanent home. Following an investment from no other than A Song of Ice and Fire author and Santa Fe native George R.R. Martin, they purchased an old, run-down bowling alley, a canvas to fill with life and color. This blank slate would grow to become The House of Eternal Return, Meow Wolf’s flagship facility and the result of years of dedication. Almost purely through word of mouth, it became — and remains — one the most talked about and sought-after destinations in the United States due to its unique blend of interactive storytelling and beautifully bizarre artwork. Their popularity has now allowed them to branch out to other states, with exhibits now available in Grapevine, TX, Las Vegas, and, of course, Denver, with a location in Houston coming soon.

Each Meow Wolf location feels mythic, cosmic, existing somewhere outside space and time, far beyond the limits of the known universe. Denver’s Meow Wolf, named Convergence Station, opened in September 2021 to massive acclaim and is the largest of them all: three stories overflowing with color and imagination, whimsy and hints of darkness lurking behind the familiar strewn throughout. Inside that massive building but outside the main exhibit itself exists The Perplexiplex, a wholly singular music venue that feels like a place of worship built long before the idea of human consciousness was even a whisper. During shows, the visuals wrap around the walls of the entire room, creating an incredibly immersive experience that makes you feel like the music is literally wrapping itself around you. When you take a hard enough step, ripples will emanate across the floor, making visitors feel like they are walking on water. It is a venue unlike any other you’ll experience in Denver or anywhere else, and — just like anything related to Meow Wolf — it must be experienced firsthand in order to be truly comprehended.

Meow Wolf’s reputation led both Hutton and Ducheneaux to their current positions following long careers within the performance industry. Prior to coordinating events for The Perplexiplex, Hutton spent more than 25 years setting up events all over Denver at “a lot of really cool venues that weren’t really venues.” She said this made her uniquely suited for The Perplexiplex in that the venue defies convention in terms of the standard venue experience and requires intense adaptability. 

READ: Our Favorite Sets From Meow Wolf’s Vortex Festival

As for Ducheneaux, he said he’s “always been a big music guy,” growing up playing in bands and recounting an experience going to an Eve 6 show — best known for their 1998 hit, “Inside Out” —  at a young age and having his mind blown. He later realized that he could play a part in allowing other young people to feel what he felt that night. This led to him pursuing a degree in music production at Full Sail University. While there, he realized his interest in being a part of the “live experience” rather than the production side of things. He initially attempted to study lighting but found he had a talent for sound mixing. This took him into a 15-year-long career as a touring sound engineer.

When Convergence Station was first announced in 2018, both Hutton and Ducheneaux described a kind of serendipity, a feeling of belonging, like working there was something they were supposed to do. Hutton was previously director of events for Union Station. There, she worked with some fellow industry insiders and members of the greater art community and heard whispers “maybe a bit earlier than others” of opportunities at Meow Wolf opening up. Then came COVID, which drastically changed the way the performance industry was run, deeply affecting both Hutton and Ducheneaux.

Forced to put a pause on her career and finding herself with a fair amount of previously unheard-of free time, Hutton would spend time “manifesting it,” referring to her current position. She said she would do this by driving over to Convergence Station as it was being built and sitting in the parking lot, dreaming and hoping. It was the only job she applied for following the pandemic and she’s been with Meow Wolf ever since.

While Ducheneaux said he “never sat in the parking lot,” he would drive by the bones of the facility as it was being built and think, “‘Working there is the one thing that can get me to stop touring.'” COVID had caused a sort of disillusionment towards the performance industry for Ducheneaux. He described running sound for “pod” shows — socially distanced concerts that a person and a small group could attend while staying within a designated area away from the other concert-goers for the entirety — saying that they were “never the same.” He said he loves the industry for the human component, the ability to connect with someone previously unknown at a show and come alive together and the lack of this element caused him to open himself to another option, namely Meow Wolf.

Unsure of whether the new facility would have events, Ducheneaux consistently checked job boards just in case. One night, while on tour, his “girl called [him] up” and told him that a posting had gone up. He applied with a resume that hadn’t been updated in a couple of years and “almost three weeks later, [he] had the job.”

Both Hutton and Ducheneaux describe their positions as “dream jobs,” and the level of passion and care they apply to what they do is evident. During their conversation with 303 Magazine, Hutton and Ducheneaux were both incredibly warm and funny, singing and cracking jokes as they opened up about their lives. But as soon as it was time for them to talk about their jobs, they both became incredibly serious yet insightful, understanding what a place such as The Perplexiplex and Meow Wolf as a whole could mean to people. 

Hutton relishes her ability to “cultivate an experience” in such a collaborative setting. She said, “Any event that you put on takes so many people and facets and effort and communication. Here, particularly, we’re not just four walls and a venue doing one thing. There are so many other elements to it. So I really like that larger view of bringing all of those elements together and figuring out how we can make this the best thing that it can be. I think what really makes me appreciate working with Meow Wolf specifically is that constant need to figure out how far we can push it.” 

Hutton’s also incredibly proud of The Perplexiplex’s reputation as a “safe space” where all may feel welcome, be embraced by sweet music and wrap themselves in art. The Perplexiplex will host the 5th Annual Colorado Drag, Initiative, and Variety (DIVA) Awards while also having won Best Safe Space, which Hutton told 303 while beaming.

For Ducheneaux, Meow Wolf offered a new start, a chance to slow down a bit and stay in one place for a while all while remaining deeply immersed in music and creation, reigniting a love for the performance industry that had been cooled somewhat by the pandemic. It offered a chance for him to learn, saying “It’s been awesome to let myself learn all these new things. I’m not just a sound guy anymore. I’m a visual artist and a lighting person. It’s been really cool to teach myself all these things, as well as producing cool shows in this space.” 

Both also spoke about their ability to help out the Denver music community. Artists who play The Perplexiplex range from young up-and-coming artists still finding their footing to seasoned veterans with years under their belts. Hutton and Ducheneaux’s years in the industry have taught them that being a musician is all about growth, evolution, and the hope of slowly graduating to bigger and bigger venues. They wish to provide a place where these younger bands can grow, grab attention, share an experience. At the same time, they recognize how special a place The Perplexiplex is and also hope to attract some of the bigger names in music so that the venue can grow as well. 

It also bears mentioning a sense of reverence or gratitude that emanated from Hutton and Ducheneaux when speaking about their lives and where they are now. The Perplexiplex was the “passion project” of the late Matt King, a founding member of Meow Wolf who tragically passed in 2022. Convergence Station was the first location that Meow Wolf built from the ground up. This afforded them the ability to build it however they wanted without the constraints of adhering to parameters set by an older space. King was set on including a venue. Hutton said, “Everything from the visuals to the music was composed specifically for that experience in there” by King with help from the Moment Factory based in Montreal, known worldwide for their projection mapping projects. King even hand-painted much of the “broken dome,” as Hutton referred to it, that visitors see on stage, which was created from upcycled materials. King left an indelible legacy that Hutton and Ducheneaux treat with the utmost respect.

Hutton and Ducheneaux embody the best of what The Perplexiplex and Meow Wolf represent: radical passion coupled with empathy, creativity and appreciation for collaboration. They serve as reminders in this sometimes dark world that there is light and color and music hidden around each corner and inside us all. Be sure to visit the Perplexiplex to see their hard work alive and thriving anytime you might feel the need to get a little lost.

Hutton and Ducheneaux are particularly excited about some upcoming events: 

Sipz (With a Z), Convergence Station’s brand-new cocktail area, is now open!

The Polish Ambassador is playing 2/28 and 2/29!

Danceportation is returning on March 2nd featuring Beats Antique and many local legends such as Adam Deitch, Borahm Lee and many more! 

Adulti-Verse, Meow Wolf’s 21+ party in the main exhibit, will be happening on March 6th and 2oth!

Check out all of Meow Wolf’s upcoming events here!