Keynote Transcript: Ethan Bach, Denver Vision: The Meow Wolf Effect

Keynote Transcript: Ethan Bach, Denver Vision: The Meow Wolf Effect

Last year we hosted a similar event, right in this room, called Our Vision for Denver.

This year, we decided to speak on our Denver Vision with a focus on a new big thing happening, Meow Wolf coming to Denver.

I have a unique perspective as I lived in Santa Fe for thirteen years and have lived in Denver for almost three years. I’ve been an artist for over twenty years and like most of you, I worked day jobs then worked on my art at night.

Watch the entire keynote below.

I witnessed what was happening in the evolution of Meow Wolf pretty closely. At one point I served on the Javier for the Arts committee with now Meow Wolf CEO Vince Kadlubek. We helped former mayor Javier Gonzales get elected.

And now Meow Wolf is coming to Denver. It seems only right that I would help navigate the Denver community through this shift. I see this as a huge opportunity for this city.  

And as we all know,

  • Artist communities are notoriously underfunded.
  • The world is changing rapidly and communities around the globe are witnessing increased rents.
  • Where there is a financial disparity there is gentrification. And just like many cities in the world, we are experiencing that in Denver.

The Meow Wolf Effect is an intimate and intentional look into a cultural phenomenon sparking the creative economy in a way that I have not witnessed in my lifetime. My plan is to explore the Meow Wolf Effect through our blog series, public events, and collaborations.

We have a unique opportunity to explore and experience this phenomenon as being one of the first cities Meow Wolf is coming to.

There are many influencers out there making a change. Meow Wolf is one of them. We have several in this community including our panelists whom I look forward to speaking within a few minutes.

You are all the experts on this town and on your experience. That is why you are here.

What I can do is help facilitate the beginnings of a conversation.

I want to help create a new possibility for you, my community. The possibility I see is an interconnected community that spans across the state of Colorado and into New Mexico (why not) that is inspired to create a new economy that is supportive for creative innovators.

Think of the most amazing community that you can imagine. What do you want that to look like? Let’s create that.

  • An opportunity to do what is your purpose with love and support from your community. That’s what I envision.
  • To make a living and thrive doing something that you love while inspiring others. That’s what I envision.
  • More ability to have the influence to shape the world in a way that you want to see it. That’s what I envision.

This is our moment of opportunity. If we do this with great intention, we can make a huge shift in the economy.

  • Traditionally, artists have not sought out to build businesses and focus on the creative economy.
  • We don’t feel supported by the current economic structure supporting creative jobs.
  • And like every other human we have a negative dialog going on in our heads.
  • Some of us even believe that we must suffer to be real artists. We place social pressure on other artists by calling them “sell outs” if they make money.

A few years ago I decided to change those beliefs in myself. Why I started Alt Ethos and DATA.

  • I no longer wanted to live hand to mouth and work for someone that wasn’t necessarily treating me with respect.
  • I want to have a larger influence in the world and these organizations will allow a bigger reach.
  • I want to have money to create more opportunities for everyone.

I want to share with you today some of my what-ifs and ask that you add to that list.   

  • One of my favorite clear indicators in identifying your what-ifs is judgment and uncomfortability or contrast if you will.  

I want to ask, what are your what-ifs?

I encourage you right now and throughout this event to think about in what ways are you unsatisfied with the Denver Arts community?

What are you unsatisfied with or fearful of with Meow Wolf coming to town? Keep that and we will touch back on it later.

Is it gentrification? Is it access to space? Is it funding? Is that jobs? Is that all the above? Now take that statement and turn it into a  positive action – something that you are going to do to work on finding positivity in that problem.

Here are some of the facts as we know.

Meow Wolf is coming to town.

Meow Wolf anticipates 1.5 million people a year to their Denver site. I anticipate 3 to 5 million people a year. Now think about that – 5 million people a year coming to Denver to spend money in the creative economy.

  • What opportunities are there?
  • Where are these people going to stay where they can eat?
  • Where can they get their entertainment?
  • What are they going to buy as a souvenir?
  • What kind of art will they buy?
  • Where will they want to visit when they like to do it in a group as part of a tour?

So I just want to say that this isn’t about whether or not you like Meow Wolf.  

    • This is not whether or not you agree with the way that they’re going about expressing their art.  
    • This is not about whether or not they can hire you.
    • Or if they you think they favored one group of people over another.
  • This is about harnessing the energy with strategic planning in order to make the best possible outcome. This is happening.


So tonight and moving forward, we will all be gathering knowledge.

  • What do you want to do with this knowledge?
  • Do you want to sit around and complain and point fingers and say I can’t have that we can’t do this we can’t do that how come they’re doing this is how come they’re doing that?
  • Do you want to use this as an opportunity for a catalyst for change?
  • We already have some ideas of what is going to happen. We can look at Santa Fe and we can compare our own economy and how things are going here and we can take some guesses we can take some risks and we can enjoy ourselves along the way as a community.

So what if we could do that? What if we could do this together? Let’s make this city in this state the best experience we could ever imagine. You’re welcome to come with me and you’re welcome to lead the way. I promise to walk beside you. Together, let’s make some change.

There are so many people in this community already doing great things. It’s not fair to just sit back and say that they need to do more or do it this way or that. These people are putting their necks on the line. Through their experiences, they have a lot of information that if we all could harness it, would help make a better community. Let’s take advantage of some of that now. I welcome our panelists so gracious to spend their time with us and share their experience.

Read the blog series that inspired this event, The Meow Wolf Effect.

Our Vision for Denver – The Commons Chapter

Our Vision for Denver – The Commons Chapter

Alt Ethos News – Wednesday April 5th, 2017

Since the inception of our company in April 2016 our mission is and has been to use interactive technology to bring people together. We’re dedicated to advancing awareness of interactivity to the public. Since then we’ve gained a massive amount of support from Denver city government and industry leaders. In order for us to achieve this we’ve made a key focus of becoming part of the creative tech community both in Denver and outside, gathering as much knowledge and insight as we can to boost our abilities and ultimately enhance Denver.

In January Paul Elsberg – CSE Chief Sales Engineer / Creative Developer attended New Orleans’ INST-INT conference, an annual gathering of interactive technological exhibitions showcasing practical creative applications drawing together diverse groups of people; In other words, right in our wheelhouse.


INST-INT is a one of a kind, world renowned annual conference which draws in eclectic A-list interactivity pros and attendees with exhibits of Installation & Interactive Art, Experience Design, Responsive Environments & Objects, Interactive Exhibits & Displays, Creative Coding, DIY Making & Hacking, Architecture & Technology, Sensors & Wearables.

Matt Maes – CIO Chief Influence Officer / 3D Generalist previously participated in MIT’s “Reality, Virtually, Hackathon!” which according to Network World’s Steven Patterson set a record for the largest VR/AR hackathon.

He later continued his game development experience in the Global Game Jam hackathon, an open competition organized across the globe with a focus on bringing gamers together to create work which engages them to act as part of a team. Maes has also been extended the opportunity to speak on the VR/AR panel at GlobalMindED conference in June. GlobalMindED is a nonprofit organization focused on increasing the success rate of first generation college students, connecting graduates and employers.

On April 19th at the Commons on Champa we’ll be presenting Our Vision for Denver and celebrating our One-Year Anniversary as a company. Our CEO Ethan Bach will be speaking on our vision for the future of Denver as an international hub for innovative experiences with media in the physical realm.

We’ve lived, worked in and experienced Denver for years and now our plan is to use this technology in collaboration with government and industry leaders to establish Denver as a mecca for creative, connected experiences. Bach has experienced a fascinating journey within immersive media, art, activism and ultimately bringing his knowledge and experience as CEO of Alt Ethos.

After the presentation we’ll be celebrating our one-year anniversary with drinks, hor d’ouvres and the unveiling of our interactive LED wall located at the end of the hallway leading to the Event Space. Our installation utilizes Kinect sensors to synchronize with your movement patterns, mirroring a variety of positional effects on opposite LED screens in real-time.

Our purpose behind this installation and our work at large is to design intimate experiences within groups of people. Our sense of reality is determined by how we process our senses. Engagement in an active and playful vs passive experience brings us to a higher state of awareness which we normally wouldn’t experience in our day to day lives – An experience which suspends you for a moment, embracing all and saying “This is about you. You are included and important.”

In our research we’ve stumbled upon some staggering and encouraging facts which shine a light in the direction of our purpose:

  1. Customer Experience is the future of design. Adopting practices that elevate the customer experience will undoubtedly produce a return on investment and provide a steady foundation for your brand.
-UX Magazine, 2016
  1. Experiential Design activates chemicals in the brain: Dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins; These increase happiness, productivity, and customer loyalty.
-The Neurochemicals of Happiness, Psychology Today and Technology Advice
  1. Experiential Design increases brand awareness by 81% and increases a deeper customer involvement by 57%
-Brand Survey, Report Event Marketer, 2015
  1. Millennials spend $3.3 billion annually in Colorado. $2.2 billion annually in Denver alone.
-The Millennial Influence in Denver, Development Research Partners and Census.gov, 2016

The Commons on Champa

Over the past two years our company has had the privilege of working out of the Commons on Champa, downtown Denver’s small business entrepreneurial hub. For all of the recent positive signs our current success wouldn’t be possible without their support.

The Commons on Champa represents a partnership between the Downtown Denver Partnership, Colorado Technology Association and the city of Denver. The Commons parallels the openness given by its name in its practices by providing resources and workshops to holding high tier events, stapling its name as Denver’s most openly centralized habitation space for Denver’s future entrepreneurial leaders. We’ve taken in a great amount of insight and support from mentors and other key influencers into what it means to connect progressive minds together. We’d like to shine a spotlight on their work and share words from the man who runs daily operations, Jesse Shuler.

Jesse Shuler – Building Coordinator manages the Commons day-to-day operations with a keen mind and a light heart. Jacqui Dietrich – Program Manager lends her entrepreneurial insight into functions which staple the Commons as an environment which fosters small business growth. Together they’ve allowed a solid place for us to excel, developing a close relationship with us along the way.

We recently had the opportunity of interviewing Shuler for an in depth talk on the Commons’ amazing set of resources which he describes as “A public private partnership which became Denver’s first public campus for entrepreneurship. When we opened our doors we wanted to create a campus which is gonna supply entrepreneurs with all the kinds of tools they’re gonna need – A place where anyone is welcome. We really wanted to lower the barrier with access to great resources like mentorship, the US Patent and Trademark Office, the Small Business Administration, or amazing space which has great technology, a great community and just feels right to work in.”

The Commons was established and aims to “Act as a blueprint that anybody can use. The mission is wholeheartedly to authentically create a hub which showcases Denver’s commitment to the entrepreneurial community.” – Spot on statements on a remarkable space.

Shuler also had encouraging words for our company and his insight into interactive technology: “The market is demanding new and progressive ways of connecting with people. What I’ve seen is that the standard marketing techniques are pretty tapped out. The market demands for something to change and be more progressive and Experiential Design does that because it connects to people on a more human level – it taps into your senses, your emotions and your sense of time and space. Experiential Design tends to resonate with people a lot quicker. It spikes out of the status quo. Experiential Design takes you out of what is the day to day and the normal and gets you thinking a lot bigger, more creatively, and it creates a lot more platform for opportunity to expand your brand.”

We asked for his insight on what blend of skills best dictates success in our industry and for entrepreneurs as a whole: “A skill that is very important is to pay attention to what the market is demanding. Take your skill set, your knowledge, your expertise and supply what the market needs. If you’re able to be flexible and pivot and think big I think that’s a huge need especially for folks in Experiential Design.

He also had some warm words on our history together: “It’s been really fun to get to know the Alt Ethos team. I’ve loved the experience of taking what technologies we have on our own campus and overlaying it with the Alt Ethos ideas and seeing what happens from it. It’s been really fun to think creatively and think big on how we can explore the technology.”

Thank you Jesse and all at the Commons. Here’s to many successful times ahead.

Matt Maes is a Denver animator focused on immersive and interactive technology. He is Chief Influence Officer of Alt Ethos, Ltd and is also an executive member of the nonprofit organization Denver Arts and Technology Advancement (D.A.T.A.)