Meow Wolf leader believes art has the power to ‘bring people together’

Julie Heinrich of Meow Wolf. (Courtesy of Meow Wolf)

After the sudden death of one of the founders of Meow Wolf at the age of 37, the employees of the artist collective mourned by creating a memorial arch in steel and wood.

“They walked through it metaphorically, as if transformed by this moment in time,” says Julie Heinrich, chief of staff at Meow Wolf and executive director of the company’s new foundation. “They painted it, they built it and then they burned it, with a ceremony as well.”

“That’s what I mean by the fact that art is a beautiful language when there are no words.”

Heinrich joined the Santa Fe-based art company at a time of explosive growth. It opened locations in Denver and Las Vegas, Nevada, last year, and recently announced the opening of two permanent exhibits in Texas.

Heinrich consulted for Meow Wolf on planning its new fundraising foundation for about a year, then was named head of the operation in April.

The timing was perfect; she longed to “push the next stage of my career forward” and she longed to return to New Mexico.

The Colorado native lived in Washington, DC – she is married to US Senator Martin Heinrich – and worked as a senior vice president at Weber Shandwick, a communications, marketing and consulting firm. Heinrich believes in Meow Wolf and the power of art to “bring people together” and find solutions to global issues, as well as smaller, more personal ones, such as grieving a lost colleague.

You could say that Heinrich has his own artistic talents. She has played clarinet, guitar, piano, xylophone and has now turned to ukulele. She also dances and sings, but adds, “I don’t play.”

There is, however, a bit of performance art in Heinrich’s past. She was once an elf at Santa’s Workshop at the foot of Pike’s Peak in Colorado.

“The reason it’s funny is because I was 6ft back then, when I was 17,” she says. “I served ice cream all day, including bubblegum ice cream. It was blue, and there were gumballs in it. It was the worst. »

What are your plans for the Meow Wolf Foundation?

“First and foremost, we will seek partnerships, seeking beneficiaries in the states where we operate. We will develop the gifts there. The Meow Wolf brand has sparked so much imagination and interest in others that I also get requests from these other great global foundations who want to partner with us. I don’t know where this will lead yet, but it’s an exciting conversation to have. We will focus on arts and culture, looking at where they intersect with the environment, education, equity, or a combination of these areas. We explore the healing power of art and how we can build creative economies. We’re at such an interesting time in the company’s growth, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

Why did you leave Washington, DC for New Mexico?

“Our children were still young when he (the husband) was elected to the United States Senate, so we decided it made sense to move there. Otherwise, he was going to miss their childhood. And so we put the children to school there. I worked at a global communications, marketing, and consulting company in Washington, DC. But New Mexico is and always will be my home. We’ve always had a home here (Albuquerque). My eldest son and I came home at the start of the pandemic, which I think encouraged many of us to rethink our lives and analyze what made us happy. We thought, “Maybe that we’ll be staying for a few months,” but we never came back to DC. He decided he wanted to go to UNM.

Was there a moment when the decision crystallized for you?

“It was a full moon night, and we went to Ojito (Wilderness Area), to a place where there are just beautiful petroglyphs nearby, and then you have the sandstone formations at night, which look kinda weird and otherworldly. and weird. And I saw this full moon and I thought, ‘Ah. I don’t think I’m going to leave.

What do you do in your free time?

“I love music and dancing. I would say that’s how I not only express my creativity – it’s where I’ve always found my healing and my personal therapy.

What professional mistakes have you made and what have you learned?

“I’m sure I’ve made a lot of mistakes, like all of us, in my career. I would say early on, maybe in my twenties, maybe I was too naive and too critical of other people and I hurt someone’s feelings. I learned from that experience that I would choose a more diplomatic path in the future. It touched me enough to know that I didn’t want to do it again.

What are your pet peeves?

“My pet peeves are probably shared by most parents of teenagers. The dishes aren’t done unless I ask. The backyard, the dog’s mess, isn’t picked up unless I don’t ask. The normal pet peeves of parenthood.

What do you think made you successful?

“The ability to be a good listener. I’d like to think my dad gave me a strong sense of humor. I don’t think I’m necessarily funny, but I like to laugh. My mother shared this sense of attention to detail. And she’s also incredibly optimistic. I start from this place, to see the best in people.

Was it difficult to establish a career and a reputation in his own right, while your husband is a United States senator?

“I actually had a political career before my husband – a brief period when he was Julie’s husband instead of me being his wife. At work, I don’t tend to bring it up unless have a reason to because I want people to know me first and know how I contribute. I think inevitably they get it, but I try to bring my authentic self to work. But I don’t don’t necessarily think that’s a different person than I bring to the campaign trail I think like most busy people you do your best to balance responsibilities between work and between public service and events campaign and just try to serve as many people as possible with an open heart.

THE BASICS: Julie Heinrich, 50, born in Boise, Idaho, grew up in Woodland Park, Colorado; married to US Senator Martin Heinrich since 1998; two sons, Carter, 19, and Micah, 15; a dog, Ella, and a cat, Opal; Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, 1993, and various technical certifications.

POSTS: Meow Wolf Chief of Staff and Executive Director of the Meow Wolf Foundation, since April 2022; senior vice president and vice president, Weber Shandwick, 2014-2022; Head of Digital Media and Project Management, Council of Intermediate Region Governments, 2006-2013; Director of Digital Media, City of Albuquerque, 2000-2006; Director of Communications and Deputy Director of Communications, under then-Mayor Jim Baca, 1997-2000.

OTHER: Former board member of AMP Concerts, Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum, La Montañita Cooperative, and Rio Grande Section of the Sierra Club; “persistent” political campaign volunteer since 2003.


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