At Meow Wolf Denver’s Convergence Station, art materials are in the eye of the beholder. The dizzyingly trippy immersive art installation is full of exhibits crafted from items that might have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

But Meow Wolf’s mile-high interdimensional crossroads treasures what others might dismiss as trash.

“Trash has always been a central motif,” says Joann Asakawa Huntz, impact manager at Convergence Station. “We incorporate trash and reuse and recycle a lot of materials all the time, since our founding and inception.”

Meow Wolf in Denver, ColoradoAsakawa Huntz points to Gremlin Symphony, a group of cacophonous robots in C Street, one of the four “anchor spaces” within Convergence Station.

“That whole entire area is just made up of recycled trash, which I think is just really exciting,” she says. “We’ve also been able to launch programming based off of that ethos, especially with Kate Major, who leads our Absolute Rubbish fashion shows.”

As wardrobe designer and creative designer at Convergence Station, Major came up with the idea for the first Absolute Rubbish show after participating in Denver Fashion Week in November 2022.

“I put a full collection into Denver Fashion Week, all made from upcycled materials,” says Major. “It was so much fun. Then we decided we wanted to figure out how to do fashion shows ourselves.”

For the inaugural edition of Absolute Rubbish in 2023, Major picked 20 designers who crafted upcycled “trashions," including Adobe Darko’s strapless gown made from discarded IKEA frisbees.

“It was just so much fun,” says Major. “I can’t wait to do it again.”

The sequel, Absolute Rubbish: Bloom, happened in April 2024 where Adobe Darko’s entry roamed the runway in an outfit made from cast-off Home Depot buckets. Along with 20 local designers, Major and other Meow Wolf artists also participated.

Major says she hopes the shows will “inspire people to look at what they think of as trash or garbage differently and try to upcycle where they can. It’s not as hard as you would think. And once they get inspired by what these artists can do, I really think people are going to run with it.”

Beyond her work with costumes and trashion, Major also leads makers workshops on how to use upcycled materials in art.

“At Meow Wolf Denver, we have a really special relationship to trash,” she says. “I think this is a common occurrence for artists in general, because unless you’re especially lucky, you tend to be broke. So upcycling and recycling and the use of trash or anything like that as materials has, I think, always been a necessity for artists to keep things inexpensive and to still be able to do their craft.”

The aforementioned C Street “is a trash planet,” says Major. “It’s the trash dump for the entire universe. It’s decorated with all sorts of refuse, recycled and built into new things. The costumes in that area are also all thrifted.”

For all costumes, she adds, “We try to utilize a lot of the refuse in trash and scraps that we get from all departments of the exhibit. I have people saving all sorts of stuff for me — I have a room just full of trash bags with stuff. I feel like it has turned into less of a quote-unquote money-saving option and more like a superpower that I have, where I can see the possibilities in a pile of what would end up in the landfill traditionally.”

One of Major’s wardrobe creations, Sleevie Nicks, is an example of her superpower in action.

“We had to cut about 300 long-sleeved, button-up shirts into short sleeves, so we had all these extra sleeves,” she says. “It was like, I simply cannot watch these go into the garbage. I have to do something.’”

Artists turns trash into art and fashion at Meow Wolf DenverMeow Wolf has also produced outside events like Vortex, a music festival that diverted 87 percent of its waste in 2023, and the team reaches beyond the walls of Convergence Station to work with the denizens of Denver.

“Sun Valley is our big focus in terms of a lot of the impact work that we do because it is our neighborhood,” says Asakawa Huntz. “We are trying to support them as much as we can, not only with the makers workshops, but we’ve also been doing several cleanups with the neighborhood. We work really closely with the Sun Valley Community Coalition to get those scheduled and partner with all the local organizations there.”

Reilly Strong, sustainability manager for all of Meow Wolf’s locations, says she is rethinking Convergence Station’s waste strategy in the wake of A1 Organics’ ban on compostable paper products.

“We’re kind of starting from scratch,” says Strong. “We launched a sustainability council this year. We have three members on the council from our Denver exhibition, as well as others from across the whole company. The focus of this council right now is working on our zero-waste program.”

After completing an audit at Convergence Station, the council will retool operations to divert as much waste from the landfill as possible.

“We’re very much in the beginning of the process right now,” says Strong.