Stroke of Genius: Adding Art to Meeting Places and Spaces

Convention centers and hotels are commissioning original artwork for their spaces, not only as a way to highlight the local art community but also to immerse attendees and guests in the local culture.

During the 2014 ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition last month in Nashville, I was impressed by the Music City Center’s collection of artwork.

The Blank Canvas challenge is a wonderful opportunity for any emerging artist to showcase their work within an exciting new design hotel.

The convention center, which opened in May 2013, is home to more than 100 pieces of art. During the planning process, the Convention Center Authority budgeted $2 million for art and worked with an art committee that included art professionals and Nashville residents to select the pieces for the building.

More than 225 artists submitted applications, and the pieces chosen feature a broad spectrum of artistic media, including painting, sculptures, mosaics, and light works. Of the 52 artists represented in the collection, 32 are from Davidson County, Tennessee. (Nashville is the county seat.) Another 16 are from other parts of the state, and the remaining four are from Georgia and Kentucky.

I thought this was a great way to highlight local artists and bring a little life and personality to a convention center, which can often be boring and drab. Even better was that each piece was accompanied by a QR code that you could scan to get additional information, including the artist’s background and his or her aesthetic.

A quick Google search showed that Music City Center isn’t the only convention space to highlight local art. The Phoenix Convention Center also uses local artwork throughout its space, as does the Greater Richmond Convention Center. And some of these programs are well established. For instance, the Washington State Convention Center’s 100-plus-piece, partially rotating collection has been around since the facility opened in 1988.

Hotels have also jumped on the “art bandwagon.” One example is Omni Hotels & Resorts. At both its Dallas and Nashville properties, it showcases local artists in common areas, bars, restaurants, and guestrooms. The Dallas location has more than 7,000 pieces of original, iconic Dallas art, while the many of the pieces in Nashville highlight the city’s music history and culture.

New hotel brand Moxy Hotels is taking venue artwork to the next level, announcing its Blank Canvas challenge earlier this week to select an artist-in-residence at its soon-to-open Moxy Milan property. Painters, illustrators, and graffiti artists are being asked to submit their own unique creations to the contest.

The grand finale of the judging process will see three final candidates create a piece of artwork in front of a live audience in Milan on October 30 to celebrate the official launch of the new hotel. In addition to prize money, the winner will get his or her own Moxy Blank Canvas studio, where the artist will create custom pieces for the Moxy Milan and future properties.

“The Blank Canvas challenge is a wonderful opportunity for any emerging artist to showcase their work within an exciting new design hotel,” said Tina Edmundson, global brand officer for Marriott International’s luxury and lifestyle brands. “It’s the perfect way for Moxy to create visually exciting environments for our guests which reflect the youthful, urban energy of a city like Milan. We are excited about making art part of the Moxy experience.”

Associations that use venues that offer art collections could benefit from taking advantage of them. Perhaps offer an art tour for attendees, as Americans for the Arts did at its 2014 Annual Convention. Another possibility: Hold an art scavenger hunt to help first-timers or another group of attendees get to know each other.

For the planners out there, do you take into account how venues highlight local culture and artwork when picking spaces to hold events? And for attendees, do you notice and take the time to check out the art in these venues? Let me know in the comments.

Muralist Isiah Zagar's art adorns the walls of Phoenix's convention center. (handout photo)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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