A hotel creates harmony with art: galleries finds room for creative art programs on the grounds of a resort hotel

A hotel creates harmony with art: galleries finds room for creative art programs on the grounds of a resort hotel – strategy

Erika Rasmusson Janes

Hotel rooms are rarely known for boasting great works of art. More often, their walls hold generic scenes that garner little more than a passing glance from guests.

That’s not the case at the Inn at Loretto, a 135-room hotel located in the heart of Santa Fe. Thanks to the inn’s two privately owned galleries–the Columbine Gallery, which is renowned for sculpture, and Three Ravens Fine Art Gallery, which specializes in photography–the hotel has created a haven for artists and traveling art lovers.

Seven years ago, on a trip to Santa Fe to pick up some work from sculptor Denny Haskew, Columbine Gallery executive director John Kinkade, who also serves as executive director for the National Sculptor’s Guild, discovered that the Inn had a commercial space available. The previous tenant, another gallery, had recently left. Columbine already had one thriving location in Loveland, Colo., and Kinkade saw the opportunity for expansion. “I thought, ‘Why don’t we consider working in this space?'” he recalled.

As it turned out, opening the Santa Fe gallery was the first step in creating a partnership that is as unique, artistic and creative as any work of art. Hotels renting out commercial space for art galleries is nothing new, but management at the inn and Kinkade went a step further by expanding the artistic offerings of the gallery into all areas of the hotel. In the spring, after moving into the space, Columbine created a sculpture garden on the hotel grounds using more than $1 million worth of pieces by such artists as Haskew, Gary Alsum and Dee Clements.

“I have not seen many hotels actually enter into an informal partner ship and use art to market the experience at that hotel,” Kinkade said. “When we first decided to explore doing the sculpture garden, the hotel showed enormous enthusiasm and allowed us to design it and put it in. They use the space for wedding receptions. We just started talking about how fine art could enhance the experience of the visitor there, and at the same time present an outlet for the gallery to have a place to have its monumental sculpture for sale. And I haven’t seen that anywhere else.”

Another innovative touch was to create an artist-in residence program, which was implemented in 2001. Denny Haskew was selected to be the resident artist, and as such visits with guests while he sculpts and paints in room 217–a room at the inn that has been transformed into a working artist’s studio. To decorate the space, Haskew chose four drawings by an artist who inspires him, Nicolai Fechin, as well as his own pencil drawings, sculptures and black-and-white photographs.

When he is using the studio, guests are invited to visit him and watch him work. When he’s not using the room, guests can try their hand at sketching using sketchbooks and pencils placed on the living room coffee table. The program “has been one of those situations where everything kind of works for all the parties,” Haskew said. “I get to display my art, and at the same time it enhances the hotel’s image. Anything we do that gives us credibility helps when a patron is making an art purchase. Having fins artist-in residence [program] sounds impressive to people.”

Finally, an ongoing artists series, created in 2000, invites established South-western artists from Columbine Gallery aim Three Ravens Gallery to share their talents with guests by hosting art demonstrations and lectures at the hotel. The program is designed to be an informal, interactive experience that introduces guests to the art of the Southwest. Running from June through October, featured artists have included watercolor and oil painter Ellie Weakley, sculptor Sandy Scott, photographer Neil Whitlock and photographer Gregg Albracht, who owns Three Ravens.

“We offer our guests the opportunity to meet an artist, rather than just going into a gallery where they never get to meet the artist themselves,” said Patrick Kluck, general manager of Inn at Loretto. “It allows them to touch and feel the art and see the artist.”

Kluck admits that the program hasn’t been promoted as heavily as it could be, but vows that that will change by next season. He hopes to promote the artist-in-residence, as well as create a “spend a week with the artists” package to encourage more people to visit during the artists series.

Still, the partnership doesn’t just benefit the inn. “Our hotel guests are the perfect demographic for the artwork, as far as income level,” said Kluck. “People who can afford to stay at the inn [can afford to] buy the artwork. If we have 135 rooms and we’re averaging 70 percent; that’s about 30,000 room nights a year. That’s 12,000 to 13,000 people who have an opportunity to walk through the gallery, and that doesn’t include toot traffic. It’s great exposure for them.”

COPYRIGHT 2003 Advanstar Communications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group