There's a golden rule for out-fitting hotels with artwork. “Never do the same thing twice,” says Martha Weidmann, co-founder of Denver-based NINE dot ARTS. The firm has curated art collections for about 25 hotels in a dozen states since Weidmann founded it with Molly Casey in 2009.
Part of the reason for that is logistical: You don’t want people getting lost because the art-work is the same on every floor. But the main reasons are aesthetics and branding. “You want a completely different experience for every hotel,” explains Weidmann, “so you feel you were someplace you’ve never been before.”
NINE dot ARTS’ distinctive collections accomplish that task with aplomb at numer-ous hotels in Denver and elsewhere, and they’re not the only lodgings in Colorado that deftly use art to set the place apart.
The Crawford Hotel
Newly opened in Denver Union Station in summer 2014, The Crawford Hotel takes its location’s railroad history to heart.
“The vision was to create a unique expe-rience that combined the history and the significance of the building and bringing it to modern day,” says Molly Casey of NINE dot ARTS, the hotel’s curator.
To this end, every room is unique. The Pullman rooms are designed to feel like the luxurious sleeper cars of the same name with vintage rail-travel ads in the bathrooms. One of the Loft rooms features a touch of good humor with nine jackalope trophies from the infamous Wall Drug in South Dakota.
The public spaces hold a wide array of objects from Union Station’s past, including blueprints, hand-cranked train schedules, and objects that fell into the benches over the years, like old Hollywood trading cards, sales tax coins and train-flattened pennies. Weidmann recalls, “It was almost like an archaeological dig.”
With six private meeting rooms, the hotel has more than 3,000 square feet of private event space inside, not to mention a 40,000-square-foot outdoor plaza and the soaring 12,000-square-foot, semiprivate Great Hall in Union Station.
Located near the Colorado Convention Center, this is the quirkiest hotel this side of the Madonna Inn in California. Every floor of The Curtis - a DoubleTree by Hilton is themed. For example, the eighth floor is dedi-cated to sci-fi and the 13th floor is an homage to horror movies.
In 2014, Denver’s DLR Group worked with NINE dot ARTS to create 15 hyper-themed rooms and suites dedicated to bands, musi-cians and movies ranging from the Rolling Stones to Ghostbusters. On the car-themed 16th floor, the Talladega Nights Suite show-cases original artwork inspired by the Will Ferrell comedy, including a painting of the iconic nacho-cheese fountain.
The Kiss Suite features photos of Gene Simmons and company in full concert rega-lia, while the Jimmy Buffet-themed room has a mural that was collaborated with local Parrotheads. “It’s all Margaritaville in this room,” says Casey.
The Curtis has nearly 28,000 square feet of event space—the kitsch carries over to rooms named Duck Duck Goose and Patty-Cake— and can handle groups of up to 400 with theater-style seating.
Opened in 2010, Four Seasons Hotel Denver has nearly 1,400 works of art, three-quarters of them by Colorado artists.
“It’s a collection with a variety of mediums,” says Liz Graham of Denver’s Lewis Graham Art Consultants, the hotel’s curators. “There’s wooden sculpture, oils, pastels and metal-work. We like to mix it up.”
Graham highlights the work of two Denver artists: the three 400-pound marble sculptures by Vanessa Clarke in the lobby and Trine Bumiller’s oils on asymmetrical panels on the grand staircase. “It’s a contemporary space, but the art had to have organic elements,” she says of the three-year selection process.
Lewis Graham followed up the Four Seasons project with curation for the 2013 remodel of The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creek.
The Four Seasons in Denver hosts meet-ings and events of up to 500 people, with ballrooms and an outdoor pool among its available spaces. The hotel has cutting-edge audio-visual technology and offers a dedicated 100 megabyte Internet connection.
The Mining Exchange
Perry and Lorn Lee Sanders incorporated their love of art into their hotel, The Mining Exchange, A Wyndham Grand Hotel in downtown Colorado Springs.
“My wife and I have been fine art collectors our whole lives,” says Perry. When the couple bought the historic 1900 building, they want-ed to do something different. “To get a bunch of knocked-off prints didn’t appeal to us.”
They enlisted Louisiana-based Eddie Mormon and Colorado-based Ron Apgar and Phil Lear to create a distinctive collection. Mormon painted colorful renditions of the hotel for every guest room, Lear was commis-sioned to create art of local legend Nikola Tesla for the public areas, and Apgar’s contemporary works hang in the restaurant and elsewhere.
The hotel features 18,000 square feet of function space, the largest being the 7,000- 8,000-square-foot Gold Room.
The Sebastian - Vail
The owners, the Marti family, are serious col-lectors, and they use the hotel to showcase their superlative cache of contemporary Mexican art.
Abstract Expressionist Manuel Felguérez and the late Leonora Carrington, who called Mexico home for six decades, are both well represented. “Salvador Dalí called her the most important female surrealist of our time,” says Ann Lynch, the hotel’s marketing and sales director, when describing Carrington.
The hotel’s rotating collection of about 50 works at any given time includes large-scale oil paintings and bronze sculptures in public areas. The newly renovated rooms feature limited-edition Felguérez prints, and the hotel often hosts special exhibitions in public areas.
The Sebastian - Vail has more than 8,500 square feet of space for banquets and events, including outdoor terraces, a ballroom and a boardroom.
“The advantage to showing at a hotel is people are out all day, but they come back to you again and again,” says Sara Eyestone, who has curated the art at Hotel Madeline Telluride located in Mountain Village.
Eyestone also curates for La Posada Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and uses the same six artists in both hotels. “They’re all estab-lished, living American artists.” she says. The roster includes Kim Barrick of Nashville, who does “some of the most beautiful snow paint-ings—just gorgeous,” according to Eyestone, along with Addie Draper and Kathleen Frank. Eyestone says the latter “works on a canvas that’s already been painted red. It adds such a glow to the works.”
All of the art is for sale. “Our program is very different,” says Eyestone. “We don’t raise the prices of the work. We sell the work at the artist’s studio price. It’s artist-friendly and collector-friendly, and the advantage to the hotel is they get a great collection of art.” Buyers are invited back with half-price rooms and no resort fees for one stay.
With more than 4,000 square feet of space for meetings and events, the hotel can handle groups of up to 200 people.