How to Use Art to Enhance Events

Planners are using art and artists to enhance group events in a number of ways

Hilton Anatole in Dallas

Meetings groups are increasingly finding that art isn't just for museums. Cities are embracing public art programs to add character to their downtown cores, while downtown hotels and conference centers are raising the bar on their art offerings -- trading out generic corporate art for one-of-a-kind pieces by respected local artists. And groups are tapping into all of this to create a more memorable, stimulating meeting experience for attendees.

"Attendees get an opportunity to show their own sense of creativity within general guidelines, which for many companies helps to season their leaders," says Karen Shackman, president of event planner Shackman and Associates New York.

Shackman has helped to incorporate art into corporate events in a number of ways. She took one destination meeting group on a private tour of the city's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), followed by a trip to a nearby art studio where blank easels awaited, so attendees could attempt to copy favorite works they just saw. She has also organized afterhours events at local art studios in the SoHo and TriBeCa neighborhoods, where fashionable designs and hip furnishings create a standout space for cocktail receptions or product launches.


 

 Hotel Exhibits
But while it's no surprise that museums and studios in the center of Manhattan boast artsy offerings for groups, many other cities and properties are attracting groups with their own arts-centric attractions. The Hilton Anatole, in Dallas, boasts one of the largest collections of art and artifacts held by any U.S. hotel, and now offers a curated "art dine-around" that pairs 15 of the hotel's pieces with food and beverage items from their country of origin. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas recently announced that its 46 new high-end suites would each feature original works of art curated by online art market Artspace (for example, the 760-square-foot Executive Suite includes Cambridge artist Julie Graham's "Evidence K" and painter Bastienne Schmidt's "Bamboo Forest, Shelter Island").

The Conrad Indianapolis has developed a fine-art experience for guests that offers curated exhibits and displays throughout its 15,000 square feet of public space, along with art-adorned meeting spaces and guest rooms. It also offers an Art Ambassador program in which informative guided tours are given throughout the hotel.

 

A group joins in the Conrad Indianapolis'
Art Ambassador program
A group joins in the Conrad Indianapolis' Art Ambassador program

"Having on-site activities like our Art Ambassador tours helped planners drive attendance by allowing attendees to combine business with leisure travel," says Courtney Shafer, director of catering sales for the Conrad Indianapolis, giving the example of a recent regional meeting for the Young Presidents' Organization, where attending spouses took advantage of the program. "This meeting even took the integration of art a step further by inviting our culinary team to prepare a menu inspired by the art in their meeting spaces."

Groups that meet in one of the hotel's art-adorned spaces have the chance to learn about the works from the artist him- or herself.

Cleveland's The Metropolitan at The 9, a member of Marriott's Autograph Collection located in a converted 1906 bank, has taken a similar approach to not only elevating its art offerings, but encouraging groups to engage with the art directly. In addition to a rotunda designed by George B. Post that features a Tiffany-glass dome and 13 murals by the artist Francis Davis Millet, the property has installed a functioning art studio and a rotating art gallery on its second floor lobby, all part of a new Artist in Residence program.

The residency gives a different artist the chance to interact with groups and individuals visiting the property every four months. The artists (who include visual, as well as written and performance artists) also work with the hotel's staff to promote the program. Among the Northeastern Ohio artists featured in the art gallery are painter Pamela Gilliland, photographer Jeannette Palsa, and painter Samuel Roth.

The Metropolitan is not the only Cleveland property adding artsy elements to its offerings. The Westin Cleveland Downtown features more than 1,500 pieces of original artwork throughout its 484 rooms and public areas (including more than 145 original works by Cleveland-area artists). For example, local artists Sarah Kabot and Marianne Desmarais created a large-scale piece on the exterior of the building that evokes the bending Cuyahoga River. Inside the main lobby, guests are struck by a peaceful, massive head sculpture by Olga Zimska, constructed out of hundreds of tree branches reclaimed from the construction of the Cleveland Innerbelt Bridge in the Tremont neighborhood.

"Our art collection enhances our guests' overall experience by showcasing exceptional pieces that provide an intimate look and immediate understanding of the community they're visiting," says Karen Troyer, director of sales and marketing for Westin Cleveland.

The works were sourced by Sage Hospitality, which manages more than 75 hotels, and has found that making local, original art central to a property helps enhance the experience in numerous ways.

"Art is always curated from local artists, with a theme that reflects the city and the design of the hotel, and one of the greatest perks is that we are able to give back and support the local community by purchasing these pieces," says Kate Davis, director of marketing communications for Sage Hospitality.


Bringing People Together
For the Westin Cleveland, Sage worked with LAND Studio, a Cleveland-based design group focused on enhancing public places and other gathering areas through the use of art and design. Its mission includes the goal to "connect people through public art." This reflects the broader value that art can offer to spaces in bringing people together and creating a sense of community -- goals that overlap quite well with those of most planners of meetings.

"Many different types of art can be used to showcase the destination, the culture, and the local flavor of the hosting venue, organization, or city," says Char McClelland, president of Alaska Destination Specialists, Inc., a DMC based in Anchorage, AK. McClelland often brings in local and native Alaskan artists to offer working craft tables or booths, showcasing skills such as sewing, beading, and carving.

"These are not vendor booths for selling wares, but opportunities for guests to talk with the artists -- learn about their crafts, their culture, and their art -- making it a personal experience that people remember long after the event they attend," adds McClelland.

 

Museums continue to serve as ideal venues for emphasizing similar themes of creativity. Last August, the Anchorage Museum hosted the GLACIER (Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience) Conference, which drew 150 foreign ministers, as well as President Barack Obama, who gave the closing remarks. The museum brought art installations to the Dena'ina Center where the conference was being held -- triptychs of contemporary images of the Arctic, composed on birch ply by photographer Brian Adams. As attendees removed four-by-four-inch blocks that covered the installation (providing them with a unique keepsake from the event), the images of the Arctic were revealed.

"The GLACIER conference was about critical issues in the Arctic, and the art installations by the Anchorage Museum added a personal perspective to the meetings," says Laura Carpenter, marketing and public relations manager for the museum. "Artists are adept at conveying the complexity of place and people."    



Questions or comments? Email [email protected]



This article appears in the February 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.


Bringing People Together
For the Westin Cleveland, Sage worked with LAND Studio, a Cleveland-based design group focused on enhancing public places and other gathering areas through the use of art and design. Its mission includes the goal to "connect people through public art." This reflects the broader value that art can offer to spaces in bringing people together and creating a sense of community -- goals that overlap quite well with those of most planners of meetings.

"Many different types of art can be used to showcase the destination, the culture, and the local flavor of the hosting venue, organization, or city," says Char McClelland, president of Alaska Destination Specialists, Inc., a DMC based in Anchorage, AK. McClelland often brings in local and native Alaskan artists to offer working craft tables or booths, showcasing skills such as sewing, beading, and carving.

"These are not vendor booths for selling wares, but opportunities for guests to talk with the artists -- learn about their crafts, their culture, and their art -- making it a personal experience that people remember long after the event they attend," adds McClelland.

 

Each attendee at the GLACIER Conference
removed one block from this work,
exhibiting Arctic images below
Each attendee at the GLACIER Conference removed one block from this work, exhibiting Arctic images below

Museums continue to serve as ideal venues for emphasizing similar themes of creativity. Last August, the Anchorage Museum hosted the GLACIER (Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience) Conference, which drew 150 foreign ministers, as well as President Barack Obama, who gave the closing remarks. The museum brought art installations to the Dena'ina Center where the conference was being held -- triptychs of contemporary images of the Arctic, composed on birch ply by photographer Brian Adams. As attendees removed four-by-four-inch blocks that covered the installation (providing them with a unique keepsake from the event), the images of the Arctic were revealed.

"The GLACIER conference was about critical issues in the Arctic, and the art installations by the Anchorage Museum added a personal perspective to the meetings," says Laura Carpenter, marketing and public relations manager for the museum. "Artists are adept at conveying the complexity of place and people."    



Questions or comments? Email [email protected]



This article appears in the February 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.