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Palomar Chicago: Offers Local Artist Program

Palomar Chicago: Offers Local Artist Program

By Anthony Brass

Justus Roe, "Life Like Bellum"

Sitting in one of the country’s highest concentrated areas of art galleries, the Palomar Chicago hotel in River North is pulling out historic memories of a significant cultural event, while at the same time exposing local artists within its confines.  The Palomar Chicago recently celebrated its one-year anniversary with the launch of new programs. The hotel first opened its doors with the décor and art direction fusing an homage to the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 (Degas and Monet had works displayed here), and using sophisticated modernity of more contemporary works on walls behind minimalist furnishings. There are several prints of Burnham’s “White City,” including the neoclassical Administration Building and “Statue of the Republic” adorning guests’ rooms.

The lavish hotel Living Room also has one half dedicated to the all-white Greco motif, with plaster and stone vases and chandeliers. The other half: an array of auburn-colored splashes of modern works and furnishings. “Art in Motion” is the theme for the hotel, reflecting a recognition and influence of the history of art, and its evolution into today’s artists.

Hotel Living Room

To keep the modern, sophisticated feel in the hotel, Palomar partnered with Revolving Collections Gallery to launch “Sleeping with the Artist,” a rotating program dedicated to displaying works of two local artists on the hallway walls outside the guestrooms.  Palomar General Manager, Nabil Moubayed, contacted Laura Cartwright at Revolving Collections Gallery to find local artists whose artistic style would assimilate with the décor.  “We definitely want to have Chicago artists that are established in the city, and have up-and-coming artists’ works displayed—artists that really get the essence of the city,” Moubayed says.

Palomar offers a unique, salon discussion series and reception at the beginning of each new artist’s paintings gallery exhibit. Here, the artists will communicate to all attendees on the vision and inspiration for their work.  Moubayed says he wanted the hotel not just to be a hotel, but become part of the River North community.  “I think doing this solidifies that you are not just a hotel, but inviting customers and local folks to become part of the experience. We felt we needed to get a little more ‘action’ behind the ‘Art in Motion’ theme,” he says.  Laura Cartwright, Moubayed, and other staff at Palomar choose which two local artists get work displayed. Chicagoans Justus Roe and Darrell Roberts were selected and have their work up today; their art is available for purchase by anyone.

Work by Darell Roberts

One challenge was how and where to blend in the local artists’ work: in a hotel where the design was done a year earlier. They found the hallways outside guest rooms were best.  “We figured we were going to take this and treat each floor as its own gallery,” said Laura Cartwright, a partner at Revolving Collections Gallery. “(We) tried not to conflict with what the designer instilled, current, in the first place with the hotel,” she added.  Cartwright says she tried to select work that was “present” with Chicago. She also added the team placed the local art in halls and not the lobby or living room because the hallways and some other areas lacked original artwork. The rooms still contain prints from the great World’s Fair—the modern abstract paintings wouldn’t blend in.

One local artist who was selected, Justus Roe, has a large, bright-hued painting, “Life Like Bellum,” that greets you as you step off the elevator to get to your room on the16th floor. His thick-textured pieces, reflecting the abstract and cubism, demand probing.  “I was drawn to his work; it appealed to me and a lot of the colors do really stand out to me,” Moubayed says. “He (Roe) says he draws his inspiration from everyday—what he sees in the city. It’s 3-dimenional and very bold,” he added.  Two floors down we find,

Darrell Roberts, a staple in the Chicago art world, offering his kaleidoscope of abstract expressionism for the guests to peruse. His use of primary colors will distract any tired guest from digging out their key card.  Cartwright says the enthusiasm from both for improving the “Art in Motion” theme was important. “Both these artists are really excited about the program.”  She also believes the discussion series will bring another dimension to the hotel.

World's Fair, Administration Building, Guests' Bedroom

“We want to really embrace letting the artist talk, and giving something different for the guests as well,” Cartwright says. “And even the Chicago public, to come in and really meet the artists and let them tell you about themselves, and give them a voice—we really wanted to keep it on a level where everyone was comfortable.” She says they wanted to boost the casual approach and erase the stigma of hotels and perceived high art: where a pretense exists between the guest, the artwork and the artist. “We wanted to open it up; and the artists will be talking.”  The other program is even more hands-on. In the Living Room area, the Palomar offers its “Adult Art Box,” where guests and visitors can dig into “creativity-inspiring” tools, including art-themed coffee table books, brainteasers, coloring books and sketchbooks. If you’re lucky enough, you might just find your own work one day on the walls before you enter your room after checking in.

For more on Darrell Roberts’ check out this article on ChicagoArtMachine.com.