Crossroads Hotel Tapping Local Artists

Works of local artists and designers have found welcome lodgings at the Crossroads Hotel, which opened in October at 21st and Central streets in the Crossroads Arts District.

And there is much more to come. The hotel is launching an ambitious arts program of temporary installations, permanent commissions and changing exhibitions. el dorado inc., which designed the hotel, will curate its arts program.

“The team at el dorado and I have curated the collection for the hotel and are curating the exhibitions,” said Hesse McGraw, a principal with el dorado. The hotel will provide a “very public manifestation of the incredible energy and spirit of Kansas City artists,” he said.

McGraw lauded the vision of Chicago-based Aparium Hotel Group, which renovated the historic Pabst Brewing and Pendergast buildings into the 131-room boutique hotel and rooftop bar.

McGraw said Aparium is known for creating hotels, such as the Foundation Hotel in Detroit, the Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee and the Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis, which “add energy and vitality to neighborhoods. They do that by engaging local artists and artisans, in a very thoughtful and authentic way.”

The Crossroads Hotel has acquired 40 artworks that have been permanently installed throughout the public spaces. The artists are all Kansas City-based or affiliated with Kansas City, McGraw said.

The hotel will feature six art exhibitions a year, changing every other month. Earlier this fall, the inaugural exhibition artist at the hotel was nationally renowned Rashawn Griffin, who grew up in Olathe. His “Everything-Nothing” work was on display as part of Kansas City’s Open Spaces festival.

The hotel’s second exhibition artist will be Kansas City-based Mike Sinclair, who is due in the spring. Sinclair, a Guggenheim fellow, will exhibit photographs of Crossroads Arts District studios over the decades.

“It’s kind of an encyclopedic overview of the artist community that has been rooted here,” McGraw said. “I expect there will be 15 to 20 images, each of an individual artist’s studio, and represented in ways that only Mike can capture.”

Most of the exhibitions will be one-person shows, McGraw said. “What we’re aiming for is exhibitions that feel like singular experiences within the space, either site-specific in response to the space, or a response to the context, in some way amplifying a hospitality context. Or thinking about the relationship between the hotel and this neighborhood.”

Some of the exhibited works will be acquired for the hotel’s permanent collection, McGraw said.

Exhibitions are being driven by an artist-in-residence program, which is based in a studio at the hotel. Two-month residencies will be followed by two-month exhibitions. Griffin made use of the studio space, McGraw said.

“Typically, the artist who is exhibiting will be using the studio to develop and complete the work, and then it becomes public through the exhibition,” he said.

McGraw noted that the hotel’s exhibition space will be open to public viewing 24/7. “It’s part of the entry experience of the hotel. It’s part of the guest experience. You can see it from the street. Our hope is that this becomes part of the life of the neighborhood.”

In addition to artworks, the hotel features unique fixtures designed by artists. Works by Kansas City artist Melanie Sherman include hand-painted ceramic lighting and the design for hand-painted lampshades. The hotel features wallpaper designed by local tattoo artist Mikey Wheeler and his wife, Megan Mac Wheeler. Also included are handcrafted furniture pieces from Kansas City-based Castilleja Furniture | Objects, which serve as fixtures in the hotel’s restaurants.

Other examples of Sherman’s work at the hotel include ceramic pieces ensconced in small shadow boxes, as well as photography. It is “great to have artwork incorporated into hotels,” Sherman said. “But the fact that they incorporated local artists makes it so much more interesting, because you see the variety of artists from all over the city and what we all have to offer.”

Julius Karash

Julius A. Karash is a freelance writer, editor and public relations person. He formerly was a business reporter for the Kansas City Star and executive editor of KC Business magazine. He devours business and economic news, and is keenly interested in the relationship between arts and economic development in the Kansas City area.

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