It used to be that hotel art was of the mass-produced, cheesy watercolor kind. No more. Two new hotels in Minneapolis, the Radisson RED and the Hewing Hotel, have not only made original, modern art part of their designs, they’ve recruited local artists and artisans to contribute their talents.
Adam Turman, a local muralist whose work has graced the Butcher and the Boar, the Guthrie Theater, and Sisyphus Brewing (among many other venues) was sought out by the RED earlier this year.
Rich Flores, vice president of branding at the RED, suggested the murder of crows phenomenon as the motif for the Minneapolis location’s lobby. Like many Minnesotans, Turman had seen the obscene amount of crows that occupy the airspace around I-394, the Walker Sculpture Garden, and the Basilica in the fall. He took that vision and incorporated it into a 128 x 13 foot mural.
“I don’t think the Radisson RED would like to think that it’s necessarily dark, but let’s be honest, it’s dark gray and black crows that are squawking at you when you walk in,” Turman says.
The work is thematically more sinister than Turman’s previous murals and screenprint posters, which often focus on iconic skylines and typical Minnesotan activities like biking, camping, canoeing, and beer-drinking.
Perhaps part of the darkness in the RED’s mural was due to the timing of Turman’s painting: because of union rules and regulations, the painter was only allowed in the building from 3 to 10 p.m. over the course of two weeks.
“I’ve never worked this way,” Turman says. “It was really restrictive as far as my timing went, so I knew that every minute and every hour that I spent there I really had to be getting the most out of my time.”
It took him 65 hours to complete the cacophony of approximately 50 dark gray and black crows that adorn the lobby and wrap around the hotel’s OUIBar. To lighten the mood, Turman added bright orange and yellow swaths of paint to the background.
“It’s, first of all, it’s a really cool image and secondly, it’s got tie-ins to the Minneapolis culture and the phenomenon that happens once in awhile in the fall,” he says of the design.
Another local artist featured prominently in this new genre of hotel art is Patrick K. Pryor, whose pair of 6 x 8 foot paintings are on display in the lobby of the Hewing Hotel. The art is in the vein he’s been working in for the past couple of years, which he refers to as “The Tablet,” a reference to the tablets of ancient times. “Those were our first writing surfaces. So there’s that tension between the past and now,” he says.
Pryor’s process involves layers upon layers of paint and patterns, then sanding and scraping through them. Tape creates architectural lines which provide stylistic stability and structure to the composition. The paintings he created for the Hewing evoke a gritty, graph-like, city-in-planning vibe.
“I’m very interested in connecting the past to the present and this look of this aged, worn, surface as a stand-in for a symbol of the passage of time,” the artist says.
Pryor was contacted by Tim Dixon of Fe Equus Development shortly after Aparium Hotel Group purchased the building that houses the Hewing. Pryor was intrigued by the history of the building, which was originally built for lumber production, and the revelation that a train ran underneath. He also spoke with architects to learn more about the materials being used in the interior design of the hotel: walnut for the furniture, leather pulls for dresser drawers, and reclaimed wood floors. He liked that all of these surfaces will show change over time due to human use.
“I’m interested in transformation, I’m interested in these pieces appearing in some sort of state of becoming something or something’s being revealed,” Pryor says. “It’s this old building that connects us to the past and yet it’s being reinvented and transformed, so there was this synergy between my work and what was going on in the hotel.”
Just as these hotels are bringing new kinds of accommodations to Minneapolis -- RED is aimed at tech-savvy millennials and the Hewing is part of hyper-local, history-focused brand Aparium -- these artworks will introduce outsiders to the unique creative culture of the Twin Cities.
“It’s the only way to stay true to our translocal philosophy and consistent with our mission and promise to celebrate all the amazing talents in and around Minneapolis,” says Aparium CEO Mario Tricoci of the decision to bring in local artists. “Plus, there is some brilliant vision and expert artistry locally. We’d be crazy not incorporating them where we can.”