Part of the allure of going the non-hotel route for vacation lodging lies in the element of curation. Whereas many hotel brands, in the past, might have been indistinguishable from one city to the next, staying in a private home via Airbnb or choosing a cabin from the local realty gave the traveler a rooted sense of place.
You know you’re at the beach because of the shell chandelier hanging from the ceiling or the sea glass shadow boxes on the walls. And there’s no doubt you’re in the mountains when the bed is covered with an authentic patchwork quilt and there’s a bearskin rug on the floor. These homes are usually lovingly decorated to evoke a real sense of place, and that is welcoming to the weary traveler.
Terry Eaton and partner Robert Williams. (Image courtesy: Kurt Forschen)
Artwork in the public spaces of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. (Images courtesy: Cari Guerin)
So yes, guests may be more demanding today. But hospitality art has a greater degree of accessibility now―anyone can give their establishment a bit of local flair and feeling of authenticity. For hoteliers who’d like some guidance, there are consultants and designers who do just that.
And if you really want to make a splash, there is Eaton Fine Art. Established in 1992, they are currently celebrating 25 years in the business of full-service art consultation. From planning and design to production and installation, they specialize in custom projects, mostly for the hospitality industry but for the healthcare industry as well.
Artwork in the public spaces of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. (Image courtesy: Cari Guerin)
An artist since his early teenage years, Terry Eaton long knew he wanted to work in the art world. He also wanted to do something with business and earned a marketing degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He started out curating art programs for various businesses, focusing on how the end result can engage and enlighten a space. It was a rather natural progression to his eventual focus on the hospitality industry.
“We actually embrace and are very excited for these changes in the industry,” Eaton says. “Years ago, an art program was something colorful on the wall. It was a placeholder.” With his background in marketing, Eaton is particularly focused on gaining more than a passing glance with his installations. “Today’s artwork,” he says, “be it on the wall or sculptural, is very much about the authentic and experiential aspect, and experiential goes into the social media aspect as well. I think it is very exciting when an art program—and the curation of that program—is based around the question of, what do we want the guest to walk away with or be excited about?”
Artwork at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin in Austin, Texas (Image courtesy: Paul Bardagjy)
With his deep knowledge of art and marketing, Eaton “truly enjoys collaborating” with his clients. Whether working with an interior designer or directly with a hotel owner, he is able to grasp a vision of the creative message and interpret it through artwork and elevate the guest experience with Instagrammable, tweetable moments.
“We consider all of that within our creative vocabulary and dialogue when we are collaborating with our clients,” Eaton says. “And then they come up with some ideas, and we try to think out of the box and, ideally, curate things that are not necessarily expected. Then the story behind it is woven into this narrative of the history of the city, the cultural nuances of the area. So it all ties into and enhances the local authenticity.”
EFA's charitable contributions to the AIDS Services of Austin. (Images courtesy: Kurt Forschen)
One of Eaton Fine Art’s signature projects is The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas where they served as the art curator and collaborated on “anything that’s on the wall” in the public spaces and the more than 3,000 guestrooms. “That was a joy,” Eaton says, “because we were part of the team with ownership and the three design firms. We were all were part of that discussion of, ‘how can every team member help elevate the property and help enhance the marketing slogan?’”
That slogan, by the way, is “Just the right amount of wrong.”
Whether working with an interior designer or directly with a hotel owner, he is able to grasp a vision of the creative message and interpret it through artwork and elevate the guest experience with Instagrammable, tweetable moments.
A guestroom at The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach. (Image courtesy: The Ritz-Carlton Residences)
Guestroom at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. (Image courtesy: Cari Guerin)
“What a blast,” Eaton says. “What a thrill and honor to curate an art program around ‘just the right amount of wrong.’ We had our minds open, so we had a lot of fun.” The artwork in the public spaces is from artists representing 13 different countries. And for the guestrooms and suites, they collaborated with artists from nine different countries. “We did that very purposefully,” he said, “understanding that the traveler to Las Vegas can be a worldly traveler whether living in United States or from abroad. And we wanted that really interesting perspective of a lot of different viewpoints―we found that by reaching out to artists from all over the world. So that was a joy to collaborate on.”
Collaboration is the name of the game for Eaton. Even when a particular project presents unforeseen challenges, he sees a creative opportunity. “I am one of those business owners that seldom would tell our clients no,” he says. “I will tell a client or a hotel owner that we will figure out how to do it, and the joy of that philosophy from our perspective and our clients’ perspective is it allows us to continue to think outside of the box and create solutions.”
If you’re thinking about adding an art program, or changing up what you already have, Eaton would advise that you create it as part of a larger story. “Whether the narrative is developed by a hotelier or designer or an art curator, we love developing narrative with our collaborators,” he says. “It lends more to the authenticity of it, that sense of localness, by perhaps embodying the history of the building or neighborhood. We dive into the history and nuances and the culture of a project when we are asked to be involved.”
Artwork in the public spaces of Hilton West Palm Beach. (Images courtesy: Eaton Fine Art)
Eaton Fine Art is currently working on projects all over the continental U.S., including in Florida, upstate New York, Texas, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hawaii, the Bahamas, and throughout the Caribbean. “We have a very large list of projects,” he says, “and we are very honored and thrilled to continue to collaborate with many clients that we have worked with for a good many years. And we are always blessed to have new collaborators and clients come into our lives as well.”
I will tell a client or a hotel owner that we will figure out how to do it, and the joy of that philosophy from our perspective and our clients’ perspective is it allows us to continue to think outside of the box and create solutions.
Eaton and his partner, Robert Williams, give back to their communities by donating art to various organizations, such as a cancer center in San Francisco after they both lost parents to cancer, and a dental clinic operated by AIDS Services of Austin. “One of the things that is very important to us as a company, and to Robert and I as individuals,” Eaton says, “is always giving back to our world. We have been blessed to curate many wonderful programs for many hotels and other projects, so we also like giving back. We are passionate about our work, and we have a blast at what we do.”
By Ashley Atkins