Local Art Lends a Sense of Place to Events

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Art is everywhere in Columbus, Ohio.
Art is everywhere in Columbus, Ohio. Mona Lisa mural by Brian Clemons in the Short North Arts District, courtesy Experience Columbus.

Venues big and small embrace local art and offer curated experiences for groups.

It’s a win-win trend. Hotels and venues nationwide are investing in local art, supporting their communities and offering unique cultural experiences for meetings and incentives.  Planners can engage attendees with events such as hosting local artists at receptions, raffling a piece of art or setting up curated tours.

Both permanent art installations and rotating collections—often in on-site galleries—are windows to the soul of a destination. Examples range from the $7million public art collection at the Miami Beach Convention Center to the MCCA galleries at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC) and the Hynes. Since its first exhibition in in the mid-1990’s, the MCCA galleries have showcased over 700 local artists and sold more than $65,000 worth of art.

There are countless destinations and venues across the country embracing local art. Prevue reached out to 3 diverse examples for their inside stories: Columbus, Ohio; Mountain Shadows Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona; and The Groton Inn in Groton, Massachusetts.

Columbus, Ohio

One of 199 pieces of original art by Central Ohio artists at the Hilton Columbus Downtown Tower 2, by S. Auguston.

“When people travel for meetings and conventions, they want to feel a sense of belonging during their time away from home,” says Brian Ross, president and CEO of Experience Columbus. “Art can do that. It transcends geography and brings people together.

Columbus is a shining example of the wide ranging power of the arts. According to the Greater Columbus  Arts Council , says Ross, 95 percent of residents believe the arts greatly enhance the city’s quality of life. “Not only does this sector improve the visitor experience, but it also enhances the destination for the people who live here,” he notes. “By giving local artists the space and opportunity to show their work in hotels and meeting venues, where multiple eyeballs with national and international reach can appreciate their work, it allows them to have greater exposure with a wider audience they may not have been able to reach otherwise.”

The 1,000-room Hilton Columbus Downtown, for instance, features a stunning art collection of nearly $2.5 million. The hotel’s new 28-story tower, adjacent to the convention center,  incorporates 199 pieces of original art by Central Ohio artists. Welcoming guests at reception is an oxidized-metal canvas piece displaying the Columbus landscape, created by local artists Sharone Putter and Ran Berdichesky. Hilton provides group tours for up to 30 people upon request through the Reese Brothers, a local art consulting service. Tours are free of cost and typically last between 45-60 minutes.

An art tour at the North Atrium at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
An art tour at the North Atrium at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Photo by Feinknopf Photography.

At the convention center, the Greater Columbus Convention Center Art Collection showcases a huge range of local art in media that includes  oil, acrylic, fabric, collage, ceramic, glass, wood and interactive, with styles ranging from traditional to cartoon, dimensional and graffiti. Meeting planners can schedule free, guided group tours of the permanent collection for groups of ten or more. Arrangements must be made four weeks in advance and tours are 45 minutes in length. Also at the convention center, the mural Hope, Unity and Resiliency created by Columbus artist Jeremy Jarvis and painted by PCMA participants across the country was unveiled during the opening session of PCMA’s Convening Leaders. “It will live on as a permanent installation and as a testament to how the meetings and events industry persevered in the face of COVID-19,” says Ross.


Mountain Shadows Gallery, art by Jesse Reiser.
Mountain Shadows Gallery, art by Jesse Reiser.

Mountain Shadows Resort

Curated by local artist Cece Cole, the gallery at 183-room Mountain Shadows Resort in Scottsdale features museum quality work by emerging artists. The collection changes every two months: on view from April 12 to May 31 is Spring Fever, featuring four artists who incorporate digital and video elements into their practices. The exhibition includes a series of shorts representing each artist that will stream throughout the resort.

“The resort is locally owned and operated, and we understand the importance of displaying and supporting local artists, especially when so many of our guests are visiting from other destinations,” says Jesse Thompson, area director of sales and marketing. “Our artists typically use influences or creative inspiration from their surroundings, and this assists in the tying together of the culture, design, and personality of the resort. Additionally, we purposely invite our locals and nearby residents to frequent our property, as almost a community amenity. So, when we can bring these local influences together, it assists in defining our culture, exposing our offerings, and being a destination that people want to visit and where locals want to bring visitors to experience.”

By offering a rotating gallery, says Thompson, “we build our brand as a unique and ‘outside of the box’ option. While many properties use local artists in their décor, few have a rotating gallery of exhibitions that bring various mediums together. It provides the resort with the ability to bring in different facets of the art industry for each exhibition.” As well, meeting planners can work work with curator Cece Cole to display specific art. “A recent example would be bringing retired professional sports players’ art to the gallery during the Waste Management Phoenix Open and Super Bowl,” notes Thompson. “Prior to that, we had a large-scale convention that wanted a specific genre of art displayed during their conference.”

Joni Parker-Roach, owner and curator of the NOA gallery at The Groton Inn.
Joni Parker-Roach, curator of NOA Gallery at The Groton Inn.

The Groton Inn

Ideal for small incentive groups and executive retreats, the 60-room Groton Inn is located in picture-postcard Massachusetts less than an hour from Boston. Groton’s history as an arts destination dates back to its founding in the 1600’s, and today it’s an emerging gem on the arts radar. The luxe Groton Inn, opened in 2018, collaborated with the local NOA Gallery to show a rotating collection of more than 50 New England artists. “Hotels are all about evolution and always looking for ways to be creative in public spaces,” says Groton Inn General Manager Tricia Tompkins. “To be able to support local artists and showcase them is wonderful.”

Five years after its opening, the Inn has displayed a multitude of local artists and sold many of their works. “NOA does a wonderful job selecting pieces that rotate seasonally in our main lobby and hallway,” says Tompkins. “It certainly gives the artist a sense of pride for their artwork to be hung at the Inn. I love that we have sold many of their pieces!”

Joni Parker-Roach, owner and curator of NOA Gallery at The Groton inn, leads art tours for groups of four or more, guiding participants through the collection and offering commentary on the artists, the individual pieces and the techniques used. She founded NOA Gallery more than 20 years ago with the mission of helping to make Groton an arts destination and giving New England artists a venue to show and sell their work. “I speak not only to the art but to the history of the arts in Groton and how, with The Groton Inn and our newly opened world-class Groton Hill Music Center, we are fast-becoming a destination community.”


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