When guests check into Hyatt Place, the hotel on Fore Street that’s set to open May 20, they will see artfully crafted blown-glass buoys by Ben Coombs behind the front desk.
In and around the lobby, they will see original paintings by Alison Hildreth, Alice Spencer and Tony Muench. And in their rooms, the photographs of Tanja Hollander will give them an austere visual perspective of Maine’s landscape, from the city to the coast to the mountains.
As much as it is Portland’s latest architectural talking point, Hyatt Place, at 433 Fore St., also is a destination for Maine art.
The developers, Tim and Jack Soley of East Brown Cow Management Inc., made a conscious attempt to the fill the hotel’s common areas and private rooms with local art.
“Usually you get a pre-approved catalog of art,” said Jack Soley. “You know, ‘Here are some lobster boats, lighthouses and a couple of sailboats – take your pick.’ For $65, they’ll mount them on the walls. … We wanted to reflect the flavor of Portland and of Maine, rather than create an anonymous hotel that could be anywhere.”
Soley would not discuss the cost of buying the local artwork, but said it was considerably more than the cost of art from a catalog.
Hollander scored the biggest prize. More than 400 of her photographs – eight original images replicated many times – hang in the seven-story hotel’s 120 rooms. The largest suites have as many as seven of her photographs.
Hollander, who lives in Auburn, hopes that other developers will follow the example of the Soley brothers.
There’s a lot of talk in Portland about the creative economy, she said, but artists often benefit the least. Buying original art is the best way a business or an individual can support an artist, she said.
“This is walking the walk,” said Hollander, who makes most of her sales in New York and Boston. “When you have a company like East Brown Cow taking the initiative, I really feel that other businesses will notice and follow suit.”
She would not say how much East Brown Cow paid her for the eight original images.
Her photographs, reproduced on canvas and framed in metal, capture familiar Maine settings in quiet, moody moments, from Popham Beach to Mount Kineo to Acadia National Park.
Soley said he and his brother hired local artists, architects and crafts people at every opportunity.
“We want this project to reflect the character of our company and to reflect our personalities,” he said. “We are invested in and prideful of our community.”
The paintings by Hildreth, Spencer and Muench are in the common areas on the hotel’s ground floor. Muench, a landscape architect, also designed the granite hardscaping on Fore Street. Lighting designer Greg Day provided exterior lighting, and Herb Clarke of Chameleon Coatings Hospitality designed and built a lighted kelp sculpture that hangs near the restaurant and bar.
The building, covered with synthetic stone panels designed to be similar in color to Monson’s blue-gray slate, was designed by architect Patrick Costin of Canal 5 Studio.
All of the artwork and architectural details, including Day’s LED lighting on the sides of the building, needed Hyatt’s approval.
Soley said East Brown Cow lobbied Hyatt to approve a restaurant run by a well-known local restaurateur, but that deal didn’t work out.
Spencer, who lives in Portland’s West End, provided two paintings from her Kasaya series, which she showed recently at Aucocisco Galleries in Portland. Kasaya refers to a monk’s cloak. The paintings evoke a collage of ancient textiles.
She was impressed that the developers chose contemporary Maine art for the hotel, rather than something more predictable.
“I think the art they chose gives a sense about the artistic community and the artistic robustness of this place,” Spencer said. “I think it will give the impression to visitors that this is a sophisticated hotel, and I think that’s going to be a plus for the clientele.”
The room rates at Hyatt Place range from $160 to more than $500 per night, varying by season, Soley said.
East Brown Cow built and owns the hotel, which is being managed by Commonwealth Hotels, a Kentucky company that operates more than 30 hotels across the country.
Dan Fay, Commonwealth Hotels’ president, said it’s unusual for a hotel to buy local art, especially for private rooms.
“You won’t go into many other branded hotels and see art like this,” Fay said. “It brings local fabric to this project and ties the hotel to the community. We want our customers to experience the community while they’re here.”
Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: