The Phoenix art scene will have a new venue this fall, when art boutique hotel FOUND:RE opens in Central Phoenix.
Developers include Habitat Metro, the Phoenix-based firm that created Portland on the Park and Portland Place condos, and Bond Partners. They had hoped to open FOUND:RE in spring 2016. But renovations are still underway at the site of the former Lexington Hotel, which closed in April 2012.
"We'll do a soft opening at the end of September-ish," says Tim Sprague of Habitat Metro. The grand opening will likely happen in mid- to late October. But it could be the first week of November, Sprague says. Delays are pretty typical with adaptive reuse projects, he says, because developers always uncover things they hadn't expected.
Once the hotel opens, expect plenty of art for both locals and tourists to explore, says Mike Oleskow, the Phoenix curator and gallerist tapped by the hotel to serve as its cultural curator. “I’m responsible for all the art and cultural activities,” Oleskow says.
Look for works by local artists throughout the hotel – including the lobby, reception area, lounge, guest rooms, and event spaces. The hotel has 105 rooms, with what Sprague calls an "industrial chic" feel – and art placed just about everywhere, except inside the pool. Behind the registration desk, guests will spot Randy Slack's take on Burt Reynolds' 1972 centerfold for Cosmopolitan magazine.
There’s even a gallery space, which has its own entrance off Portland Street – making it easy to access without going through the hotel.
It’s a new concept in Phoenix, but not a wholly original enterprise.
Several art boutique hotels exist around the country, although each has a unique twist. The Sagamore in Miami has its own video art garden, and Hotel Indigo in Santa Barbara has an art library. Sprague and FOUND:RE general manager Vittal Calamur visited one of the best-known examples, the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville. "It felt a little stuffy for us," Sprague says. "Phoenix has a more relaxed vibe."
Chicago’s Hotel Palomar focuses on works by local contemporary artists, and Oleskow is taking a similar approach. Works by local artists he selects will be on view, and many will be available for purchase. “Someone who wants to take home a memory, or celebrate a special occasion, can buy an original or print,” he says.
So far the lineup of featured artists includes Aileen Frick, Hugo Medina, Chip Thomas, Kathy Taylor, Fred Tieken, Lucretia Torva, and Niki Woehler, to name a few.
Exhibitions will rotate monthly inside the FOUND:RE gallery space, and sometimes they’ll be curated by others, at Oleskow’s invitation. First up is an exhibition of works by artist Travis Ivey curated by Robrt Pela of R. Pela Contemporary Art (and a longtime New Times contributor). The next show features works by artist Jules Demetrius.
Don’t expect Oleskow to play it safe.
He’s looking for edgy artists that go beyond the expected and take their work to a new level, without worrying about political factors, religious views, or cultural norms. “I’m not afraid of controversy,” he says.
But there’s more to Oleskow’s role as cultural curator. He’ll also help hotel guests connect with local arts and culture destinations – suggesting and facilitating time at museums, galleries, art classes, or performances that match their interests.
He’s even poised to help guests meet the artists whose works they’re considering buying – by arranging studio tours, or guest and artist conversations at Match Cuisine & Cocktails.
“We want to make this an experience,” Oleskow says.
Correction: This post has been updated from its original version to reflect that FOUND:Re has 105 rooms, not 104.