Engaging Student Artists Beyond the Studio

While every art program we curate tells a story, the recently opened Hilton Garden Inn in Boulder, Colorado features one of the more meaningful. Thanks to a partnership with NINE dot ARTS, Sage Hospitality and the University of Colorado Boulder (CU), the 172-room hotel features art from students and alumni of the university, which sits just up the street from the hotel.

Through an eighteen-month-long art mentorship program called Beyond the Studio, mentor Lisa Solberg, internationally renowned artist and CU Boulder alum, worked with CU MFA in Painting candidate Johnny DeFeo to create a mural-like concept that was reproduced in all 172 guestrooms of the hotel, which shares a campus with the Embassy Suites, designed by architect JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE.

Envisioned to teach real-world experience in the arts, Beyond the Studio provided funding and guidance for an emerging artist to learn the business of being a professional artist from someone currently working and succeeding in the field.

As Defo said during the process, “I’m a business artist; I’m not interested in being a starving artist.”

The program was based on an apprenticeship model that teaches the business side of the arts, including how to propose your work for a large-scale project, how to develop a budget, and how to get bids and quotes.

Over the course of 18 months, DeFeo, under Solberg’s guidance, developed a proposal for the guestrooms, presented the concept to NINE dot ARTS and Sage Hospitality, oversaw production and supervised the installation. The process allowed him to gain experience in conceptualization, research, communication, fabrication and project management.

Sage and NINE dot ARTS have a long-standing history of collaborating with universities for hotel projects.

“We’re in a position to help artists grow and, in this case, launch careers,” says Walter Isenberg, Sage president and CEO. “Often, we’re giving artists their first major commission and serving as a gateway into corporate collections. We take pride in knowing we can make such a positive impact on an artist’s life.”

The collaboration showcased Sage’s dedication to creativity, education and artistic excellence.

“We see supporting artists as a fundamental part of our business because their work brings so much energy and excitement to our hotels,” added Isenberg.

Beyond the Studio also highlighted the talent and innovation coming out of CU Boulder’s Art Department.

“The mentorship program offered a great opportunity for our students to garner hands-on experience working with an established artist,” said Kirk Ambrose, chair of the CU Department of Art and Art History. “This program equips our students with the tools necessary to succeed as artists.”

The Hilton Garden Inn Boulder is a great showcase of the potential of these artist connections. We’re looking forward to creating more opportunities for emerging artists to launch their careers as professionals.