Original Local Art Featured In New Omni Hotel

December 1, 2011  

BEYOND THE BUBBLE

By Shelby Foster
slfoster@smu.edu

Art from the new Omni Hotel. (Photo by Shelby Foster/Beyond the Bubble staff)

Unique, original, and one-of-a-kind aren’t words normally associated with art hanging in hotels across the United States. Many guests have grown accustomed to seeing the same pieces repeated throughout rooms and hallways, lobbies and restaurants.

And for developer Jack Matthews, the monotony grew to be too much.

So when his company, Matthews Southwest, was brought on to build the Omni Dallas Hotel, a fresh take on art was a primary focus.

“I’ve spent too many days traveling for business in hotels,” he said. “Same picture, same thing, it gets monotonous. You get the feeling that it’s nothing special.”

The hotel, which is built adjacent to the Dallas Convention Center, opened its doors on Nov. 11.

Each of the 1,001 rooms at the Omni have around seven pieces of art, which equates to a whopping 7,000 original works done by more than 150 local artists.

The process of searching for artists from around North Texas and gathering pieces was not an easy task.

Jeremy McKane, of McKane Consulting, took on the responsibility of overseeing a large team to seek out the perfect art for the hotel.

One artist who was chosen to participate in the art initiative at the Omni was Luke Sanchez, a sophomore studio art student at Southern Methodist University.

He worked in collaboration with McKane and his team to create five large paintings for the hotel.

“All the paintings focus on Dallas landmarks, and since SMU is close to my heart, several depict Dallas Hall,” said Sanchez.

The greatest reward, according to McKane, was not filling the Omni with beautiful art, but truly impacting the lives of the artists.

McKane is incorporating a database system so that when a guest finds a piece they love, they can access the name of the artist and contact them directly to purchase a similar piece.

“Now we are talking about something that just keeps giving back to the arts community here in Dallas,” said McKane. “I think the process will continue to effect the community in ways we never imaged.”

So not only are the artists earning a one-time commission from the Omni, they can also broaden their client base and gain the benefits of having exposure in the hotel.

The database will be located in the gift shop in the Omni, aptly called “Collections.”

Among the usual personal necessities and trinkets, the gift shop sells homegrown products unique to Texas, like chocolate crafted into various shapes, books devoted to the history of cowboy boots, products by local soap companies, and handmade purses.

For guests looking for instant art gratification, there are a few pieces of art available for purchase in Collections, like architectural photography by Linda Wilson and abstract paintings by Willis Davis.

Art for sale in the Omni. (Photo by Shelby Foster/Beyond the Bubble staff)


Matthews said that a lot of the art around the Omni was created in a working conversation between the artists and the hotel during a two-year-long-process.

“We looked at what the artists have done in the past, and of course encouraged Dallas themes, buildings, entertainment,” said Matthews. “It was a delicate balance because we wanted to be true to what the artists’ wanted.”

They also made it a priority to feature mostly unknown artists, to give them an opportunity to grow their business.

According to Matthews, only around 25 to 30 percent of the art budget was spent on well-known artists.

Although the Omni Dallas has only been open for a few weeks, guests are already noticing that there is something different.

“We have a photo of Big Tex in our bathroom,” said Shalonda Shoat, who was celebrating a birthday weekend at the hotel. “There is also a beautiful one of the Majestic. They did a great job of blending the old and the new Dallas.”

Shoat was also fond of the dessert salsa made by a Texas-based company called Dread Head Chef that was for sale in the gift shop.

Jennifer Mask, who was visiting from McAllen, Texas, immediately picked up on the art due to her artist mother.

“My mom wanted me to make sure I checked out all the art and reported back to her,” said Mask, who had just checked in with her husband. “I can’t wait to see all the art in my room.”

Matthews hopes that the Omni Dallas won’t be the only hotel to incorporate the surrounding art community.

“We had a lot of people that said it could not be done. But now, I think we’ve raised the bar for other hotels,” said Matthews.

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