Business travel is an amazing opportunity to explore new ideas and draw creative inspiration from unfamiliar surroundings. This craving for a deeper connection with local culture is well understood by Toronto hotels that offer their lobbies, cafés, meeting and event spaces and even their guestrooms as blank canvases where Canadian artists can create inviting and immersive experiences.
“We love the idea that our art collection can connect guests from abroad with people who live around the corner. It’s a way to merge the traditional gallery space and the traditional hotel space in a way that offers fresh perspectives.”
– Ashley Mulvihill, art curator for Drake Hotel
You won’t find very many chain stores or international hotel brands along eclectic Queen Street West, where entrepreneurial boutique owners, restaurateurs and art galleries are revitalizing the neighbourhood. Gladstone House, a 133-year-old hotel landmark, provides a welcoming space for guests and local artists alike.
Gladstone House curator Lee Petrie offers behind-the-scenes art tours for groups meeting or staying at the hotel and can arrange hands-on, artist-led team-building experiences such as drawing, painting or photography.
The hotel features the work of about 60 artists, of which about one-third self-identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ2S or disabled, says resident curator Lee Petrie. “We want guests to have a really welcoming, almost homey kind of experience so that they get a taste of what the community is like and how vibrant our cultural scene is.”
Each of the hotel’s guest rooms features original artworks, and while the property has a few permanent pieces—for example, the spectacular lobby ceiling mural, Love & Above, by artist and designer Bryan Espiritu—most of the pieces displayed in the public spaces are rotated quarterly.
For groups meeting or staying at the hotel, Petrie offers behind-the-scenes art tours and can arrange hands-on, artist-led team-building experiences such as drawing, painting or photography. The hotel offers complimentary on-site studio space to three resident artists on the condition that their doors are always open so that guests can drop by to chat about their work. “It's been a really lovely way for our guests to meet the artists, get a little peek at their process and break down that barrier between artists and non-artists,” Petrie says.
Just a block east of Gladstone House, the Drake Hotel supports artworks by established, emerging and student artists that spark conversations.
“We love the idea that our art collection can connect guests from abroad with people who live around the corner,” says Ashley Mulvihill, art curator for the hotel. “It’s a way to merge the traditional gallery space and the traditional hotel space in a way that offers fresh perspectives.”
“Sometimes people come into the hotel and say, ‘Oh, that looks cool, or that’s weird or interesting.’ But it's the idea that it's different. It’s very much about the positive experience when you’re inspired by new ideas.”
– Ashley Mulvihill, Drake Hotel art curator
The hotel lobby features a large-scale work by New York-based artist Melanie Luna. Painted on mylar, Untitled Wasteland, 2021 is part of the hotel’s While We’re Here exhibition.
“The motivation for the exhibition is to get people to be really present in a space, to curate art that is approachable for a broad audience and to get conversations going between strangers by putting something striking and unexpected in front of them,” Mulvihill explains.
In the meeting room next to the lobby, a wall mural entitled Heads by Nunavut artist Saimaiyu Akesuk, depicting animals and creative energy “is a really nice tie-in to the idea that meeting rooms are where everyone's thinking and working together,” Mulvihill adds.
“Sometimes people come into the hotel and say, ‘Oh, that looks cool, or that’s weird or interesting.’ But it's the idea that it's different,” Mulvihill says. “It’s very much about the positive experience when you’re inspired by new ideas.”
Park Hyatt Toronto
When the Park Hyatt Toronto reopened a year ago after an extensive renovation, it unveiled an interior design and colour palette inspired by the Group of Seven as well as a permanent art collection featuring contemporary pieces by Canadian and Indigenous artists, many intentionally commissioned for the property’s public spaces.
Upon entering the hotel, which is situated in Toronto’s upscale Yorkville neighbourhood, your eye is drawn to Dead Ringers, a black and white Jacquard tapestry woven by Canadian artist Shannon Bool and referencing the intersection of high art and fashion, museum photography and Toronto's brutalist architecture. “Shannon created the piece with the space in mind. It’s a greeting point, and it evokes the tone of the hotel in a subtle and elegant way,” says Don Schreifels, director of sales and marketing.
“If our guests can enjoy a bit of Canadian history and art history, then I think we’ve achieved what we set out to do within the renovation.”
– Don Schreifels, Park Hyatt director of sales and marketing
Another key piece is located above the fireplace in Joni Restaurant. Where Beavers, Deers, Elks, and Such Beasts Keep is a beadwork by Nadia Myre centring around the Wampum belt as a record of Indigenous histories and agreements of peace.
Postcards describing special pieces are available throughout the hotel, and a dedicated website invites visitors to learn more about the artists.
“We believe in giving back and supporting our community. I think it’s one small way to identify who we are in the space of luxury hotels and the luxury community,” Schreifels explains. “If our guests can enjoy a bit of Canadian history and art history, then I think we’ve achieved what we set out to do within the renovation.”
Ritz-Carlton, Toronto’s recent redesign and rejuvenated art collection pays homage to its proximity to the waterfront, the Union Station commuter hub as well as the lively Entertainment District. The art collection includes more than 400 pieces of original Canadian art commissioned for the hotel.
“Our new design and art collection really gives our guests a sense of place. When they come to Toronto, they want to feel like they're in Toronto,” says Mimi AuYeung, public relations and marketing manager.
The work of Toronto-based photographer Caitlin Cronenberg adds a theatrical touch throughout the property. Cronenberg’s black and white prints can be found in guestrooms while in the hotel’s public spaces, Cronenberg has collaborated with artist Heidi Conrod to create colourful pieces that combine photography, paint and neon.
Hand-painted charger plates by artist Jacqueline Poirier have caught the attention of celebrity guests such as Morgan Freeman and Halle Berry.
The hotel also encourages the creative passions of its own staff. Hand-painted charger plates by artist Jacqueline Poirier, who started creating them when she was a server in the hotel’s TOCA restaurant, has caught the attention of celebrity guests such as Morgan Freeman and Halle Berry. As the Ritz-Carlton’s artist in residence, Poirier has painted upwards of 1,200 plates and has given painting lessons to guests.