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Local Hotels Make Room for Artists

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By 11 a.m. one recent morning, La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa’s art curator Sara Eyestone had done a full day’s work.

“I’ve sold four paintings this morning,” she said after ending a call with a client. “In the past four years that I’ve been art curator at La Posada, we’ve had three-quarter of a million dollars in sales.”

While La Posada has been inviting artists to exhibit their work for decades, other Santa Fe area hotels have developed an arts presence recently, with the Inn and Spa at Loretto actually installing artists at work on their pieces in the hotel’s lobby this year.

At La Posada, it wasn’t until Eyestone came on board that art has become a thriving business there.

“Before I came here, galleries were invited to show their art, but it wasn’t working very well,” said Eyestone, who is also a painter. “I proposed to hotel management that I wanted to capture the glory days years ago, when artists painted in the hotel’s gardens. Many of the artists we represent today come here to paint. I frequently paint by the fireplaces in the living room and the library.”

Paintings are visible on most walls in public areas. With work by 49 artists from around the country hanging in the bar, restaurant, library and throughout the hallways, it’s hard to find a solid white wall in the main building.

The business side of La Posada’s art is run with the efficiency of a well-established gallery. Artists agree to an exclusive relationship with the hotel, meaning that they do not sell their work at any other venue in town. Eyestone displays everything in the hotel’s art inventory. Many of the sales take place after guests or visitors have left town.

“They either contact me months later with inquiries about particular artists that caught their eye or they return and rediscover an artist that they begin to collect,” she said.

Paintings are offered at “studio” prices. “Our artists’ paintings sell for twice as much in galleries in other cities,” said Eyestone, who added that La Posada takes a small percentage of the selling price but wouldn’t say how much.

Landscapes, figurative work and still lifes sell well at the hotel, but abstract work does not. Eyestone said that more than 400 artists are on a waiting list to have their work shown there.

Early in the year, the Inn and Spa at Loretto decided to invite artists who are represented by galleries in town to show their work and do demonstrations in the inn’s lobby.

“At first, we hosted artists once or twice a month,” said the Inn and Spa at Loretto’s director of sales and marketing Dana Ortega. “The program has evolved so much in the past several months. Since July, we’ve had artists working in the lobby four times a week for four hours at a time.”

The inn’s management cleared out the furniture in a section of the lobby, upgraded the lighting and made room for jewelers, painters and sculptors to share the artistic process with inn guests.

“It costs us money to run our artist-in-residence program,” Ortega said. “We dedicate space to the artwork, and we have to maintain that space. We take the time to answer phone calls about the art and the artists. When an artist or gallery sells a piece, we don’t take a cent of the sales price.”

Ortega said that the inn’s intent in starting the artist-in-residence program was never to make money. “We want to provide our guests with the opportunity to walk right up to an artist and have the experience of connecting with them,” she added. “We’ve had lots of good feedback from our guests. They love it.”

According to landscape painter Margi Lucena, whose work is represented by Selby Fleetwood Gallery on Canyon Road, being an artist-in-residence has meant expanding her client base.

“It’s absolutely helped to be part of the program,” said Lucena, who lives and works in Socorro. “Sometimes people go to Selby Fleetwood after they watch me paint. Every time I’m there, and I’ve been there once a month since early in the year, people come up and talk with me. I like the contact. Some artists might not.”

Sculptor and goldsmith Larry Stark spent four days working at the Inn and Spa at Loretto at the end of August. A resident of California, his work is represented by Wiford Gallery on Canyon Road.

“Over the course of the four days, a fair amount of people stopped by,” he said. “I met all kinds of people. I saw some of my collectors and people who collect work from Wiford Gallery. I like showing people what I do. It worked for me.”

Enhancing their guests’ experience is the reason that Bishop’s Lodge Ranch Resort & Spa displays two- and three-dimensional artworks of 30 to 50 deceased and living artists throughout the property, said managing director Rich Verruni.

“We have a variety of work, from landscapes to horse stuff and Native American art,” he said. “Some of the work has a religious nature.”

Bishop’s Lodge works out business relationships with artists on a case-by-case basis. The management does not take a percentage of sales but has talked with artists about making some kind of donation to a nonprofit group the lodge supports.

Several months ago, Bishop’s Lodge decided to expand its art offerings and create a photographic gallery on the property. A call to artists has been posted on its website.

“We’re planning to select one photographer to show work here for a six-month period of time,” Verruni explained. “We’re open to a variety of subject matter that works with an historic lodge, so it will be interesting to see what submissions we get.”

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