Eight hotels where creativity comes to stay
March 28, 2023
Atlanta is changing and growing so fast it’s hard to understand what the implications are. Do we need another food hall? Will real estate prices ever go down? One thing that’s undeniable: Creativity is thriving, and many artists are making a real living here. Consistently the most visited city in Georgia, Atlanta has seen a new crop of hotels that have focused on hiring local, diverse artists to personalize both small and large properties with murals, live art, and sculptures.
“What I love about Atlanta is that it’s always felt open to new possibilities,” says the local artist Christina Kwan, whose work threads throughout the new Nobu hotel. “The term ‘up-and-coming’ suggests there is something not already here, and I don’t think that’s the case. Atlanta has many different identities, and I think the current state of the art scene is a reflection of that. There’s a flavor for everyone if you know where to find it.” Here are just a few of the many artful hotels that have recently opened or refreshed their spaces.
The Shane Hotel opened last year in a prime spot in the middle of Midtown. The guest rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows to take in all the sights. Curated by Atlanta-based art consultant Soho Myriad, the hotel’s interiors feature artwork by locals including a thread and tulle piece titled “He Loves Me; He Loves Me Not” by Atlanta-based sculptor Kate Burke as well as tufted fiber art by Savannah College of Art and Design graduate Trish Andersen.
Adela Pons, also a SCAD-grad and illustrator, graphic designer, and lettering artist, moved from Venezuela to Atlanta eight years ago. About her 11×17 “Heart of the Arts” piece commissioned for the Shane’s grand opening, she says, “This piece is a little ode to a place that made me feel at home when I had left my own behind. My idea was to capture how vibrant the growing art scene in Atlanta is, through bright and saturated colors and literal growing vines and flowers. If there’s one thing constantly going on in Atlanta, it is growth.”
In Buckhead, Hotel Colee partnered with the Print Shop and FreeMarket Gallery to feature work by area artists. Originally from Ecuador, the multidisciplinary visual artist (and SCAD grad) Carla Contreras finds endless inspiration in her surroundings now that she lives on the Chattahoochee River. Her piece “Lecanora Primavera” brings the outdoors in through neon depictions of nature, including fungi and lichen. Other Print Shop collabs here include a Lichtenstein-inspired pop art piece by Chris Veal and a graffiti-style piece by Tanner Wilson. In the guest rooms, you’ll also find work by visual artist Lela Brunet, who uses bright colors and bold patterns to depict the female form.
One of Atlanta’s newest hotels (opened December 2022), The Darwin was much needed in the Old Fourth Ward area. The hotel brings playfulness to a space that was once (among other businesses) a Red Roof Inn. Creatives are encouraged to spend time here, whether it’s having meetings and grabbing a coffee in the lobby bar or taking a cocktail out to the expansive outdoor patio, which also includes fire pits for cooler days. Local vendors fill the lobby bar and the shop, including coffee beans from Atlanta’s Radio Roasters. Employee-made paper cranes in various sizes hang throughout the lobby alongside a stunning mural of John Lewis by Think Greatly a.k.a. Lauren Pallotta Stumberg—a local artist, muralist, designer, and illustrator. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and you’ll find colorful graffiti murals by Travis Love, an artist and illustrator who studied at the Art Institute of Atlanta. The hotel plans to feature new murals by different local artists each year.
Although the Intercontinental has been welcoming guests since 2004, it’s recently undergone the first major redesign since opening, which includes large-scale abstract artwork by local Iranian-American mix-media artist Niki Zarrabi. Her floral pieces perfectly complement the rose marble floors and hand-blown crystal custom ceiling fixtures in the lobby. You can find her work in the guest rooms, as well, but the shining star is definitely the gorgeous lobby mural which continues beyond its gold frame for a dripping effect.
The Thompson Buckhead opened at the end of 2021 and gives off a sexy, sophisticated vibe. From the lobby bar and restaurant to the guest rooms (and even the members-only rooftop lounge), The Thompson oozes style. There are a few pieces by local artists in this hotel, but the most prominent is the wood and graphite sculpture by Atlanta artist and SCAD Sculpture professor Justin Archer. Titled “Dissipate,” this hand-carved wood block sculpture/chandelier hangs near the lobby elevators and blends native woods and subtle gold leaf accents.
The much-anticipated Nobu Atlanta opened late in 2022, tucked away within Phipps Plaza. The hotel’s artwork includes a striking twelve-foot-wide river rock sculpture by Kevin Chambers. Artist Christina Kwan has been living in Atlanta for over a decade and her work—which includes metallic gold murals in the lobby and on the rooftop pool deck—can be seen throughout the hotel as well. Don’t miss the custom-made vessels on display in the dining room. “The firm that came to me with this project thought that it would be the perfect fit to have my work as a thread flowing throughout the property for a number of reasons,” Kwan explains. “Probably the most obvious was because of my Asian-American heritage combined with the visual language of my mark-making, which can be described almost like abstract calligraphy.”
Opened in a historic 1920s building as the Wylie Hotel in 2021, this property is centrally located by Ponce City Market and the Atlanta Beltline, which is itself a work of art with outdoor exhibits, murals, sculptures, and graffiti all along the more than twenty miles of paths. Home to Georgia’s first gay bar in the 1950s, the boutique hotel is an LGBTQ+ landmark for many reasons. The hallways are lined with framed prints installed by the local boutique art consultant Amy Parry Projects. All prints (eight in total) are from the Great Speckled Bird, a counterculture newspaper published in Atlanta from 1968 to 1976. Of her decision to showcase the Great Speckled Bird prints, Parry said, “The entire art package for each location in the hotel was created to emulate the history of the hotel, the neighborhood, and what had taken place in this building over time… so it made sense to pull these covers since the paper was sold on Ponce de Leon and the surrounding areas.” One of the longest-running underground newspapers and one of the few publications to cover gay and trans rights as well as women’s liberation at the time, the Great Speckled Bird archives and interviews live at Georgia State University.
The Burgess Hotel in Buckhead opened more than twenty years ago, but it was recently rebranded. Freny and Burges Jokhi, a couple who moved to Atlanta from Hong Kong in the ’90s, own the hotel, and every single space has a personal touch, from the wallpaper to the photography and even the furniture in the guest rooms (many of which are themed and inspired by the Jokhi family’s travels to places like Indonesia, Morocco, China, and Fiji). The Jokhis’ daughter Jessica, an artist who was born and raised in Atlanta, played a huge role in the hotel’s renovation. She created the digital collages seen throughout the lobby and restaurant (Fia) and helped to restore old photos, using original film slides, from her grandfather’s travels through the Himalayas, where he led the first Indian expedition to Mount Everest. Her grandmother’s scroll paintings are part of the decor as well and hang on either side of the front doors. Jessica Jokhi also designed colorful patterned wall murals on each floor at the elevator exits. Perhaps the most stunning, though, is the painting of six women sitting among flowers, found near the front desk. “I knew I wanted it to be figurative so I was looking through photos for inspiration,” Jessica says. “I came across all these photos of Bedouin women and one of them stuck out to me. It was a group of about ten women all sitting together, very comfortable with one another…What I ended up painting came out very different, but that was the initial inspiration.”