Oyster Point Hotel hosts first Artist in Residence
By Margaret Goddard
This article about The Oyster Point Hotel's new Artist in Residence program was originally scheduled for publication in March; we're pleased that we're able to share it now, with some updates. Although COVID-19 forced The Oyster Point Hotel to close temporarily, the hotel will begin a phased reopening on June 1st, with plans to continue holding art-related events when it’s safe to do so.
In October 2019, Oyster Point Gallery curator Ellen Martin received a call about a local artist, Don Harger, who was moving and was looking for somewhere to store his work. Ellen knew The Oyster Point Hotel Vice President Kevin Barry was looking to replace the giclée prints in his hotel rooms, so Ellen suggested that Don’s work be installed in the rooms. The two agreed that original artwork would step up the guest experience at the hotel significantly. Taking it a step further, Ellen proposed the idea that Harger could be the first artist for an Artist in Residence program at the Oyster Point. Kevin immediately said yes. Earlier this year they installed Don’s paintings in the lobby, hallways, bar, and lounge for three months, as well as in 36 of 56 hotel rooms for the remainder of 2020.
This focus on original art is not new for the Oyster Point. The upscale riverside hotel has hosted art exhibits for 11 years, with Ellen serving as curator since late 2017. Kevin is always looking for ways to bring the community into the hotel and for the guests to “get wrapped up in the area” during their stay. It all began when he was visiting his sister in Abu Dhabi and noticed that the hotel he was staying in was exhibiting original Picasso’s. He was amazed by how the experience differed from being in a museum—it was casual, with no lines—and he knew he wanted to do the same kind of thing at Oyster Point, where he’d be able to show art on a big scale for the community to enjoy.
Big scale, indeed. There are 70 Don Harger pieces housed at Oyster Point right now, and some of them are multi-paneled. “In just a month, and with a lot of work, we became an art hotel,” Kevin says. He and Ellen make a great team. “The level of support [Kevin has] shown during this experience has been unparalleled,” says Ellen. “He provides an important platform in the community by allowing me to put on art shows and inviting the artists into his hotel. It's become an invaluable alternative space in Monmouth County.”
For regional artists, the new Artist in Residence program is an exceptional opportunity to both sell one’s work and gain visibility. Don has his name on the hotel’s front doors. His art will be viewed by guests during their stay for the entire year and by lobby, bar, and lounge visitors during his extended exhibit. His work is featured for sale on The Art Store on Oyster Point’s website. Quarterly “Artists' Meet and Mix” events will be held where Don, hotel guests, the community, and artists who have exhibited at the hotel in the past will come together for conversation. The first “Meet and Mix” of the year was held in the hotel’s atrium in early March, following tours of select hotel rooms led by Ellen.
Don’s body of work consists of both textured, exuberant paintings and geometric pairings of just one or two colors, or “nonobjective minimals,” as Ellen calls them. To make all of his pieces, Don cleans his own oils and mixes paint colors himself to get his desired consistency and hue. Ellen found homes for both styles in the hotel’s common and private spaces. Don’s pieces stand out and have a voice while at the same time fitting aesthetically in the modern hotel rooms. One guest contacted Harger; they had enjoyed the piece in their hotel room and wanted him to do a commission.
It took quite a bit of time to sort out the hotel’s first installation of original art in the rooms. Don, Kevin, and Ellen carefully moved the work from Don’s studio to the hotel and sorted through it in the hallway of the hotel. The installation required added security measures, which were adeptly handled by the hotel staff. One would think it would be challenging to go through all of Don’s artwork and find its proper home in the hotel. But Ellen says, “Sometimes the art just places itself.”
Check out The Oyster Point Hotel website’s Art Store, where you can view and shop Don Harger's pieces online. Be sure to follow Oyster Point on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for updates on artist and curator tours, quarterly “Artists' Meet and Mix” events, and exhibits. Oyster Point will release a call for entry for next year’s Artist in Residence in June.