It used to be that you had to own a downtown waterfront condo to enjoy a rooftop view of Sarasota, “THE” Cultural Capital of Florida. Now there are a couple of hotels with rooftop bars, with more on the horizon. (wink! wink!) One of the most exciting new “see and be seen” destinations is The Art Ovation Hotel, one of Marriott’s Autograph Collection properties . . . the Autograph referring to the notion that, like signatures, no two Autograph Collection Hotels are alike. And trust me, Art Ovation is unlike any other hotel in the area. So for this reason, Mart and I are co-writing this blog, with me (Jill) taking on Act One, the hotel, and events that go on there, and Mart taking on Act Two, the Overture Restaurant, which will follow as a separate act, a.k.a blog.
So, without further ado: Art Ovation Hotel – ACT I
The first and probably most important feature of the Art Ovation Hotel is its location. Located on the corner of Palm and Cocoanut Avenues, the Art Ovation is smack dab in the center of Sarasota’s performing arts district. Directly across the street is the Florida Studio Theatre, with the Sarasota Opera House less than a block away.
One step inside Art Ovation’s spacious lobby and you’ll feel like you’re in an art gallery . . . because you are! Art Ovation has an ongoing partnership with Ringling College of Art + Design and also collaborates with theaters, schools and art galleries to feature fine art exhibitions, as well as writings and poetry, theatre, opera, improv, music, and dance performances.
The evening we visited the Artist in Residence was Ha Pham, a talented up-and-coming visual artist who was actively working on a canvas of a tiger. Surrounded by a number of her other works, it was mesmerizing to watch how confident Ha’s brushstrokes were and how fearless she brought bold colors to the painting she was working on, as well as those she had on display. She was friendly and happy to discuss her methodology and choice of themes (she likes using charcoal best, and prefers painting animals and the female figure.) All of the Artist in Residence pieces are available for sale and based on the quality of Ha Pham’s work, I’m guessing many of them sell. The Artist in Residence changes each week, with various mediums being showcased in the Lobby Studio, directly across from the Gallery Lounge.
At 5:00 every day, Art Ovation hosts an Art & Wine Tour of the various art exhibitions hosted at the hotel. We were happy to make the tour with Cultural Curator, Lisa DiFranza, which began with a sparkling wine at the bar, and a tour through the galleries located in the lobby as well as the exhibitions showcased on each floor of the hotel. Designed as an amenity for hotel guests and their friends, this popular tour started with an exhibition called Reimagining Georgia O’Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz:2018. Sarasota’s Alfstad & Contemporary brought together a group of artists and asked them, “What would Georgia O’Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz create (her a pioneer of modern art and he a prominent photographer) if they were alive today and had use of today’s modern technology?” The resulting exhibition took a year to complete.
30 pieces make up Alfstad&’s exhibition, creating innovative images that challenge perception and bring the legacy of O’Keefe and Stieglitz back to life. Exhibitions in the Lobby Gallery change every quarter, but if you want to be dazzled by the Alfstad& show, you have until the end of November 2018 to get over to Art Ovation and indulge in the creativity. (Due to copyright laws, I have not included photos of any of this amazing artwork.)
The Art & Wine Tour then took us to the Perspective Rooftop Bar for the beginning of a separate exhibition called Transparencies, a visual explosion of the transparent qualities of watercolor paintings. Beginning in the lobby of the 8th-floor bar and pool deck, Lisa Difranza took us from floor to floor to show and educate us on the six individual artist’s gallery shows on each floor. This was an eye-opening experience for me, as some of the painting used techniques I’d not seen in watercolor paintings. The various themes were expressions unique to each award-winning artist, making for an enjoyable tour that seemed to fly by.
Finishing up in the lobby outside Art Ovation’s banquet rooms, both the Transparencies and the Reimagining Georgia O’Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz:2018 artwork met in the same hallway, creating a striking difference in the two shows. There was simply too many brilliant pieces to say I had a favorite, and I’m sure Mart was glad I left my checkbook at home! I will be back to see the shows again before new exhibitions are installed in December.
All in all, Art Ovation is exactly the kind of hotel to celebrate Sarasota’s art scene. Each hotel room includes a sketch pad and colored pencils so guests can privately try their hand creating artwork for later guests to that room to enjoy. The hotel also offers free Ukulele lessons for guests, but what I found totally unique and cool is the instrument loan program. Hotel guests can ring up the front desk and sign out a guitar, cello, violin, banjo, drums or keyboard on loan during their stay!
Live musicians are scheduled often in the lobby’s Gallery Lounge, and there’s even a Drop-in Improv Comedy Class on Saturdays led by Florida Studio Theater. (They also do surprise comedy improv pop up performances! But you didn’t hear that from me!) Truly, if you can think of a performing or visual art form, you’ll find it scheduled some time at Art Ovation. Poetry? You got it!
This week’s Artist in Residence Program features The Dragonfly Café Poets, Booker Middle School students, demonstrating their skill at writing poetry. Simply step up to their desk, pull out 3 or 4 random words from a jar, and the students type out a custom poem, just for you. I especially love their use of berets and manual typewriters. The sound of these talented students typing away reminds me of my younger days. Drop in for a cocktail sometime soon and pick up one of Art Ovation’s Creative Guides, published weekly, so you won’t miss any of the cultural exhibits!
Thank you Marriott International for recognizing the importance of the arts to Sarasota. Art Ovation does us proud!