Successful arts program yields lessons for indie hotels
Successful arts program yields lessons for indie hotels
22 FEBRUARY 2017 1:08 PM

When properly planned, artist-in-residence programs are a great way to give hotel guests unique experiences. 

This January, we introduced an opportunity to see Galena, Illinois, during the winter through new eyes as the Goldmoor Inn launched its first artist-in-residence program.

With the goal of raising awareness of the beauty surrounding the inn during this season, we sought out four talented artists who could be inspired by what they saw and experienced, inviting them to capture images and share stories from their weeklong stays at the Goldmoor Inn.

We hoped this program would offer a novel topic for news, create additional interest in winter travel for those already familiar with Goldmoor, and raise attention from a new audience appreciating art.

For those who may embark on a similar path of invention in their hotels, there are a few key lessons to point out.

Timing is key
As with any new program, educating your clientele and potential guests takes time. We conceptualized our artist-in-residence program in fall 2016. This first program and promotion was expedited within two months. Within this timeframe, we placed a formal call-for-entries, vetted qualified applicants, defined all program detail and formalized an invitation for participation before gathering information for promotion.

We hope to begin the process at least six months ahead this year so pre-sales of classes and weekend getaways can be widely promoted and positively impact room bookings.

Choose a medium or mix it up
For our first event, we decided painters would be our medium of choice. Given the weather expected in January, we thought that even plein air painters would welcome an indoor area to work.

If we had decided to offer this during the summer or fall, we could have offered our pavilion, with a roof and open walls, as a workshop appropriate for sculptors or artists who require lots of space.

Writers, composers, painters, sculptors and photographers may all be considered, so depending on what art form you’d like to support, you can evaluate your property to determine the best fit or if you’d like a combination of several.

Define the objectives
We wanted to offer an environment that allowed each artist the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in their creative medium, and to paint at their leisure, never dictating the time of work. We let daylight do that.

For our guests, we wanted to offer something engaging and entertaining. To ensure we offered something out of the ordinary, we requested that art classes offered would be more advanced than the “paint and pour” events that have gained popularity recently.

This effort was well-received during watercolor classes offered by Carol Luc, a former professor of art and design in the Chicago area. She deftly led beginners and more advanced artists through several techniques that helped everyone learn to bring depth and perspective to a picture using only one color—blue!

I’ll admit, when I saw the practice papers filled with barely indiscernible images, I thought we’d taken on too advanced of a class. By the end of the two-hour, intensely-led lesson, each of the five students proudly presented to us their finished work. Better yet, they had fun making new friends in a gorgeous setting on a day when they might normally have been wrapped in blankets in front of their TV at home.

Because of the advanced nature of the subsequent artists’ classes, we did not secure class participants. This simply allowed each artist the opportunity to paint another day and have time to thoughtfully prepare for their gallery-like reception, where guests and restaurant patrons viewed and purchased the works displayed.

Personality counts
Select artists who enjoy interacting with guests and who don’t mind being approached while they are working. After all, this should be a two-way communication and opportunity for both the artist and the guests you serve. Each of the four artists we selected have been widely recognized through juried art festivals, gallery exhibitions and even solo shows, so each were excited to meet guests and share their stories.

Consider logistics
Consider where your artists can display their work, whether you host a finale reception for the public or you want to share their work with guests during the week. Prior to their arrival, we recommend discussing what types of display space, framing, easels and sizes they may offer. Lighting also needs to be considered. And exhibition space should be set up well in advance so your artist can work within your space to create a beautiful display.

Review the results
We achieved our goal of raising visibility within our community and garnered publicity. We were happy to welcome two journalists, who participated in and wrote about their class participation the first week, thus promoting the final three weeks in their blogs. We also gained coverage through our local and state tourism news, the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association newsletter, and several stories in consumer blogs and publications serving each artists’ hometown region.

Guests of the Inn enjoyed meeting the artists and the artists enjoyed sharing what they were working on each day. My husband Slobo and I appreciated the immense talent each woman brought to our Inn and we enjoyed comparing and contrasting each artist’s exhibit.

Our gallery is growing, and we feel quite proud of our first attempt at bringing a new level of artistry to the Inn. The word is out. With earlier promotion next year, we believe the advanced classes will be sought after by experienced artists seeking creative interaction in this rather solitary time of year, and we’ll carve out an art-lovers getaway that inspires all involved.

After 25 years operating corporate hotels and food and beverage entities, Birgit Radin and her husband Slobo pursued their dream of inn ownership. Birgit earned a certified hotel business and management degree from the Hotel Business and Management School in Villingen, Germany, and has worked in key management roles on three continents, led several transition teams throughout her career, and managed hundreds of millions of dollars in renovation and repositioning projects along that path. Today, she and Slobo operate an 18-suite property which includes two log cabins and three English cottages plus indoor/outdoor event venues all situated on 21-acres overlooking the Mississippi River Valley in Galena, Illinois. Reach her at To learn more about the Goldmoor Inn, visit

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