by MiChelle Jones
The Omni Hotel Nashville opened last fall, and it is the official hotel of the Music City Convention Center. It also adjoins the recently expanded Country Music Hall of Fame. The scale of the hotel is, well, huge—the smallest of the 800 rooms and suites come in at 408 square feet. Views of downtown, the Cumberland River, and SoBro from the hotel are breathtaking. Views inside are also stunning, especially those of the 350-piece art collection.
“Urban elegance with a vintage touch” was the decorating theme for the hotel, and art with a heavy focus on regional and Tennessee artists was a key element of this design plan. “The idea was to encompass all of Nashville, including the landscape, the foliage,” said Tracy Chevalier of Soho Myriad, art consultants on the hotel project. From that brief, Chevalier developed an art program she refers to as Feel Nashville. “Everything in the art program should be something that you feel; you feel the strings of the guitar, feel the keys on a keyboard, but also feel the mountains and the landscape, the people and the community,” Chevalier said.
Most of the original art is located on the hotel’s first four floors in public spaces such as the lobby, major corridors, the spa and restaurants—sometimes in surprising forms. Diners at Kitchen Notes are greeted at the hostess stand by Mandy Rogers Horton’s At Home in Any Room, one of her signature mixed-media collages featuring furniture. Setbacks in the walls throughout the restaurant hold colorful arrangements of vintage plates sourced from local antique shops and flea markets, and recipes found during those searches have also been turned into wall art.
Just off the lobby Dolan Geiman’s Nudie Suite blends folk art and a nod to the distinctive Nudie Cohn suits that once defined the look of country music. Cutouts in Geiman’s whitewashed wooden panels—flowers and vines, an eagle, horses’ heads—reveal horizontal stripes made from colorful, repurposed wood. A row of shadowboxes across from Geiman’s constructions highlights stage attire from the Country Music Hall of Fame (which is located at the end of the hallway), among them Nudie creations for Hank Snow, Willie Nelson, and Marty Robbins.
Nashville-based artists’ work in the collection includes Nashville photographer Jerry Atnip’s Home, a four-section, jewel-toned photograph of the Downtown Presbyterian Church, and a large-scale version of local artist Ron Porter’s surrealistic Decoys (repainted per request from a smaller painting purchased for a Florida Omni location).
In the Omni’s signature Mokara Spa, Nashville-based painter Kevin Menck’s suite of pastoral, plein-air landscapes helps set a relaxing tone. Throughout the hotel, paintings, photographs, and other flat pieces are mixed with 3-D wall sculptures, including Denice Bizot’s Iris in Bloom. This piece hangs behind the lobby’s reception desk and consists of rows of flowers alternating between light and dark blooms of recycled metal collected in Bizot’s home city of New Orleans.
But the most spectacular metal sculpture in the hotel is North Carolina sculptor Matt McConnell’s Rhythm. Conceived as a tribute to legendary cymbal maker Robert Zildjian, the curvilinear composition is made of bronze AAX cymbals in various sizes—donated, ironically, by Zildjian competitor Sabian—mounted to the wall by steel rods. Rhythm’s shiny, smooth surfaces contrast with the elegant yet roughly textured white-stucco bricks of the adjacent walls. It is the focal point of the expansive second-floor space housing the Omni’s large ballrooms. Light fixtures running the length of the corridor mimic the curves of the sculpture.
Though one goal of the Omni’s art is to highlight aspects of Middle Tennessee other than the musical heritage, music and related themes inform many of the pieces. For example, Chattanooga artist Hollie Chastain’s collaged portraits of country legends like Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams, and Johnny Cash are located in the hotel’s Barlines pub. Matt Devine’s 387 5/8ths Steel is an interpretation of sound waves made by the artist speaking the piece’s title. Composed of narrow steel rods of uneven heights in a rich, brown patina, the piece is situated on a wall between Bob’s Steak & Chop House and the onsite Bongo Java.
Tours of the Omni Hotel’s art collection are given upon request. For information about the Omni Hotel Nashville, go to www.omnihotels.com/Nashville.