Printmaker Bryce McCloud hand picks Nashville artists to tell the city’s history at the newly renovated Noelle
WORDS Megan Kelley
With 224 rooms, Noelle—formerly known as Noel Place—reimagines a historic hotel built in 1930. As one of Nashville’s first luxury hotels opened by the prominent Noel family, Noel Place was the most modern space at the time, gracing the city with beautiful Art Deco design. As Nashville evolved, the hotel transitioned away from its original purpose, but its strong architectural bones created a unique opportunity 78 years later for MAKEREADY to step in.
In collaboration with parent company Rockbridge and partner Tribute Portfolio, MAKEREADY’s approach to hotel design focuses on unique, independent experiences that cultivate connections between guests, locals, and community. In preparing their team, the hotel turns to local talent both for sourcing artwork for the building as well as organizing it. “[The building] provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity to celebrate Nashville and what makes Nashville unique,” says Bryce McCloud, the hotel’s art director and curator. “Our intention is to create a place that Nashvillians will want to use—a space guided and directed by locals, thoughtful to how it sits with the community.”
McCloud has long been known within Nashville for his community focus and for Isle of Printing, a shop whose talents work to engage community conversations through printmaking practice. Isle of Printing’s Our Town project brought together neighborhoods, capturing the faces of Nashville through hands-on, handprinting processes and documenting the diverse demographics and dialogues of a growing city. The Uncommissioned Public Art series inserts beautiful letterpress designs in ordinary places accessible to everyone, covering walls, electrical boxes, and side streets with iconic images promoting kindness and goodness. The All Are Welcome project brought Nashville natives and New Americans into conversation through cultural ambassadors and printed shirts whose designs gave welcome in immigrant languages.
It is this same sense of welcome, gathering, and sharing that drives McCloud’s curatorial approach to Noelle: “I wanted to do more than just put art on the walls; we wanted to focus on the creative experience that makes art and community happen.” The floors of the hotel contain an extensive portrait series, heralding Nashvillians of note with an explanation of their historical importance, “to share the community and inclusive strength we have in moving culture forward.”
Eleven corridor artists were also handpicked by McCloud, each using their unique vision. “Portraiture is a vessel, a form that is specific but also open-ended. It’s an opportunity for a lot of different visions of how identification happens.” Among the artists are Lesley Patterson-Marx, whose printmaking and paper work evoke quilts, stitching, and folkloric symbolism; the no-holds-barred, powerful portraiture approach of LeXander Bryant; Paul Collins’s sensitivity of line and story; and Samuel Dunson’s charged, symbolic allegories. Among the portraits are contemporary heroes like Renata Soto, whose forward-thinking work with Conexion Americas shapes the future for New Americans in Nashville; Thaxton Waters, an artist turning the landmarks, voices, and history of his home into a living library; as well as historic heroes like champion wrestler Tojo Yamamoto, whose career and work as a trainer defined the landscape of wrestling for generations to come; and Ella Sheppard, a musician who rose from slavery to become the first black professor at Fisk University and whose talent and work led the Fisk Jubilee Singers to sustain the school.
“There are so many more layers to Nashville’s history that are inspiring,” says McCloud. “I see the hotel as an entire installation to tell the story in different ways, so that walking through it becomes a living guide book that will keep evolving. Visitors get to see another side of the story, feel an impetus to visit other parts of the city that aren’t always on the tourist map, but are all part of the history and present that makes us Nashville.”
Gathering spaces, like the lobby and restaurant, also embrace the idea of engagement and evolution. The lobby boasts an exquisite corpse machine built in collaboration with “Cardboard Karl” Bitikofer, providing a space to investigate large-scale portraits through a dialogue of how we perceive people. Keep Shop, curated by powerhouse creative Libby Calloway, enlists Nashville-made one-of-a-kind pieces in a retail space exclusive to Noelle. Andy Mumma brings his Barista Parlor style to Noelle’s Drug Store Coffee, and the restaurant is host to McCloud’s Little Prints, an experiential art space with a working vintage press, bringing printing back to Printers Alley.
“The best experiences are incubators. I want to encourage local creative people to be a part of it, entice interesting people to come stay, and then for them all to talk and generate ideas together. When you build art and creativity into a place, you inspire everyone to build a better version of themselves and to make a better Nashville for everyone.”
Noelle soft-opened in December, with a grand opening scheduled for early spring 2018. For more information on the hotel, its offerings and events, follow www.noelle-nashville.com, or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. See more of Bryce McCloud’s work at www.isleofprinting.com.