Sacramento’s Art Hotel gives artists a temporary, creative space of their own
Before the wrecking ball hits, a group of local artists transform an abandoned building into an art installation
For his latest work of art, Andy Cunningham required a lift.
As in, a 60-foot extendable boom lift. And someone to operate the lift, while Cunningham inched across the Jade Apartments’ north-facing wall in a neon vest and hard hat. At more than three stories tall, it took Cunningham two fulls days and miles of twine to create “Baling Twine Loops.”
The installation’s sheer size is staggering—a behemoth of yellow lines against brick. His inspiration? The building. Sacramento. It’s the sort of piece that’s completely unique to its environment. The local artist saw a wall covered with old nails and designed for two weeks with an architect’s eye, noting time and weather constraints. As for his materials?
“Sacramento is a community that comes from the earth: farming, the dirt, the river, the vineyards. It’s not a city kind of reality,” Cunningham says. “In certain respects, I am articulating the farmer guy here with farming materials: baling twine and tomato twine.”
In other words, farming tool as art medium.
Now, the rest of the Jade Apartments building on Seventh and L streets is similarly covered in inspired, unique art: painting, sculpture, photography, video, installations, sound experiments, film screenings, live performances and more. All together, it’s called the Art Hotel, and it’s free to explore February 5-13. Different events will take place at the Art Hotel each day—the exact details of the program are being kept a secret until the opening.
Then, the building and the art it contains will get demolished.
How did such an ambitious project even get off the ground? The birth of a new collective, a successful crowdfunding campaign and an overwhelming response from local artists.
It all started with Shaun Burner, a local known for his spray painted murals and mixed-medium pieces. He wanted to paint the side of the Jade Apartments, got a tour last March and realized the entire building could transform into a temporary gallery. Hallways, stairwells, kitchens, bathrooms and closets? All potential vehicles for artistic expression.
Taking over an abandoned building and briefly filling it with art isn’t a new concept, but it’s never happened on such a big scale in Sacramento.
“This archetype has happened in a lot of big cities,” Burner says. “Like, let’s just have a space that lets artists create without barriers.”
That means artists can smash walls, rip carpet, drill holes and otherwise transform their surroundings. They can both add and take away.
Burner linked up with Cathy Kleckner and Seumas Coutts to form M5 Collective with a couple of other local artists. Along the way, they tapped some outside help to aid in crowdsourcing funds. Now, if Art Hotel is well-received, they hope more opportunities will arrive to create ephemeral artistic spaces in Sacramento.
“What we offer is an experience,” Kleckner says. “It’s not commercial. It’s not consumerism. It’s art at its best.”
Clearly other artists agree. M5 received hundreds of proposals from all over the world; Burner says he got 80 pitches just minutes before the project’s submission deadline. Ultimately, the collective chose 50 visual artists plus roughly 40 more musicians, performance artists and filmmakers. Among the local names: musician Drew Walker, painter Jose Di Gregorio, ceramicist Nina Jean Lynch, mixed-media artist Tricia Talle, historian William Burg and abstract artist William Ishmael. The age range is 7 to 78.
Burner stresses that Art Hotel is a community effort. Not only was it funded by 75 enthusiasts who donated a collective $11,864 via Kickstarter, but Blick Art Materials donated supplies, Lucca Restaurant & Bar delivered food to feed the artists, Seasons Coffee Roasters brought coffee and Ruhstaller volunteered to act as the Art Hotel’s official reception area so folks aren’t waiting in line outside. Though M5 provided the coordination, Kleckner emphasizes that Art Hotel is not about M5.
“It’s about the artists,” she says.
So, why are so many excited to create something that will inevitably vanish?
“I think it adds a bit of liberty, a bit of freedom,” Cunningham says. “Everything is pretty much temporary anyways in the big picture—this is just a little bit more so.”
Plus, many artists are more keen on creating something out of their comfort zone if it’ll wind up disappearing. While Cunningham has worked with twine before, it’s not exactly his forte. He’s an abstract painter, focused on color, shape and movement.
The New York native says he started taking his affection for doodling seriously after college in the Bay Area. Many art classes and representational paintings later, he moved to Sacramento and made a major creative switch as well.
“I slowly started editing out recognizable imagery,” he says. “It’s not about the narrative or the female form or landscape. … It would be hard to say art doesn’t tell a story, but that’s not my main thing.”
Cunningham admits he’s remained an outsider in his decade-plus in Sacramento—he’s looking forward to meeting more like-minded creators via the Art Hotel. But Cunningham is no stranger to the art world. He’s shipped pieces off to Germany, France and the Netherlands for a traveling showcase and, a few years ago, curated an art show in town, displaying the work of 25 artists from all over the globe. Like M5 Arts, Cunningham was shocked at the response to his call out for pieces, having to close his window for submissions after just 12 hours.
It proves that there are tons of artists who want to show their work and just need a space to do so—like an abandoned hotel.