Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Old Hotel Turned into Artists Canvas and Filled with Rooms of Inspiration for the Traveller

My brother just sent me an article about some local doings in Seattle that he knew would inspire me. And boy, did they! Here are a couple of folks after my own heart who understand the impact art can have on the individual psyche. It's a good thing I already booked a ticket to Seattle for the fall, but hadn't yet figured out where we were going to stay. I think the search is over! Here is the full article from The Seattle Times.

New Belltown hostel a work of art
An old Belltown hotel will become Seattle's newest hostel, with each bedroom painted by local artists.
Blythe Lawrence
Special to The Seattle Times

Belltown's old Lorraine hotel is once again ready for its close-up.
In its new role as an international hostel, the three-story hotel, rumored to have been visited by Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and other silver-screen stars from the 1920s to the 1960s, greeted its first guests in more than 20 years.

Long ago, the Lorraine had a starring role on Film Row, as Second Avenue was known when it housed the regional film-distribution center for MGM. By 1986, the building was purchased by the Plymouth Housing Group.

Plymouth moved out about two years ago, leaving The Lorraine empty and in need of repair. John Slonecker, president of Seattle real-estate investment group Gibraltar, first saw the building's interior in the fall of 2007. It had been vacant for more than six months.
"It was hard to imagine people living there at any point in its recent history," Slonecker said. "Believe me, the glamour had left long ago."
City Hostel Seattle, as the Lorraine is now being called, has some standard-issue hostel amenities, such as metal bed frames and a choice between private and family rooms or dorms for a low price. It's located at 2327 Second Ave.

Less standard is the artwork, done by 47 local artists who painted the walls or created installations in all but four of the hostel's 51 rooms.

"We really tried to go with a full spectrum of types of art that reach every area of what Seattle has to offer," said Jen Vertz, who curated the project.

Lee Kindell and Nancy Gambin operate City Hostel Seattle. The idea for the project came from Kindell, who is the sort of person who "if you were to drop like a Big Gulp cup on the floor, you would turn around to pick it up and Lee would have already made it a lampshade," Slonecker said. In City Hostel Seattle, Kindell saw an opportunity to craft something special.

"I hope this is a catalyst to inspire people," Kindell said. "I hope it makes a difference and a little bit of change. We're not just machines trying to make a dollar."

Kindell met Vertz and her partner, Jeff Jacobson, an artist who uses the name Weirdo, while Vertz and Weirdo were painting the Pioneer Square Community Association Mural on the corner of South Washington Street and Occidental Avenue South. Vertz took care of the planning and recruited the artists.

The artists worked for free, realizing that the hostel's clientele will give them a measure of international exposure. Some, balancing full-time jobs with the time it takes to create art, brought sleeping bags and slept on the floor of the rooms they painted.

"It's a win-win situation," said Chris Sheridan, whose delicately crafted paintings feature crows and string and are inspired by Aesop's fables, Grimm's fairy tales and Homer's "Odyssey." "They get a bunch of free art, but we get a way to get our work out to the public."
Each bedroom is wildly different from the next. One shows the Seattle skyline surrounded by what appear to be spray-painted polka dots, the result of reverse ink photo transfers.
Another's walls are milky white with small, whimsical patches of blue, which gives the impression of being inside a cloud. Inside another, gnomes resting on mushrooms smoke from a hookah.

Having up-and-coming artists paint the rooms is just one of Kindell's ideas for City Hostel Seattle. Other plans include a rainwater-collection system. And a wall on the outside of the hotel will be turned over to artists to craft an art insect to be placed near a sign that says "Infestation." The insect idea was inspired by the gum wall in Post Alley at Pike Place Market, Kindell said.

The lobby will become an art gallery for young artists, including those who painted rooms inside the hostel.

A stay at City Hostel Seattle runs between $33 and $95 a night, depending on the room. Slonecker, whose company paid $3.1 million to buy the building and another $750,000 to remodel it, said he believes the art adds value and marketability to the property.
The hostel's Aug. 14 opening attracted so much attention that Kindell said all rooms will be available to be toured during Belltown's Second Friday Artwalk from 6-9 p.m. on Sept. 11.
Inside the hostel are touches of the old Lorraine. Kindell restored the hotel lobby's original terrazzo floor and bookshelves have been crafted from recycled mailboxes, he said.

"This hotel kind of reminds me of the life of Mickey Rourke," Slonecker said. "You have this tough in-between time and now you're back on top again. It's kind of great to give this building back its dignity."

Blythe Lawrence:
Copyright © The Seattle Times Company
If you're interested in more inside scoop on this project, check out this blog:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Creativity on the Go

A co-worker came across this article in last week and thought it might be handy to add a few more tools to the electronic creative toolbox. So, the next time you get stuck at the airport, don't twiddle your thumbs . . .

Best iPhone Apps For Creativity
by Josh Clark, 08.11.09, 06:00 PM EDT

In Pictures: Top 10 iPhone Apps For Creativity

When I was a kid, our art teacher had a magical cart of craft supplies that she'd wheel into the classroom, a mobile art laboratory loaded with treasures for our grade-school masterpieces. Construction paper, googly eyes, glue, markers, scissors, paints, beads, ribbons--the cart had every raw material that we young Picassos might have required. Decades later, I'm no longer on intimate terms with glue and glitter, but the idea of that art cart still holds strong appeal, a roaming studio that's at the ready when inspiration strikes.

The iPhone is like a modern-day art cart, full of apps that let you write, make music, take photos, paint or create interactive stories. These apps let you conjure your own grown-up version of a well-stocked art cart with just a tap of the screen. I have selected a collection of apps that are not overly complicated, giving preference to simple tools that let you express your ideas with ease and, often, a spirit of lighthearted play.

My pick for best music-making app is Bebot. At first glance, this adorable music synthesizer seems more toy than serious music instrument. Tap or drag your fingers across the screen to make an animated retro robot croon, squeal and sing. That's good fun in itself, but the app features some serious audio geekery under the hood, letting you create new voices by adding echo or reverb, changing the scale, limiting playback to certain notes and more. It's a whole new kind of musical instrument unique to the iPhone, simple to use but with sophistication that will please seasoned musicians and charm any audience.

The Brushes app brings the same mix of ease and refinement to the drawing and painting category. While it offers fewer features than other iPhone drawing tools, that effortless simplicity is what makes Brushes a great pocket sketchpad. Pick a brush style, choose a color and draw with your finger, zooming into your painterly masterpiece when you need a closer look. Meanwhile, Type Drawing gives you a whole different kind of brush, giving new meaning to "word play" by letting you draw pictures using text.

All of the other apps in this collection apply a similar keep-it-simple approach for capturing creative thunderbolts, helping you get your ideas out of your head and into the world with minimum fuss. WriteRoom provides a clear, uncluttered environment for writing, and Birdhouse creates a tailor-made home for carefully crafted Twitter posts. Whrrl offers a fun way to collaborate with others to create interactive stories and slideshows.

For photographers, Photogene provides a digital darkroom, Postino sends photos as paper postcards and Pano constructs widescreen panoramic photos. Finally, if you're looking for artistic inspiration, Artnear guides you to the hot happenings in nearby galleries and museums.

The creative muse is capricious, and inspiration is rarely scheduled. Stock your iPhone with apps that make it easy to capture those bright ideas and colorful visions, and you'll be ready to create no matter where you might be. (Glue and glitter sold separately.)

Josh Clark stress-tested thousands of iPhone apps to identify the 200-plus apps featured in his book, Best iPhone Apps: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders, from O'Reilly Media. When he's not tapping and flicking, he makes words, spins code and pastes googly eyes at his hypertext laboratory in Paris, France.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Memory Triggers from the Rhinoceros who Knows

Today, I've decided to share with you one man's story behind a significant object. We all have at least one object in our life that spurs certain memories. Well, here's a man, Nathaniel Rich, who perceives meaning in objects that are insignificant to others and imbues that with a new level of importance. I thought you would enjoy this story:

Do you ever struggle to remember insignificant facts? Facts so small and irrelevant to the natural course of your life that you wonder how you ever learned them in the first place? And yet your inability to recall them infuriates you. Who was the actor in that Greek film, you know the one with Melina Mercouri, from the sixties? What do you call the stick that leprechauns carry? What’s your cousin’s girlfriend’s name? Is it “Man on the Run,” or “Band on the Run”? Who is that famous autistic lady who writes about what it’s like to be an animal?

The answers to all of these questions and more will be answered when you come into proud possession of the Rhinoceros Knows. Whenever you feel stumped, simply rub its nose (also known as its “horn”). You will feel a jolt of energy in your neurons, your synapses will grow extra sticky, and your frontal lobe will throb pleasantly. Also, the rhinoceros’s eye will, ever so subtly, twinkle.

And then, in no more than five minutes, the answers will come: Phaedra is not a Greek film, but an American film set in Greece; the actor is Tony Perkins. Shillelagh. Candace. “Band on the Run.” Temple Grandin.

One warning: the Rhinoceros Knows must not be misused. Should you try to retrieve a more significant memory (“When did I first tell him that I loved him?”), the Rhinoceros Knows will shut down. From its eye will descend, ever so subtly, a tear. It will know no more.

Study the image of this talisman. You will see that the body is heavily crosshatched, as an elderly palm or a balled-up sheet of aluminum foil that has been carefully unfurled and pressed into its original form. These creases are important, for there is exactly one for every question you are permitted to ask. Do not go over your limit. The total number of creases is unknown, and impossible to count, but woe to the person who asks one too many questions. On that occasion, as soon as you rub the rhinoceros’s nose, you will feel a rather violent knock behind your forehead and your short-term memory will vanish altogether. You will be left only with the answers the rhinoceros has already given you, and your brain will cycle through them, nonsensically, for the rest of your life.

You must pass the Rhinoceros Knows on to another person before you reach that point. Trust me. It is a waking hell.

If after reading this story you must own the Rhinoceros Knows, you can bid on it on ebay:

Friday, August 7, 2009

Innovating outside the lines

I found an interesting blog today that was posted a month or so ago by Jeffrey Phillips, author of "Make Us More Innovative." If you'd like to check out any other tidbits he has to share, go to

Monday, June 29, 2009

Innovating outside the lines
This is going to be one of those posts where I try to take a trite concept, like coloring inside the lines, and turn it into something more insight. Stick with me, we'll see how it goes.

As long as people have created art, there have been critics. One can imagine the first caveman to sketch a buffalo or mastodon probably had a critic standing just behind him, commenting on his work. I was thinking about this recently after watching a "Monk" episode. Perhaps you've seen Monk on television - played by Tony Shaloub, the detective is obsessive-compulsive, and that's just on his good days. Monk volunteers to watch the kids of his friend and colleague, Captain Stottlemeyer. He takes the kids to their favorite restaurant, a 50s themed diner, where they start coloring the menus. It drives Monk crazy that the kids won't color within the lines.

That got me thinking - everything we do in school and in business encourages people to stay "within the lines". In art we encourage people to "stay within the lines" of conventional art expectations. In science we encourage people to stay within the lines of received wisdom - after all, it was a "known fact" that the sun revolved around the earth for thousands of years. Think we are above that now?In business we encourage people to "stay within the lines" by carefully defining their job descriptions. People who work outside of their descriptions and responsibilities are quickly reminded of their responsibilities. We encourage people to "stay within the lines" by developing specific evaluation criteria. We communicate effectively what we want from people, and reinforce that by what we provide in the way of compensation and rewards. We encourage people to stay within the lines through the power of formal and informal corporate culture, which is constantly pushing people to remain within the fold, within the expectations of the organization.

Then, we wonder why we can't innovate, why no one will - wait for it - "THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX". Hmmm. Perhaps it's because we've been constantly told that coloring outside the lines, working outside our job grade or job description, questioning the status quo, is wrong. We've become the trained elephant, which only requires a cuff to be placed on its leg to believe it is staked to the ground. If everything in your culture reinforces thinking "inside the box" and coloring "inside the lines" then why is your team surprised to find that innovation can be difficult?

What to do? Well, there are several responses to this, none of them easy. One that is often attempted and never seems to work well is to hire a couple of "left brained" people and scatter them throughout the organization, hoping they'll influence the thinking. Most of these people will be co-opted into the group think very quickly or ejected like a virus as quickly as possible. Another response is to demand innovation and change from a group that has been educated by the firm over time that change is difficult and new ideas are risky. A quick, rapid change in this environment is exceptionally difficult. The third, and most permanent change, is a consistent change from the top down, starting with strategic direction and working its way from the management team and its priorities into business plans and individual evaluations. This change may take two or three years, but the subtle shifts will encourage the entire team to get on board.

Why do we think people can immediately and effectively "think outside the box" when for their entire lives we've reinforced "coloring inside the lines"?

posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 5:23 AM

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Creative Meeting Space in NYC & Columbus, OH

I know that you can't always get to Chicago for your meeting and finding creative meeting space seems to be the country's best kept secret, so I thought I would start introducing you to some of our friends in this selective niche. Yes, there's this underground group of us who all believe that environment is an incredibly important component of having a more effective and productive meeting. The visionary who started it all is Mark Henson. He opened sparkspace in Columbus, OH about 10 years ago and has continued to evolve his space and offers incredible teambuilding programs -- when's the last time you got to "play" with an army of Mr. Potatoheads? I never have and now I can't get the thought out of my mind. I may have to order an army of my own! Mark is incredibly creative and will help any group have a fantastic day(s) out of the office.

Then there's Wendy Friedman of SohoSoleil in NYC. Wendy manages a whole host of really cool loft spaces in Soho. If you look closely, you might recognize some of them from various fashion and home photos you have have come across in magazines. Wendy's spaces are highly coveted by photographers with incredible views and lighting. That's why they make a great space to have a meeting in the middle of NYC -- what's more exciting than getting to hang out in a NYC loft in Soho, surrounded by floor to ceiling windows. Wendy and her team are super friendly and hospitable, lavishing care and attention upon all of their clients.

There's a few more cool spots out there that I'm happy to share. So, give a call if you have a need for a cool space to take your team.