Beyond the D.J. in the Lobby: How Resorts Cater to the Creative Crowd
With hands-on pottery classes, design workshops and more, hotels are encouraging guests and locals to tap their imaginative powers.
Transformational travel — or having experiences with lasting impact — seems like a reach for hotels to espouse. But the Potato Head Studios property, set to open in Seminyak, Bali, this month, aims to encourage creative renewal among both guests and locals through sustainability workshops, artistic programming and even its own architecture.
Designed by David Gianotten of OMA, the architectural firm founded by Rem Koolhaas, the resort organizes its 168 rooms in a raised structure, creating a ground-level pavilion for music and performance events and workshops on recycled design. This public aspect, Mr. Gianotten said, transforms “a hotel that is typically for hotel guests’ exclusive enjoyment, into a place for cultural encounters open to everyone living in and exploring Bali.”
The resort joins a growing list of hotels going beyond art on the walls and D.J.s in the lobbies to court the creative crowd. Both residents and travelers are being welcomed to tap their imagination through things like hands-on pottery classes, design workshops and art therapy.
“In today’s extensively digitized social network environment, actual interpersonal interaction is prized,” Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and the president of Atmosphere Research Group, said. “The classes can also help the hotel become a more active and respected part of its community.”
The art-filled 21c Museum Hotels group, which has locations in 10 American cities and plans to open in Chicago this year, has used artistic programming as a welcome mat for local residents. The 21c Museum Hotel Louisville, for example, recently partnered with the nonprofit Louisville Literary Arts agency to host a workshop in erotic writing over a series of four Sundays.
Similarly, Ace Hotels has cultivated the culturally curious with art exhibitions and concerts. Its newest location, the Ace Hotel Kyoto, opening in Japan in April, plans to hold monthly workshops in Japanese language and culture and will house a cinema devoted to Japanese cult and classic films with English subtitles.
Some resorts use creative programming as a means of cultural exploration. At Amanyangyun — an Aman resort, opened in 2018 near Shanghai, that rebuilt 13 Ming and Qing dynasty villas on site — a cultural center called Nan Shufang conjures a scholar’s studio. Here, guests can learn Chinese calligraphy and practice Chinese brush painting.
Other resorts incorporate creative classes as part of a holistic wellness approach. Opened in 2019, Blackberry Mountain, the sibling resort to Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn., houses an Art Studio offering opportunities to throw pots, build ceramics, paint, sketch, weave baskets or learn textile arts. This year, there are also periodic multiday events featuring professional artists such as the potter Keith Kreeger and the glass artist Richard Jolley.
“Part of creating the programming for the Mountain was developing opportunities for guests to explore connection, nature and wellness beyond the traditional avenues,” Mary Celeste Beall, Blackberry’s owner, wrote in an email.
The resort has fitness and yoga classes, massage therapy and many outdoor adventure activities, but the art program, she added, is designed for guests at any level of art proficiency to “reignite their imagination and shake them from their normal routine to tap into a deeper layer of creativity.”
Spas, too, are offering creative opportunities. The new Asaya Hong Kong, a destination spa in the Rosewood Hong Kong hotel, uses visual art, storytelling, movement, music and drama in its Expressive Arts Therapy as a means to emotional balance in a comprehensive program that also addresses fitness, nutrition, skin health and more.
“Research has shown that creative expression can have a powerful impact on health and well-being by reducing stress and increasing positive emotions,” wrote Simon Marxer, the director of spa and well-being for Miraval Group of destination spas, in an email.
Locations in Tucson, Ariz. and Austin, Texas, offer classes such as painting to music or learning to photograph with an instant camera.
“These classes awaken our guests’ creativity and teach them how to find beauty in the imperfect, tap into their childlike curiosity and experience mindfulness in a new and unique way,” he added.
Back in Bali, Potato Head Studios plans to house a recording studio, multifunctional gallery space and farm-to-table restaurant in a compound designed to balance community collaboration, sustainable living and vacation fun with the slogan, “Good Times, Do Good.” Its approach extends to children who will be welcomed at a sustainably built playground made of bamboo and covered in recycled flip-flops found on the island’s beaches. It will be the site of workshops designed to teach zero-waste building in hands-on fashion.
Ronald Akili, the founder and chief executive of Potato Head, which includes the new hotel, an existing hotel and a beach club, called the project a “creative village” intended to inspire travelers and community members of all ages through music events, design workshops and cultural excursions.
“We hope to be the facilitators that allow them to connect while leaving as little environmental impact on the planet as possible,” he wrote in an email.
As published on the The New York Times website on February 4, 2020, by Elaine Glusac.