The Art of Revival

To appreciate art, you don’t need a degree in art history. Art is accessible to everyone, says Jason Chen and Sara McCorriston, co-owners of Philadelphia-based Paradigm Gallery. It doesn’t take special insight or buckets of cash. The two have proved their point by filling Hotel Revival at Mount Vernon Place with artwork. Within the hotel, 30 artists are represented from Baltimore or the region. But the best part is, if you like what you see, similar beauties are for sale at Paradigm. And true to the gallery’s philosophy, most are priced under $300.

Joyride tapped the curators to school us on the local creative scene and give us a glimpse of what’s inside the Baltimore hotel.  

What is the Baltimore art scene like? What’s changed in the past five years?

A major shift that we’ve noticed is how much people care about having original artwork in their homes. They want to know the stories behind the pieces and about the artists. It has been exciting to see how popular it is to get to know your local art scene and support it.

As far as mediums go, fiber art is HOT right now!  Which thrills us because of how fiber-arts and craft-focused we are at Paradigm.  We have included embroidered and woven works in the hotel to acknowledge a trend that we believe isn’t going away anytime soon.

“Frida” by Mary Ellen Martinez

What’s been the role of Paradigm in the local art scene? What sort of art does Paradigm focus on?

We strive to make the experience of visiting galleries and viewing artwork less intimidating. We aim to show a range of pricing for a range of collectors. We also showcase what doesn’t require an extensive knowledge of art history to appreciate.

We exhibit mostly representational work as well as some abstract collections. Even with the abstracts, we focus heavily on craftsmanship. Kelly Kozma’s artwork is a prime example. A few of her pieces can be found throughout Revival. Most notably, “Hotel Lobby,” which, contradictory to the title, can be found inside the Presidential Suite. You can see the time, effort, and skill that artists put into the collections at Paradigm. This often serves as a great “How did the artist do that?” talking point when visitors come into the gallery. We also host free art classes in our home gallery space in Philadelphia to welcome more people into the gallery to create and learn about the artistic process.

“Hotel Lobby” by Kelly Kozma

What are some pieces in the hotel that you encourage people to spend some time looking at and why? 

We’d love to highlight a few of the pieces! Wes Anderson fans can book 0-7 rooms (407, 507, 607, etc.) and see six linocut relief prints by printmaker, illustrator, and comic book artist Mike Sgier. The prints are portraits of some of his favorite characters from various Wes Anderson films.

Cat lovers should keep an eye out for Katie VanVliet’s intaglio prints with painted gouache. The series is titled “25 Cats Name Sam—yes “name”—inspired by a collaborative cat series of the same name by Andy Warhol and his mother. These are found in rooms ending in 0-3 and 0-8.

“Sam Shakusky” by Mike Sgier

A piece from the series “25 Cats Name Sam” by Katie VanVliet

Did the artists visit the space and get inspired by it and actually complete the art within that space?   

Two of the artists, Katie VanVliet and Kate Glasheen, worked with us to install all of the artwork in a gallery salon-style arrangement in the rooms. They truly got a feel for Hotel Revival and the surrounding area. Each knew so much about the layouts of the rooms, the design, and the feel. We worked with them to choose the perfect pieces for the walls. When creating their artwork for the project, many of our artists were inspired by the buildings, attractions, and surrounding nature in the Baltimore area.

Art is one of those items that people seem hesitant to buy. How do you encourage people to choose art and to spend money on art?

Buying artwork to support an artist’s practice, especially those who are emerging to mid-career, is an incredibly fulfilling experience. Often people think collecting is only for the incredibly wealthy, but this isn’t the case. We have a specific auction once a year at Paradigm where pieces starts at $20 and people bid in $5 increments. The artwork is made in free art classes that we host, which is how we’re able to keep the pricing so low. Year after year, we hear from collectors that it was this exhibition that first started their personal art collections, that it’s when they realized that collecting would be possible. People come to the auction, spend under $50 on an original, hang it in their homes, and then realize how amazing it feels to support a small business and our artists. They tell the story of the piece to people that see it, and they live with it day after day. People feel the power and satisfaction of collecting and are hooked. Many of the pieces in the guest rooms at Hotel Revival reflect this accessible price range, comparable to a long weekend hotel stay or less.

When choosing where to put art—whether it belongs in a private room or in a public space—how do you decide? How do you curate for a hotel?

In this case, we started with the guest rooms. Within the rooms, the art is meant to reflect a very personal collection. To curate that, we thought about how it would slowly come together over time. We varied the frames to complement each piece and satisfy a range of tastes.

Artwork in the public spaces are less intimate at first view. Many are large and catch your eye from afar, but we highly recommend getting personal with them, too. There are hidden details in many that can only be noticed up close.

What are some neighborhoods in Baltimore that attract artists and where visitors should go take a look? 

Mount Vernon of course! Between The Walters Art Museum just down the street, the artwork and future arts-programming at Hotel Revival, and new outdoor festivals in the neighborhood (like this year’s Oktoberfest Mount Vernon), we’re excited to see how the neighborhood’s art scene continues to flourish.