Five-Star Exposure: Your Art in Hotels

The Umstead Hotel and Spa Art Gallery. Image courtesy of The Umstead.

Artists who are seeking exposure for their work know that it can be found in places other than traditional galleries.

The Umstead Hotel and Spa hosts exhibitions by local North Carolina artists.

Some alternative spaces for exhibitions may be libraries, restaurants, bank lobbies or hotels. And some artists may be fortunate enough to find business owners that have a great love for the arts and who are committed supporters of artists in their community.

Nestled on 12 acres of woods in Cary, North Carolina, award-winning The Umstead Hotel and Spa is just such a place. Founded by Jim and Ann Goodnight in 2007, The Umstead was envisioned as a place where art and nature collide. With a contemporary architectural design that embraces its woodland setting, The Umstead treats its guests to tranquil luxury enhanced by an abundance of art. “‘Art in Nature’ simply guides us in everything we do. We look for inspiration out the windows and across the street to the Umstead State Park, the namesake of the hotel,” said Marcelle Kick, The Umstead Hotel and Spa’s design coordinator.

The Goodnights are dedicated supporters of the arts, and The Umstead’s extensive art collection reflects their longtime commitment. The hotel curates and shows art in a collection that celebrates the lush North Carolina landscape. National artists such as Dale Chihuly are represented in the collection, but Mrs. Goodnight likes to primarily highlight North Carolina artists, such as potters Ben Owen III and Mark Hewitt and landscape artist Lynn Boggess.

“Chaos” By Madonna Phillips. Glass. Copyright © Madonna Phillips. Used by permission of the artist.

“The artwork is chosen to harmonize with the hotel’s contemporary interior design, striving to enhance the soothing calm a guest experiences when entering and walking through the spaces,” said Kick, who has been with The Umstead since before its opening. “The quiet palette of earth tones can be seen echoing through our paintings, pottery and sculptures.”

In addition to the permanent collection, The Umstead also maintains an art gallery open to the public, and new exhibitions are featured every few months. “When the gallery rotates to feature new artwork, we invite the public for an evening to celebrate the artist and experience the delights of the exhibition. The artist will informally mingle with the crowd, talking about their process and answering any questions. Work often sells on the night of the opening. Hors d’ oeuvres and wine are served, while guests and local art patrons admire and discuss the show,” said Kick, who along with Leah Goodnight, the Umstead’s director of marketing, selects the artists who are represented.

The art exhibitions at The Umstead Hotel and Spa create opportunities for hotel guests to enjoy rotating artwork. They also give artists exposure to visiting art lovers from within as well as outside of the local community.

“Enter” By Madonna Phillips. Glass. Copyright © Madonna Phillips. Used by permission of the artist.

The current exhibition features Madonna Phillips. A North Carolina native, Phillips is known for her original techniques in glass using collage, tempered glass, flat glass crystals and clear mediums. Her Order/Chaos exhibition features works inspired by the disorderly nature of chaos that produces energy and excitement, with pieces referring to architecture, science and physics.

Artist Ora Sorensen ( was born in New York but grew up overseas. She has owned a gallery in Delray Beach, Florida, for 20 years, and has also been represented by other galleries across the country. Sorensen now lives and paints in North Carolina, and her paintings are collected worldwide and have been shown in numerous exhibitions.