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Hospitality Design

For Art’s Sake: 3 Hotels Put an Emphasis on Artwork

One of the first pieces of art encountered at the Rockaway Hotel is the photograph Sessions End, revealing two dedicated surfers trudging through the snow with their boards in tow. The work of local photographer Susannah Ray, it provides a portal into the passionate, year-round surf culture that grips the Rockaways, New York’s beach hideaway.

“We are on the very edge of Queens, literally between the city and the sea. The forces of urban culture and a water-based life commingle, conflict, and create a place unlike anywhere else,” explains Ray. “While I have photographed outside of Rockaway, I continually return to this peninsula as a touchstone and inspiration. I am eternally surprised and grateful that one place can hold so much.”

Such an otherworldly locale is propelled by a deep sense of community, and leaning into that and cultivating it was essential to Rockaway Hotel partner and chief social impact officer Michi Jigarjian, who curated the hotel’s vast and rotating art collection that melds pieces from emerging and established artists, both international and local. (New York firms Morris Adjmi and Curious Yellow handled the architecture and design.)

Jigarjian, who also serves as president of arts organization Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York, hadn’t spent much time in the Rockaways prior to the hotel’s development, but she deems that unfamiliarity an asset because it compelled her to plunge in and meet as many people as possible, visiting stores and peering into studios. “From the earliest stages, this project has always been about making art the connective tissue of the community and creating social impact, asking lots of questions and answering needs,” explains Jigarjian. “Who were the artists here making their marks.

All of the works on display are imbued with intention, melding with the quirky, magical spirit that defines the Rockaways. There is Roe Ethridge’s graceful pigeon, and Tom Sachs’ charted tides, for example, as well as Derrick Adams’ gliding swan boat and Alessandro Teoldi’s assemblage of used airplane blankets.

Further cementing the Rockaway Hotel’s connection to the neighborhood is its sponsorship of Shantell Martin’s massive 16,000-square-foot mural covering the blacktop of the Seaside Playground at the adjacent Waterside Children’s Studio School. Affirming and vibrant, naturally it can be glimpsed from the Rockaway Hotel’s rooftop.

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