January 9, 2017
Q&A with Terry Eaton of Eaton Fine Art
Terry Eaton and his partner Robert Williams are experts in curating an art program which evokes, enhances, and speaks to that story for hospitality projects.
by New York Spaces
NYS: When and why did you found Eaton Fine Art?
Terry Eaton: I founded Eaton Fine Art, Inc., in 1992 in San Francisco. I've loved art since childhood, and still have my business card from when I was 13-years-old which says "Freelance Artist." The business card was a bit telling, as I always knew I would be an entrepreneur and so I attended business school with an art background. My business partner, Robert Williams, grew up in the hospitality industry, as his family owned a small hotel. He joined the Team EFA shortly after its founding and we combined our childhood passions—art and hospitality—into a business focus as adults. In 2001 we decided to relocate to Austin, Texas, and have been based here since.
NYS: How did you/do you plan to celebrate 25 years in business?
Terry Eaton: Eaton Fine Art is turning 25 this January 16th. One of our big plans is a specialty logo as well as special events in major cities with our wonderful clients. We will continue to collaborate on amazing projects while always striving to raise the creative bar to capture our clients' guests with innovative, curated art programs.
NYS: As chief curator, what do you look for when searching for art?
Terry Eaton: Eaton Fine Art believes art is any visually stimulating element which engages the person's senses, and that could be a painting, sculpture, wallcovering, videos, multimedia installations, etc., that are artistically created. We have broadened our definition of "art" as we see the art world evolve, as well as the hospitality industry.
Art programs within hotels have changed significantly over the last 25 years as the industry has evolved to cater to many new markets of demographics. Typical art within a guestroom, when we first started EFA, was a framed "poster print," with the occasional hotel wanting a customized art program. The public space art programs were original artwork but the fine art program did not, at that time, carry the weight of current day curated art programs.
From day one, Eaton Fine Art has produced all of the framing for our projects in the United States as we are adamant to keep the jobs here in the U.S. Additionally, EFA has not framed typical "poster prints" for over 20 years! We built the business around customers wanting something more than what was available to everybody else in both retail and commercial spaces. We currently provide many different substrates printed within the always evolving field of digital printing. From paper to canvas, wall covering to sculptural elements, we're doing it all.
NYS: How has your business partner's hospitality background influenced the direction Eaton Fine Art has taken?
Terry Eaton: My business partner's family owned a hotel while growing up, so he always remembers the level of service that brought customers back to their hotel. We've always strived to make sure our customers feel welcomed and that we are creating value for them and their projects, also.
NYS: What kind of art programs do you collaborate on? What do they offer?
Terry Eaton: Art provides the creative soul of many spaces, and can be utilized to enhance the architecture and interiors within hospitality settings. A properly curated art program continues the narrative for the guests and reinforces the brand messaging.
We have worked with both designers and ownership groups directly—we enjoy both, but the processes differ. In some cases designers come to us for guidance with a project narrative or concept they'd like implemented into an art program, but typically that narrative has been predetermined when we're brought onboard.
Conversely, when we work with ownership they sometimes look towards Eaton Fine Art to develop the creative vision on how to bring innovative uniqueness to their property. In this case, we collaborate with ownership to develop the narrative, curating an art program which evokes, enhances and speaks to that story. We've enjoyed the benefit of numerous repeat clients and have built established relationships with many hotel developers and operators. Each project offers unique opportunities and we enjoy the process of discovery and being challenged. Above all, we excel in collaborating to make project narratives come to life—cheers to creative collaborations!
NYS: You have worked with high profile clients and brands. Which ones and what do you do for them?
Terry Eaton: We have collaborated with numerous clients across the nation on various aspects of their art programs, including Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Related Companies, Host Hotels & Resorts and HRI Properties, to name a few. EFA has also been a Starwood approved vendor for over 23 years and is currently a specified vendor for Four Points by Sheraton and Elements for the guestrooms and public spaces.
We've also enjoyed the benefit of multiple repeat clients and continue to forge established relationships with hotel developers and operators to make their vision a reality. For instance, Eaton Fine Art (EFA) was recently retained to collaborate on the art program for the public spaces and guestrooms for the Hilton West Palm Beach. As the hotel is located across the street from The Related Companies' upscale CityPlace shopping center and within walking distance to the Palm Beach County Convention Center, we had to elevate the spaces to the refined expectations of corporate executives while also accounting for the high volume of guests at the 400-room hotel.
To achieve this, we focused on an art program centered around wall art that speaks to the hotel's South Florida location and embracing the endemic nature. In the hotel's restaurant, Manor, we installed multiple, small ceramic discs onto the wall as well as large, graphic photographs printed onto canvas depicting sea urchins and coral, which was created by a local photographer. The volume of discs give them a barnacle-like appearance, while the macro-scale of the photos make them look like abstract paintings; this balances the space while also adding unexpected elements. We were able to bring the beach and ocean into the bar as well, where a sculptural painting made from colorful, reclaimed wooden buoys complements the space's paneling.
At the recently completed Canyon Suites at the Phoenician, A Luxury Collection Resort, we curated all guestrooms and rooms/suites as well as public spaces for the property. The renovation of this iconic property mandated a carefully curated hand so the resulting art program created a sense of place without being trite or expected.
NYS: What has been one of your favorite projects to date?
Terry Eaton: It's a tough call, as there are aspects of all of our projects that are a favorite of mine—whether it's a specific artwork we commissioned or an overarching narrative we created.
A good example of both was at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, as Eaton Fine Art was charged with curating and producing all the wall art for the project, including all guestrooms, corridors, suites, bungalows, high-roller suites and all public areas except for the celebrity chef restaurants and the 58th floor suites. It was an exciting challenge to embody the sophisticated whimsy of The Cosmopolitan throughout all the spaces, and we were able to curate a one-of-a-kind fine art collection showcasing artists' work—from museum-collected artists to emerging artists—from over nine different countries. Additionally, we commissioned a photographer to travel to five cities in the USA and another to five cities in Europe, utilizing their photographs to create the large, sixteen-foot-tall "cosmopolitan" wall murals in the pre-function areas.
NYS: What would be your dream project?
Terry Eaton: Working with an amazing team and roster of clients across the country, in a field that has been my passion since I was a young child, has allowed me to in effect live out my dream. In terms of a singular project, I'd like to collaborate on any project where the owner understands the value of a curated art program and enjoys the collaboration and artistic narrative as much we value those factors. That is when the final product is truly a work of art!
NYS: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start investing in art?
Terry Eaton: First, buy something that you love, that speaks to you and you want to look at within your living or
work space. Secondly, do your research on the artist, also, so you know something about them. Invest in what moves you!
NYS: What are you working on now?
Terry Eaton: We have a few exciting projects lined up for 2017, including:
- Four Seasons Beverly Hills
- Fairmont Empress, Victoria – British Columbia, Canada
- Four projects in Las Vegas including the Caesar's Palace Tower
- AC Dallas
- Five luxury resorts in Hawaii
- Numerous Four Points by Sheraton projects, where we are an approved "Standard Art Vendor" as noted above.
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