Arts & Theater

Doomed Sacramento hotel could gain art glory

It’s not a stretch to say that the Jade Hotel’s best days are behind it.

While its adjacent brother in single-room-occupancy squalor, the Marshall, has been deemed worthy of saving, the Jade has a date next year with a wrecking ball.

Set in motion by construction of the city’s new downtown arena, the plan is to build a 10-story Hyatt Place hotel where the Marshall and Jade stand at Seventh and L streets. The $26 million, 160-room project calls for keeping the Marshall’s brick and terra-cotta facades facing Seventh and L streets. The Jade would be demolished entirely.

As its date with destruction nears, artists are preparing to swoop.

But the members of m5arts aren’t fighting to save the five-story brick building that’s housed some of the city’s nearly homeless for decades. The group instead has a plan – and a crowdfunding campaign – to turn the old building into a temporary “Art Hotel.”

I expect the artists to be inspired by the many stories, secrets, confidences, and mysteries held within the rooms, walls and hallways of this interesting place before it is destroyed forever.

Shelly Willis, executive director of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission

The idea is to recruit artists to give the hotel one last shot of glory as a wall-to-wall art exhibition and performance space for two weeks before giving way to the jackhammers.

“This is more than a pop-up,” said Seumas Coutts, an arts curator assisting on the project. “This is not a craft fair. It’s art of the highest quality.”

If the group raises the $10,000 it’s seeking, the works of some 30 artists will be displayed Feb. 5 to 13 inside the Jade, which also housed a liquor store. Sacramento artists William Ishmael, Matt Brown and Shaun Burner will be among those who help transform the hotel. m5arts is taking submissions from additional artists who want to take part.

Through Friday, the group had collected $4,346 toward the $10,000 goal with nine days remaining. Under the rules of the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, the project gets none of the money if the group doesn’t reach its goal. Ishmael said the group has some funding outside of Kickstarter, but thinks the campaign will still be a success.

Ishmael said he was attracted to the project because it will allow him to do things that can’t typically be done in a gallery.

“It’s kinda like anything goes,” Ishmael said. “You can just let your imagination go crazy.”

Coutts said the group is looking for painters, photographers and sculptors as well as those who work in video projection or performance art. All of the money raised will go toward getting the art on the walls, Coutts said. No money will go toward administering the project, he said.

In 2005, the city’s preservation director determined the Jade – believed to have been built in the 1930s – did not qualify as a historical resource for purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act, nor eligible for listing in the Sacramento Register of Historic & Cultural Resources.

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The Marshall, however, does hold significant architectural and cultural relevance, said William Burg, president of the Sacramento Old City Association. It was designed by master California architect Charles Dickey and in the 1940s was the home of an African American venue, the Clayton Club, that hosted such famous jazz performers as Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway.

The Jade still would provide a unique canvas.

“Using the hotel as an exhibition site provides a rare opportunity in Sacramento for artists to create – and the public to experience – site-specific installation and performance,” said Shelly Willis, executive director of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission. “I expect the artists to be inspired by the many stories, secrets, confidences and mysteries held within the rooms, walls and hallways of this interesting place before it is destroyed forever.”

The art hotel wouldn’t be the region’s first foray into temporary art. In 2014, the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission helped fund a temporary virtual-reality outdoor exhibit along Broadway and earlier this year, a group of artists created an illuminated “Portal” to help drive people to a revitalizing section of R Street. On a larger scale, the Burning Man festival brings hundreds of pieces of art to the Nevada desert and burns many of them.

There is some beauty to the finality of temporary projects, Coutts said.

“Even though it’s temporary, it’s permanently temporary,” he said. “It makes it exclusive.”

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