There are a few blocks of downtown that represent a lot of what this city is trying to be right now.
It’s where hundreds of construction workers have spent more than a year building a $507 million arena that is changing the look and feel of the central city. The arena will be high-tech and modern, a reflection of Sacramento’s desire to compete as a 21st-century city.
Just a few feet from the arena’s edge is a dilapidated apartment building that will probably be torn down this year. But before it gets razed in favor of a new Hyatt hotel, the old Jade Apartments on Seventh Street are being turned into Art Hotel, a funky laboratory of art, sound and the spoken word that is showcasing the most creative minds this city has to offer.
If you’re interested in what’s happening in the Sacramento art world, check out this exhibit. It’s being curated and organized by Seumas Coutts and Shaun Burner. They’ve got more than 60 artists involved, including many of the most talented painters, sculptors, historians, muralists, graffiti artists and sound-makers in this city. By supporting it, the founders argue, the city will show it has a legitimate thirst for new art.
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“Sacramento is starving for something like this,” said Burner, considered by many to be a star of the city’s art scene. “There’s amazing talent in this town, and we wanted to give them a platform to do amazing things.”
The exhibit will open to the public starting Friday and run through Feb. 13, although there’s some hope it will get extended beyond that. A full schedule of openings and special performances is on Art Hotel’s Facebook page. The exhibit is free, but visitors should also feel free to drop off a donation or buy some art. The people who are putting on the show aren’t getting paid, though they did raise over $14,000 for the artists.
Many of the installations can be described as “a little bit more on the fringe than what’s happening in the rest of Sacramento,” Coutts said. There’s Burner’s huge sculpture of a man bursting from the floor that’s made of recycled wood from a nearby bank. One room is filled by a skateboard halfpipe where artists will ride onto an ink spot and use their boards to paint as they thrash. Graffiti artists have transformed stairwells into canvases. A 7-year-old boy – the youngest artist in the exhibit – added his colorful touch to a hallway wall.
Nick Deamer cut holes through three stories of floors and has suspended an installation along a cable that will rotate and potentially light up. Your view of the artwork will change dramatically depending on which floor you’re viewing it from.
“I haven’t seen anything like this before,” Deamer said of Art Hotel. “I think it will be hard for people to wrap their heads around it, but I know they’ll want to see it.”
The sounds of arena construction could be heard inside parts of the Jade as Deamer and others worked Thursday afternoon. In his State of the City address later that night, Mayor Kevin Johnson said downtown’s rebirth should be about more than basketball fans and tech giants. Johnson has said artists and creative people will also drive the city’s future.
Annakatrin Kraus, who grew up in Sacramento but has been practicing her art in Berlin for the past year and a half, is creating a labyrinth of large frames in one room of the Jade overlooking another construction project – the big development of apartments and shops on the 700 block of K Street.
She paused for a minute to reflect on Art Hotel’s place in her hometown.
“There’s this thing next door (the arena) and it’s a symbol of something the city needs,” she said. “And there’s all this activity here (inside the Jade). I feel like it’s a universe balancing act. This is what the city really needs. Every city that opens its doors to artists opens its doors to regeneration.”