June 7, 2022

Thurber, Tech Highlight Local Art in Hilton Columbus Downtown 402

When 402, the new tower of the Hilton Columbus Downtown opens in August, the city will gain a lot more than 463 new first-class hotel rooms. Continuing a tradition that began with the first Hilton opening in 2012, Columbus will gain a stunning new gallery of local art.

Those familiar with 401, the original Hilton Columbus Downtown, know that it showcases more than 150 artists with ties to central Ohio, starting with the reception desk, backed by a mural by Aminah Robinson. The Columbus native legend’s folk art of life in Poindexter Village, the Blackberry Patch, and other centers of Black life in Columbus won her worldwide recognition and a MacArthur “genius” grant.

The 402 tower continues that tradition. And although it will be studded with equally stunning original pieces, lovers of art and of Columbus might be most delighted by a relatively simple print that will hang in almost every guest room: an image of the iconic James Thurber dog, sniffing a flower. The line drawing is rendered in the hotel’s signature persimmon color against a white background, with a reverse, white-on-persimmon version below. Beneath both images is a Thurber quote suitable for our post-pandemic time: “A sound creature in a crazy world.”

Columbus can thank brothers and art consultants Jim and Michael Reese for the Hilton’s focus on local artists. In 2012 that was relatively unusual for a high-end hotel but “There has been an awakening” since then, Jim Reese said. The Hilton’s holdings already count as Ohio’s largest collection of contemporary art, he said, and the 402 tower will introduce 40 new artists to the collection.

One of the new pieces sure to attract attention will be a 50-foot-by-15-foot series of embellished vertical metal strips behind the 402 reception desk. Collectively, they’ll form a stylized map of central Ohio, with flowing rivers and landmarks such as the Columbus Zoo, Franklin Park Conservatory and Ohio Stadium represented. Reese doesn’t want to give away too many fun details before the opening, but the piece will feature projection mapping to essentially animate it — think the technology of the popular Van Gogh “Immersive Experience” — customizable to whatever is happening in town at the moment.

Stories on High, the hotel’s 28th-story rooftop bar and restaurant, will feature another tech-enhanced artwork. One of its covered sections will have a 15-foot-by-20-foot LED video ceiling capable of showing stars, clouds, Mother’s Day flowers or anything else that fits the occasion. It also can virtually disappear and resemble an ordinary ceiling. Its content will be “as varied as the weather in Columbus,” Reese declares.

Reverence for Ohio art and artists will show throughout the hotel, with meeting rooms named after local artists including Steve Canyon comic artist Milton Caniff, sculptor and Holocaust survivor Alfred Tibor and Denny Griffith, painter and longtime president of Columbus College of Art & Design.

In all, more than 200 pieces, including many large-scale paintings, will decorate the new tower. The Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority is planning an event for the public to see the highlights. “It’s an amazing collection that just keeps expanding and showcasing the incredible art community here in Columbus,” Reese said of the collective Hilton holdings.

He’s proud of the fact that it is diverse enough to appeal to different tastes: “No one should like every piece in a collection.”

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