Client: Wampold Companies
Location: Baton Rouge, LA, United States
Completion date: 2016
Ann Connelly Fine Art
Built in 1925 as the Louisiana National Bank and then renovated as the State Office Building in the 1960’s, Wampold Companies hired the design team to revive Baton Rouge's first skyscraper to its former glory and transform it into an upscale, boutique hotel. The team was challenged with capturing the building's history through time—the 1920's, 1960's, to present day.
References to the 90,117 SF Watermark hotel's past life as a bank are seamlessly woven throughout the hotel, including preserving eight bas-relief murals created in 1949 to creating an art program that brings new life to a historic location.
The goal to create a dynamic art program using a variety of traditional media and new material technologies reinforced the themes of innovation and regional identity. The artwork is placed with attention given to scale, audience and media. Artists created works that went beyond reproducing recognized historical icons by applying a unique perspective to each piece; creating an environment where every visitor feels engaged in the space.
As an example, the experience begins at the entrance of the building, where you are met with larger than life Lenticular prints with revolving imagery of iconic figures. These figures were reinterpreted by international artist, Davide Micaro. This installation sets the tone of the artwork program with his recreated portraits of Lady Liberty, Napoleon, and Uncle Sam illustrated with references to Southern Louisiana and given playful elements to catch the viewers interest. Every piece within the hotel is curated to create a multifaceted experience, where you are captured by visual interest that leads to a creative thought or idea.
Co-developing the program was an organic process beginning with the interior architecture/design, then integrating the art consultants who create a visual storyboard to begin qualifying artists across the country for the program. The building’s history, which began as a banking institution, was always threaded into the visual story of the property. Starting with the restoration of the sculptural murals by Angela Gregory, a young female sculptor ahead of her time, the consultants continued the theme of innovation by selecting artists that would elevate the property and create an energetic environment. Staying true to the thematic story of the building, the design team carried through elements relating to the importance of the Mississippi River as a highway of industry and trade along with interpretations of currency like the iconic Buffalo nickel. Graphic artists and photographers were commissioned to create photographic collages using historical photography but with a playful spin, printed on contemporary mediums like acrylic inside French wooden frames. Every project artist for the Watermark was vetted and qualified for the program based on their artistic merit, unique mark and ability to work within the parameters of the project.
As part of the art preservation within the Watermark Hotel, local art conservator Elise Grenier, worked from platforms and scaffolds for a month to restore the historic Angela Gregory murals within the main restaurant. “It was a gift to us, in that building, and a responsibility for us to be good stewards of and to restore and take of,” Grenier said. While the panels were in good condition, some damage was inflicted by moisture, airborne particles and time itself. According to the Watermark owner, Wampold Companies, Grenier has brought Gregory’s murals to “near perfect condition”.