In the words of travel writer Miriam Beard, "certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living."
In this new era of partnerships between the arts and tourism industries—trends that include the art hotel, cultural heritage tourism, and artistic tourism—the Inn at Harbor Shores is at the forefront of hotel properties with a flair for incorporating art into the fabric of design, and layers of local storytelling. This ingenious approach to the hotel stay goes beyond use of the generic hotel palette by incorporating work by area artists as a way to add cultural depth and meaning to the guest experience.
Following this trend, The Inn at Harbor Shores is fast becoming not just a place to lay one's head, but a place to experience a layered and heady taste of the good life in Southwest Michigan.
Harbor Shores art consultant Susan Wilczak, coordinator of the dynamic Harbor Shores Art Program, has been responsible for reaching out to Michigan artists to encourage their participation in the permanent and gallery collections at Harbor Shores.
Wilczak is also the creator of the “Arts and Cultural Master Plan of the Harbor Shores Development,” a plan which from the beginning incorporated an impressive array of art and design details; like the handcrafted tee-markers on the Jack Nicklaus Signature Design golf course, the interior art collection in the Harbor Shore Clubhouse, the public art mosaics created by youth from the Fired Up After School Program for Jean Kloch Park, and a series of public sculptures by noted artist Richard Hunt. With great pride, Wilczak mentions Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who recently referenced the Harbor Shores geographic locale as a virtual "gateway" to Michigan.
Mike Wood, Construction Liaison to the art program, says, "Our goal is to showcase areas of natural resources, local history, and story, along with the talent of our arts community."
In Wilczak’s current position, she instigates partnerships with members of the local arts community and works to supports the overall Harbor Shores hospitality mission, which states:
“The story of a place is told most eloquently through its art. Our goal at the Inn is to provide great hospitality and that requires great storytelling… with that in mind we have layered local art and artists throughout the Inn. For us, art is not an afterthought or a decoration but a foundation, and it has always been a fundamental part of our vision."
The story begins in the main lobby, where the visitor enters a world full of complex layers of art and design. Lead Architect Michelle Rumsa (also an experienced sailor) has created a entry hall and staircase akin to the mast of a ship that visually runs through the upper balcony, referencing the long history of merchant and recreational sailing vessels that have frequented the harbor.
Descending from the lobby ceiling is an integrated sculptural lighting piece by April Wagner, made of glass and stainless steel.
"I tried to capture the essence of the motion of water, swaying beaches, grasses, and reflections from the late afternoon sun," Wagner says. "I did this by using opal and transparent hues of blue, gray, green, and amber, in round and free-form wave shapes."
The structural design in the hotel's common areas is harmonious and interconnected, so that the lobby, lounge and restaurant benefit from fluid energy within the space. The restaurant, Plank’s Tavern (named in tribute to the legendary Plank’s Hotel and Tavern) will incorporate design details referencing the original, including a hand-rendered, hand-lettered logo by Stephanie Milanowski, inspired by a 19th century photo of Plank's Ferry, used to transport guests to Plank’s Tavern on the lake in St. Joseph. Milanowski was also commissioned to create a series of lyrical drawings based on local flora and fauna for the Inn's guest rooms.
With 92 guest rooms and suites, the hotel floors are divided into creative themes, an idea collaboratively conceived by Interior Designer Kathy Weykamp and the hotel's developer, Edgewater Resources. The guest floors, three through six, provide a structured palette for rooms showcasing natural riches of the region, and in each of these rooms, you’ll find two to three works by Michigan artists.
Evoked by these themes, we get the sense that the hotel itself belongs as much to the visitor as to the fabric of local culture and community in St. Joseph. These stories take form in the details of wall color, carpet, light fixtures, furniture and two-dimensional art.
According to The Harbor Shores design plan, "each floor will speak about a special quality to be found in Southwest Michigan and that story will be told thru imagery, art, objects, furnishings color and pattern."
There will also be hand crafted elements throughout the hotel, such as the glass-fused tiles, created by the Southwest Michigan artist partnership of Cindy Fielding and Carolyn O'Hearn, for guest bathrooms. The tiles reflect the changing hues of Lake Michigan waters. The custom closet-armoire in each room isconstructed of Michigan soft maple by Amish craftsmen from Emerald Manufacturing in White Pigeon, Michigan.
The hotel gallery on the second level will have rotating exhibitions of the work of Michigan artists. The first showcase will feature work by local artist Kritin Hosbein. Hosbein, born in St. Joseph, feels a sense of personal history and belonging to this place and the need to tell narrative stories through her work.
“Once the Inn opens," Wilczak says, “we hope to expand the art in public spaces to exterior sites along the marina and walking trails. Working with the architect, designer, landscape architect, builders, we are all part of a team to make this happen. There are future plans to expand opportunities for Michigan artists too, making this an exciting project that I am thrilled to be a part of.”
The visitor to Harbor Shores will benefit not only from the usual hotel amenities, but from a welcoming entrée to the southwest Michigan arts community, through gallery works, exhibitions, and the art pieces interwoven into the themed floors of the hotel.
And since art, like travel, has the potential to provide a window to a larger set of experiences, then it’s possible that as we experience Harbor Shores for ourselves, we may simultaneously find a bit of magic and poetry of place in art that reveals the creative interpretations of others.