HOW ONE LUXURY RED BANK HOTEL SUPPORTS THE TOWN’S ART SCENE BY DISPLAYING LOCAL WORK THROUGHOUT ITS BOUTIQUE SPACE
BY SAMANTHA FARAGALLI YOUNGHANS • PHOTOS BY TOM ZAPCIC
Kevin Barry was working at a hotel in Boston post college in 2008 when he got the call to return home to New Jersey to begin working for the family business. The hospitality guru is second generation, as his father acquired Molly Pitcher Inn in 1992 and The Oyster Point Hotel in 1996. Today, Barry serves as the vice president of both.
Before he dove into day to day duties at each establishment and following a sweeping renovation of the latter hotel over a decade ago Barry was visiting his sister in Dubai, and became inspired by an Abu Dhabi hotel art gallery. Real Picasso paintings graced its lobby, and he was impressed with this alternative venue of display.
He came home with the idea of bringing local artist’s work into The Oyster Point Hotel to support Red Bank’s popular art scene. Located directly on the Navesink River, the hotel was “a natural fit for incorporating artists, and the project actually took off immediately.”
In fact, the concept has been successful for the past eleven years, and is still growing. Barry collaborates with his Curator, Ellen Martin, on a daily basis, and the two have executed a number of projects, including his idea of “The Oyster Point Exhibition Program,” in which a new artist’s work is displayed in the lobby every two months each exhibit introduced with a cocktail party and an artist meet and greet.
Perhaps the pair’s most intriguing new venture is the “Artist in Residence” program, in which one visionary’s work is displayed in all 56 guest rooms of the hotel for an entire year. For 2020, guests as well as outside visitors (free room tours are available) will be able to enjoy the non-objective abstract paintings of Don Harger, who has solo exhibited in several New Jersey galleries as well as in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Leipzig, Germany.
“Art is something that’s very personal, so to have the opportunity to spend the night with it is really cool,” Barry enthused.
Due to interest in the work expressed by guests during and after stays, the duo also recently debuted “ e Art Store,” an online platform showing for sale work that was previously displayed at the hotel. “It’s a nice thing and a good opportunity for the artists and us to continue exhibits even after they’ve been taken down,” he shared, adding that his these are just a few ways of staying unique and different in the hospitality space. “We’ve been trying to keep things fresh and exciting while staying on top of trends part of the reason why we’re now considered an ‘art hotel,’ which is exciting for us.”
Martin and Barry are also attempting to intrigue millennials, particularly, by frequently switching things up in terms of types of work displayed. “When you come here a year later or even a few months later, it’s different…not always the exact same thing,” he explained.
As for the future, he said, the hotel is “looking forward to seeing how we’re going to update and change our current position,” whether by incorporating sculptures and performances or potentially bringing art over to its sister property. The demarcation would be that e Oyster Point Hotel would focus on modern and contemporary pieces, while Molly Pitcher Inn might embrace more traditional work. “It’d be a little more challenging, but I think we’d definitely be up to it if we found the right t,” he said.
Today, Barry is simply proud of the ambiance he’s created at this luxury boutique space, and wants guests and locals to enjoy every minute.
“It’s not a pushy gallery in which you walk nervously and get the feeling that you are being compelled to buy,” he said. “Instead, visitors are here to enjoy the hotel, have a drink, look at the views, and chat, but at the same time there’s this remarkable art surrounding them.”
The Oyster Point Hotel
146 Bodman Place, Red Bank / 732.639.5243