Vancouver’s Aboriginal Art Hotel
Fusing contemporary First Nations Art and interior design in an original way, CHIL Design teamed with native artist Clifton Fred to design several unique rooms within Vancouver's Aboriginal Art Hotel. The project marks the first boutique hotel concept of its kind in Canada.
Owned and operated by the non-profit Vancouver Native Housing Society, the Aboriginal Art Hotel is housed within the Skwachàys Lodge building in downtown Vancouver. The building originally opened in 2012 as an art gallery and healing lodge accompanied by 24 suites for out-of-town First Nations patients receiving treatment in Vancouver. In response to lower than anticipated demand, 18 of the 24 suites were transformed in 2014 into boutique hotel room suites, with the remaining suites remaining for native patient visitors. As part of the transformation, six First Nations artists were teamed with six interior design firms to re-imagine the existing suites for tourists in search of a unique accommodation experience.
Telling the stories of themes and stories of the native artist, each suite has its own distinct design and features original works of art from the artist involved. 100% of the hotel's profits go towards operating a native in artist residence program within the lodge, as well as accommodation for First Nations people at risk of homelessness.
The Artist and Designers:
Tasked with the design of 3 of the 18 hotel suites was CHIL Interior Design, a Vancouver-based office who have worked with some of the world's leading hospitality brands and are known for a boutique approach to design and ability to translate stories into one-of-a-kind spaces that express the spirit of a traveller's particular location.
CHIL Interior Design was paired with acclaimed native artist Clifton Fred, a self-taught artist who expresses his feelings and the stories of his people, of the great Tlingit Tribe, through poetry writing and fine detail pencil drawings.
Clifton Fred explains that for him, writing and drawing are inextricably linked as he learned the skills at the same time as a child. In his words, 'I cannot feel one without the other.'
The drawings he creates of his peoples and their natural environment are accompanied by handwritten poetry that does not explain in words what the viewer is seeing, but rather expresses what he is thinking as he draws.
Together with CHIL Interior Design, the works of Clifton Fred were conceptualized into three different themes for the three different suites. The themes are Canadiana, Poetry and Collage. For each theme, Fred's works were curated, designed and screened onto a series of wallpapers. These different wallpapers envelope their respective spaces with an original combination of vibrant pencil drawings, collage, and handwritten poems.
The resulting effect is a distinctly different approach to showcasing the works of this exceptional First Nations artist. As Adèle Rankin, Principal and interior designer at CHIL explains, 'Art works aren't confined to frame or located as an object. Here, the art works of Clifton Fred leave the page and become integral to forming, defining and experiencing the space.'
Like other artists and designers involved, CHIL Design volunteered their time pro bono to the project. The other design teams involved are designer Lou-Anne Neel and Inside Design Studio Inc., Sabina Hill and Mark Preston and MCM Interiors Ltd, Richard Shorty and Porada Design Group, as well as Jerry Whitehead and Portico Design Group.
Experience of Place:
As well as experiencing a stay in these three one-of-a-kind designed rooms, visitors to the Aboriginal Art Hotel are able to participate in traditional Aboriginal cultural experiences including a sweat lodge and smudge room for spiritual cleansing rituals.
Response to the hotel has thus far been overwhelming. In addition to the project's commercial success, the project also showcases First Nations culture to the city and the world in an unprecedented way that merges contemporary art culture with interior design and First Nations community engagement.