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At hotels around the world, the exploration of creative expression is becoming one of the best perks of a stay

Art therapy at the Royal Mansour Hotel in Marrakech.ichou/Handout

Drake hotels have always prominently featured art in their decor. But the recent unveiling of the new Modern Wing at the hotel’s Queen Street West location in Toronto illustrates how the hospitality chain is turning enjoying art from a consumer experience to a participatory activity.

“Art, for us, is a way to engage in our local community and the international community in a way that is unhindered by operations,” says Joyce Lo, creative director at Drake Hotel. “It’s not about direct revenue – it’s really a softer experience for everyone.” Aside from the playful application of textures and colours in the textiles and illustrated wallpaper in the 32 new guest rooms, over a dozen original works were commissioned for the hotel’s expansion, curated by Ashley Mulvihill of the online gallery Ninth Editions.

“Ashley really wanted every piece to be a conversation starter,” Lo says. One artwork in particular, The Newspaper (for the Drake Hotel) by Micah Lexier, is something that guests can make their own. The 20-page booklet made from vintage materials is filled with prompts that guests are encouraged to fill in, essentially turning it into a co-creation with the artist.

A room in the Drake Hotel's Modern Wing.Handout

Using art as a means of exploring a destination is something hotels around the world are increasingly offering. In Playa del Carmen, Hotel Xcaret Arte showcases Mexican artisan and craft traditions through live performances, resort decor and gift shops. The property delivers a variety of hands-on instruction. Themed around dance, textiles, painting and pottery, guests have access to workshops to learn about Mexico’s history, culture and creation. At the weaving workshop, guests are taught two traditional techniques that they can use to customize a pouch or create a traditional crocheted toy. The pottery class allows participants to design and hand-paint a ceramic dish.

In Scotland, the Fife Arms, located in Cairngorms National Park, runs sketching and photography workshops to complement the hotel’s extensive art collection, which features over 14,000 works, among them pieces by Picasso and Bruegel. Morocco’s Royal Mansour Marrakech launched its own art therapy programming in the fall. Guided workshops ranging from drawing to macrame to calligraphy involve meditation along with the opportunity for creative expression. “Beyond traditional treatments, we wanted to provide a series of workshops that provide an overall personal transformation,” says Jean-Claude Messant, Royal Mansour Marrakech’s general manager. “The creative workshops aim to reduce anxiety, relieve stress and encourage self-reflection by learning a new skill.”

The response from guests is that many appreciate how the art-driven experiences are both playful and therapeutic. Like Lo at the Drake, Messant says this new programming has been a great tool for communicating. “Art is at the service of self-discovery and new passions,” he says. As we adapt to the new normal, it’s an amenity that is sure to be in high demand.

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