Hotel showcases Chicago street artists, offers art therapy program


Hotel Chicago West Loop

Hotel Chicago West Loop’s The annex features art from local Chicago artists. 

By Timothy Michalik

In celebration of its one year anniversary Oct. 11, Hotel Chicago West Loop’s The Annex is showcasing its second wave of street artists and muralists with a public opening. Nearly 100 murals are featured throughout the hotel, according to a Sept. 20 press release.

The goal of The Annex, 1622 W. Jackson Blvd., is to convey its artists’ own personal vision of Chicago, said Hotel Chicago West Loop Arts Director Jennifer Decarlo.

The Annex gallery space is the brainchild of renowned fine art photographer and patron Helmut Horn, who is one of the owners of the property and management company, according to Decarlo.

 Chicago-based conceptual artist and muralist Brandin Hurley is one of The Annex’s most notable contributors.

“They asked us to represent Chicago, but they didn’t want it to be too specific. A lot of people will paint skylines, the Hancock tower or Cloud Gate,” Hurley said. “[Hotel Chicago] wanted it to be a little more emotional than that—a little more subtle. I really enjoy the lushness we get here in the summers; you can really feel the vibrancy.”

The event is free and part of a renovation of what used to be the Rosemoor Hotel, according to the press release.

Hotel Chicago West Loop is divided into three gallery sections: The Annex at Hotel Chicago’s Permanent Collection, comprised of work made or collected by Helmut Horn; The Annex | Mural, where local Chicago artists’ work is featured; and the Annex AbilityLab Showcase, which is the main event, Decarlo said.

Some of The Annex’s artists include both emerging and established Chicago street artists and muralists, such as Asend, Hurley and Josh Grotto, Decarlo said.RC

“At a hotel, you have people from out of town; it’s a cool opportunity to have [guests] randomly come across my work and see it tied to their Chicago experience,” Grotto said.

 In addition to standard hotel amenities, each room in The Annex—which opened in fall 2017—includes a “unique mural from some of the city’s prominent streets artists, according to the press release.

Each year, Hotel Chicago West Loop donates 10 percent of the its $119 nightly room rate to an art charity when guests ask for the “Annex rate” while booking their room. This year, The Annex will be working with an art therapy program at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab—an innovative rehabilitation center.

Six to eight pieces will be commissioned by both emerging and established local Chicago street artists annually. The Annex | Murals will also feature future work from those with disabilities who are involved with AbilityLab, Decarlo said.

“Starting this winter, there will be art [featured] by people who have had significant disabilities,” Decarlo said. “[Through AbilityLab], they’re using art as therapy to deal with these situations in their lives, such as significant burns, loss of limbs. Really tough stuff.”