Stay in Style at Art Ovation & Experience Sarasota’s Art Community

by Karen LeBlanc

At Art Ovation Hotel, Visual and Culinary Art Coalesce for an Immersive Experience with Sarasota’s Art Community

Sculpture in front of Art Ovation Hotel in downtown Sarasota

Sarasota, Florida is known for its thriving arts community, home to artists, renowned architects and creative professionals who give the city a vibrant character, unique to any other place in the state. This Gulf Coast city in Southwest Florida is the cradle of a modernist architectural movement known as the Sarasota School of Architecture and a muse to countless artists and artisans. 

The lobby of Art Ovation Hotel acts as an art gallery with rotating exhibits 3 times a year. The current exhibit features Cuban artists.

At the creative epicenter is  Art Ovation, an Autograph Collection hotel, that serves as a cultural ambassador for the community promoting local artists and fostering connections with creative institutions including the Ringling College of Art and Design.

The works of Cuban artists on view in the lobby of Art Ovation Hotel.

The name—Art Ovation—aptly sums up its mission to immerse visitors in a complete sensory experience of the arts. I recently stayed for two nights to feed my imagination metaphorically and literally, as visual and culinary converge in a Cuban exhibit and new pop up restaurant concept. 

Art Ovation Hotel works with the local community to foster the arts. One example is this art project. 9th-grade art students at Cooper High School painted the steps leading up to Overture Restaurant to celebrate its new Cuban inspired menu.

My senses began firing from the moment I step into the art-filled lobby that smells of lemon and white thyme, the hotel’s exclusive signature scent. Cuban music plays with a joyful backbeat and my pandemic-fatigued mood begins to brighten as I take in the colorful artworks hanging in the lobby by Cuban artists.

Painting by Cuban artist Flora Fong, on view in the lobby of Art Ovation Hotel in downtown Sarasota, Florida.

The exhibit, entitled Converging Dialogues in Contemporary Art: Cernuda Arte Represented Artists features works by Giosvany Ecchevarria, Miguel Florido, Flora Fong, Lilian Garcia-Roig, Danuel Mendez and Jorge Luis Santos. Artwork is on display in the lobby, throughout the hallways and meeting areas. 

The entrance to Overture Restaurant located in Art Ovation Hotel. The restaurant created a culinary arts menu to complement the hotel’s Cuban art exhibit for an immersive art experience.

At Overture Restaurant in the hotel, art and food coalesce in a thematic experience reflecting the Cuban exhibit. As a tribute to the art and artists, Overture is serving a Cuban inspired menu of culinary creations, each its own work of art in its presentation and plating.

Overture Restaurant aims to be the “it” dining destination for Sarasota, offering pop up restaurant concepts such as the current Cuban inspired menu.

“Art is not something that just hangs on the wall. It should be a full embodiment of experiences that you want to share with others. That craving for something new and novel is what our menu offers in a sensory-rich, culinary experience,” says Ashley Wright, Director of Outlets. “Everything in this property was done with pure intention. Nothing was done as an afterthought and I think that is reflected with our menu.”

Flan, a culinary work of art, part of the Cuban inspired menu at Overture Restaurant in Art Ovation Hotel.

The culinary experience functions as a “pop-up” restaurant concept, offering the Cuban menu for a limited time. This delicious merging of visual and culinary arts expresses itself in dishes such as the Cuban sandwich served in a cigar box and the espresso milkshake served with a hazelnut wafer cigar that the waiter ignites tableside for a theatrical experience.

Chefs at Overture Restaurant designed artistic presentations for each dish on the Cuban inspired menu such as this Cuban sandwich served in a cigar box.

“Every dish is Instagram-worthy. We want to inspire your palette and picture taking,” says Orcun Turkay, Corporate Director of Food & Beverage, Shaner, the hotel management company.  “Our chefs are the artists in the kitchen. They are no different from other artists; one puts art on paper and one puts it on the plate,” Turkay says.

This espresso milkshake is served with a hazelnut wafer cigar cookie, handrolled in fondant. The server lights up the cookie cigar at the table as part of the presentation.

I met up with Executive Chef Mark Galvin and his associate, Chef Jose Cruz who developed the Cuban inspired menu to sample and photograph their culinary artwork. 

Overture Executive Chef Mark Galvin proudly shows off one of his menu’s showstoppers, the Cuban sandwich served in a cigar box. The culinary team took more than a month to develop the unique recipes, seasonings and presentations for its new Cuban art inspired menu.

This is Overture’s first art-inspired menu and Chef Galvin says he plans to rotate the menu three times a year to coordinate with each hotel exhibit.  “It’s like having a new restaurant every four months with changing menus, music, even server uniforms that coordinate with the theme, “ says Galvin.

Karen LeBlanc, aka The Design Tourist, sampling the Cuban art-inspired menu at Overture Restaurant. Each dish is a work of art including this cookie cigar I’m holding that looks incredibly realistic but tastes yummy!

I sampled the hearty Cuban sandwich served up in a cigar box with plantain chips and seasoned with the restaurant’s secret recipe. For dessert, I had a delectable flan, creamy but not too sweet, a recipe from the Cuban mother of one of the staff cooks. Each dish is designed to be camera-ready for social media. “We want to serve dishes that foster interaction between the server and guests, such as the lighting the cookie cigar. These experiences start a conversation about our cuisine,” says Chef Jose Cruz. 

Cuban art-inspired dish on the new menu at Overture Restaurant in Art Ovation Hotel spiced with secret seasonings the culinary team developed specifically for this menu.

Overture aims to be the dining destination for the community with an identity apart from the hotel, yet drawing inspiration from its art collection for its culinary creations. “A culinary professional is an artist. His art is on the plate rather than on the wall. The visual art is in the plating and the culinary art is the cooking technique,” says Galvin. 

Empanadas on the Cuban art-inspired menu at Overture Restaurant, a temporary menu celebrating the current Cuban art exhibit at Art Ovation Hotel. Overture will start serving its new Cuban menu dinner menu on November 11th followed by the lunch menu starting January 1st, 2021. Cuban breakfast starts on Monday, Nov 9th serving dishes such as Cuban French toast with Guava jam and espresso syrup.

Art Ovation aims to be an incubator for artists offering free gallery space and a chance to showcase their talents with its artist-in-residence studio.

The artist-in-residence gallery space in the lobby of Art Ovation Hotel plays host to local artists to showcase their work and practice their craft.

Located in the lobby across from the hotel bar, the space currently hosts the works of Lisa DiFranza, the hotel’s former culture curator.  Her collection, Time Lapse 2020, features colorful watercolor paintings. Every two weeks, a new artist takes over the space to create art and mingle with guests. The hotel has put the program on hold due to the pandemic and plans to restart it in January.

Paintings by Cuban artist Lilian Garcia-Roig on display in the hotel lobby at Art Ovation Hotel in downtown Sarasota as part of its Cuban Art Exhibit.

“We have an on-site culture curator and a corporate art curator. They work together to vet requests from artists to showcase their works in the artist-in-residence or on our walls. We want to foster and promote local artists by providing free gallery space. They have free reign to paint or create their art in the evenings and interact with the guests,” explains Okan Karadag, Art Ovation Hotel General Manager. 

 In January, Art Ovation plans to restart its active events calendar, playing host to artistic performances on stage in the hotel lobby. “We will feature all types of artists from the local community including poets, dancers, musical performances, and high school programs,” says  Karadag. 

Paintings on the 5th Floor of Art Ovation Hotel by artist Peter Jacob Christ, one of six new art exhibits at the hotel on view.

Throughout the hotel, five other art exhibits showcase a diverse range of works including the bright, whimsical, representational paintings of Peter Jacob Christ. His series Gone But Not Forgotten exudes 1950s signage, typography, toys and everyday objects. 

Painting by artist Peter Jacob Christ, one in his series “Gone But Not Forgotten,’ on view at Art Ovation Hotel in downtown Sarasota, Florida.

Other works that caught my attention include the sensory-rich textile creations of artist Peppi Elona hanging in the hallways leading to the ballroom and meeting spaces.

The Exhibition Women’s Work: The Petticoat Collective featuring the works of 16 award-winning members hangs on the walls of the meeting spaces at Art Ovation Hotel in downtown Sarasota, Florida as one of six new art exhibits the hotel is hosting.

 

Textile art by artist Peppi Elona on display in the meeting spaces of Art Ovation Hotel. The work is part of The Exhibition Women’s Work: The Petticoat Collective featuring the works of 16 award-winning members.

The hotel also hosts Sarasota’s busy social season that typically runs from October to April with more than 350 luncheons and galas taking place in the hotel ballroom, spanning 6200 square feet, meeting rooms, the restaurant, lobby and rooftop bar, Perspective.

Perspective, the rooftop bar and restaurant at Art Ovation Hotel, offers a birdseye view of the cityscape and stunning ocean views.

I end each day of my hotel stay, sipping a glass of wine while watching the sunset over the cityscape from Perspective, the hotel’s rooftop bar and restaurant. As the skyline morphs from blues to reds, pinks and oranges casting an ethereal glow on the buildings and water, I smile thinking how this would be the perfect painting to capture on canvas. Perhaps a Sarasota artist will paint it one day to hang in the hotel’s permanent collection, reminding us that inspiration is everywhere.

Sunset view from the rooftop bar and restaurant Perspective at Art Ovation Hotel.

To learn more about this four-diamond hotel with 162 rooms, centrally located in downtown Sarasota, check out the website

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