James Knowles, president, CEO, and artist-in-residence of the family-run boutique Roger Smith Hotel doesn’t hide his love for art. Step into the lobby or Lily’s Bar, and you’ll see what we mean. From rotating galleries that showcase the works of local artists, to Knowles’s own works, there’s plenty to feast your eyes on in every corner. Knowles and Danika Druttman, curator of arts and culture for the hotel, give us a walk-through:
ELLE: What drives you as an artist and hotelier?
James Knowles: I love the pursuit and the process of discovery, and to make beautiful things. I want my hotel to be a place where creativity can flourish without mockery. [I want] to help facilitate the intermingling of thoughts and ideas.
ELLE: Tell us about the year’s highlights.
Danika Druttman: Well, for our spring show, we displayed still-life photographs by Jean Baptiste Hugo, the great-great grandson of Victor Hugo. It was a contemplative and visually rich show. And in March, we hosted our annual poetry dinner, where we had a table of 30 poets and poetry aficionados — everyone brought a poem to recite. That was pretty special.
ELLE: Who are the artists whose works have been shown at the hotel?
DD: We have had artists create site-specific murals on the walls of Lily’s [Bar], including the award-winning graphic novelist Danica Novgorodoff, artist and hit Instagram doodler Jon Burgerman, as well as The New Yorker cartoonist Jeremy Nguyen. The current work we have on show, a rapturous circumferential mural by street artist Jason Naylor, is instantly recognisable and very ‘New York’.
ELLE: Who’s next on your list?
DD: Stephen Talasnik. I love his large-scale sculptures. And Asim Waqif, whose immersive installations are inspired by ecology and anthropology.