Consultants, artists select art for the Skirvin Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City

Thursday, December 29th 2005, 6:10 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Cindy Bench knows a lot more about the Skirvin Hotel these days and the art consultant with Arden and Associates even has a gut feel for how well it might be embraced when it opens next year as a Hilton Hotel.

"Someone called here, wanting to schedule a banquet for 2007," Bench said. "And if theyre calling me, out of the blue .... you can only imagine whats about to happen."

For the past few months, Bench has clipped news stories about the Skirvins renovation, searched archives for historic photos and vintage advertisements, viewed old architectural drawings and searched for just the right image of banquets during the hotels heyday.

For Arden and Associates, the work is routine -- the company assembles and ships 25,000 pieces of art a year to hotels across the country -- for a local job that is anything but routine.

The Piedmont company is working with Dallas-based Duncan and Miller Design in assembling collages for each of the Skirvins guest rooms. They also are charged with finding vintage downtown Oklahoma City images for an "Honors Room."

And if Bench is successful, the displays will have a rare movie poster for Irving Berlins "Call Me Madam," which was inspired by the hotels famous hostess, Perle Skirvin Mesta.

The artwork is part of an ongoing $50.4 million overhaul of the Skirvin, which is scheduled to reopen in late 2006 after being closed for 18 years. Developer John Weeman wants guests to enjoy modern cutting edge accommodations surrounded by "classic elegance" reminiscent of the hotels 95-year history.

"We intend to embrace every element of the Skirvins history that is available to embrace," Weeman said. "The historic character of the hotel is integral to the design."

Bench is working with a team to assemble the collage. Duncan and Miller Design is the actual "client" on the job, while Bench is working with New York artist Gary Johnson to produce the final product. A sample of the collage, still a work in progress, includes one of the buildings original architectural drawings, vintage advertisements and an image of the letters "SH" - Skirvin Hotel.

Bench also is gathering photos for a display of famous Oklahomans.

Arden and Associates was started in 1998 by Nedra Funk, with one of its earliest jobs including decor for Oklahoma Citys Gaillardia community. Since then, its work has included framing outfits worn by Madonna and Elvis memorabilia for Hard Rock Cafe hotels and selecting art for clients in Egypt.

Bench estimates the company will assemble, frame and ship several hundred artworks to the Skirvin Hotel. Despite her increasing expertise on the Skirvin, Bench never was a guest at the hotel. She moved to Oklahoma City 21 years ago, when the hotel was already on the verge of closing.

"I got to walk in and see the lobby once, but that was it," Bench said. "It wasnt too much later that it closed."