The Grand Bohemian Hotel of Asheville is more than just a hotel. It’s a structural ode to a lifestyle of beauty, art and music, one that hotelier mastermind Richard Kessler has sought to forge in all nine of his grandiose Kessler Collection properties, which span from St. Augustine, Florida to Beaver Creek, Colorado.
The inspiration for the Asheville location, which opened in 2009, comes from an old hunting lodge that used to perch at the foot of the Biltmore Estate in the late 1800’s. In Kessler’s historical reimagination, the walls are peppered with an array of opulent paintings and hunting trophies. Backdrops of oak and leather are punctuated by spectacular sights — like a chandelier hewn from tree branches and a door forged from a hundred-year old Bavarian tree.
“There’s nothing like it here,” says Director of Sales and Catering Haley Batsel, who has worked for The Kessler Collection since 2006 and moved to Asheville to begin working for the hotel in 2008. “I got to see this hotel from the ground up. I even did hard hat tours. This hotel’s my baby and it’s been a fun experience watching Asheville grow along with it.”
The hand-in-hand growth Batsel highlights has been particularly dynamic when it comes to Asheville’s flourishing arts and culture scene. Not only does the hotel beckon art aficionados from all over the world with its priceless and one-of-a-kind pieces — it also uses its platform as a way to share the creations of local and regional artists.
“Two-thirds of our artists in the gallery are local or regional,” says the Asheville location’s Art Director Constance Richards. “We have a holiday ornament each year made of a different material, featuring our red stag emblem, which has always has been made by a local artist and has developed quite a following.”
At least once a month, the hotel hosts an art show that will often elevate local talent. At the end of May, local graphite, charcoal and oil artist Mark Holland will share his large botanical paintings that weave natural scenes into intense montages. Holland’s past work has been received with such enthusiasm that the Grand Bohemian in Colorado has requested his work to sell at its location. Richardson says several area artists have gone on to sell their work at various Grand Bohemian locations.
“The artists are very happy about these opportunities,” says Richards. “Since Asheville is so saturated by talented artists we really try to have good representation.“
Other featured local artists in the gallery include jewelry by Mark Schieferstein, woodwork and pottery from the Southern Highland Craft Guild, and Waynesville-native Melissa Enloe Walter, who imprints miniature paintings onto blocky necklaces.
“People love it because we always have something different. Most of our local artists are exclusive or have a separate line so you know you’re always getting something unique,” says Richards.
Area musicians also have an opportunity to find the spotlight at the Grand Bohemian every Wednesday through Saturday in the Red Stag Lounge. Performers such as Ashley Heath, Aaron Lafalce and Molly Reed are just a few of the talent who have found early success through the hotel.
In the ballroom, the Grand Bohemian has a magnificent Bösendorfer piano made from a single rosewood tree that musicians have had the opportunity to play. “It took seven years to create, has an extra octave, and is exceptionally rare,” says Batsel. “We’ve been told there’s three in the world.”
Even for those not fully immersed in the art scene, the influence of Kessler’s vision is clear. Batsel says every employee receives a two-part orientation on the art history of the hotel, along with a site tour — so they too, can play their part in elevating the work of surrounding artists.
“We call ourselves Grand Performers,” says Batsel. “Mr. Kessler says when you’re meeting and greeting every guest who comes through the door, it’s like you’re performing on stage.”