Like their fellow Chrysler Museum of Art art patrons Richard and Carolyn Barry, who built a university art museum to exhibit their extensive collection, Doug and Pat Perry decided to construct a building where they could showcase their considerable holdings of glass art. But unlike the Barry Art Museum at Old Dominion University, the Perry collection is now on view at The Glass Light Hotel, where the majority of the viewers are staying the night at this boutique inn in the heart of downtown Norfolk, Virginia. A hotel that can also be a home for art was inspired by the Perry's trip to a Glass Art Society conference in Louisville, Kentucky, where they were transfixed by the first 21c museum/hotel, where contemporary art projects are integrated throughout. "We came back and said, 'Wouldn't it be neat to have a boutique, artsy, glass-art-themed hotel in downtown Norfolk?' " Doug Perry told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper in a 2016 interview about the project.
Working with the couple's real-estate developer son, Chris Perry, the family purchased a 13-story office building that dates back to 1912, carving out over 100 guest rooms and suites. There are a total of 61 works of glass art on display in the public areas, including two massive glass rabbits commissioned by the Perrys from artist and friend Peter Bremers. Keeping with the bunny theme (a play on the nickname of Pat Perry), each guest room features an original and whimsical glass carrot by the manager of the nearby Chrysler Museum of Art Glass Studio, Robin Rogers. The wide range of glass art includes work by Lino Tagliapietra, Dale Chihuly, and many other top names in the field.
The Glass Light ground floor restaurant and bar provides locally sourced, seasonal cuisine and sophisticated small plates to share. An intimate meeting and event space seamlessly connects to the gallery area, where an additional 100 works of glass art will be on display when the construction is complete by the anticipated August 2020 grand opening. But the hotel tower has been open for business since December 2019, and was designed with multiple references to the tools of the glassmaking process in the architectural design, such as the wood-adorned wall behind the reception desk that evokes the texture and color of the wooden blocks in a glass studio.
From the purchase of the historic Royster Building seven years ago to its complete renovation, the project has been mostly on schedule. Though delays pushed back the anticipated opening by months, it did manage to rent its first rooms before the end of 2019, which was the target year. The Glass Light Hotel is affiliated with the Marriott brand, where it is grouped with the Autograph chain of upscale independent boutique properties. Each hotel has its own unique identity, look and feel.
Hunter Campo, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Glass Light Hotel and Gallery, says the hotel is "a great way to showcase glass art to the public, as opposed to a museum. In all the design that we went through and the branding, they really wanted this to be a unique gallery, instead of stiff and museum-like. It is more relaxed, fun, and casual. We really want to spark creativity by showcasing glass."
There are 113 rooms at the boutique hotel in downtown Norfolk, unique in its style and design. The average nightly room rate is $229.
The guest rooms were inspired by artists' studios, and the interior architecture reference tools of the trade such as sketch designs, jacks, and other aspects of the process, albeit in subtle finishes and other nods rather than direct connections.
You don’t have to be a guest to come see the glass. While some pieces are only available to overnight guests with elevator card key access, the main floor features some of the largest works on display in the common areas.
For more information about The Glass Light Hotel or to book a stay, please visit their website.