Bathed in ambient light, an imposing 3D relief greets visitors behind the front desk as they enter the new Crescent Hotel on Camp Bowie Boulevard in Fort Worth’s Cultural District. Measuring more than 16 feet long and 9 feet high, Figuring No. 4 by sculptor Carolyn Salas states the case for what the hotel promises to be: an art experience.
“This particular commission is the first work the hotel guest will see,” says curator John Runyon, who directed acquisitions of the remarkable 24 original artworks that grace the public spaces of the Crescent. The hotel, which opened in November, is part of a $275 million development by financier John Goff that includes an office building, luxury apartments, and Goff’s Canyon Ranch Wellness Club, a private luxury spa and fitness center complimentary to Crescent guests. Of Salas’ cut aluminum and powder-coated collage of geometric shapes and vaguely human profiles, Runyon says, “I intended for the work to be elegant and impactful. The artist nailed it.”
The Crescent is one of three unique hotels to open in the Cultural District in recent years. Smaller than the Crescent’s 200-room property and three blocks west, Bowie House boosts a $6,000-a-night three-bedroom suite and a more Cowtown-themed Bricks and Horses restaurant. The offbeat Hotel Dryce, across from the Will Rogers Memorial Center on Montgomery Avenue, has a Cheers-type bar and significantly less expensive rates for its spacious suites.
Runyon, who has advised clients like Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas’ Joule Hotel, teamed with magnate Goff and his ownership committee in the initial phases of the Crescent’s development, commissioning or acquiring museum-quality original works by world-renowned artists. That includes mystical images of wispy West Texas tumbleweeds by photographer Allison V. Smith and a cubist-inspired female portrait by Spanish painter Monica Subidé.
“This project is personal,” says Runyon, who grew up in the area. “I worked very hard and closely with John and Cami Goff on the curation of the collection. We share a passion for Fort Worth and the Cultural District.”
As guests navigate the airy lobby, an 11-foot-high image of colorful stacked arches titled Twister Totem dominates a wall between floor-to-ceiling windows and the elevators. The oil painting by Fort Worth native Matt Kleberg evokes the signature rooftop arches of the Kimbell Art Museum. Along with the Modern Art Museum and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the Kimbell is a short stroll from the hotel.
Kleberg’s arches are joined by other outsized works on the first floor, two of which are on opposing sides of a free-standing wall—Elephant Parable #36 by Richard Misrach and Specular Reflections by Madeline Peckenpaugh. The former is a pigment print of twisting vine-like images that derives from the artist’s interpretation of the Indian fable about blindfolded monks attempting to describe an elephant they are touching—it’s the same animal, but their impressions are vastly different. At first, Specular Reflections seems to be a close-up of reeds in a marsh but assumes a more ethereal image through the artist’s depiction of light across her canvas.
Visit the Crescent Hotel
Address: 3300 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth.
Rate: Rooms start at $269/night.
Down a hallway is perhaps the boldest of all—an abstract by Los Angeles-based artist Aaron Garber-Maikovska entitled Earth Seed Stack, which coordinates primarily red, blue, and white splotches of ink and oil across a poly board 6 feet wide and 9 feet high.
“Each has their own voice and concept that commands the attention of the viewer, with an abundance of color and form,” Runyon says. “They all deliver a consistent level of energy and vitality.”
The public works on the first floor were enough to sidetrack my spouse and me—roller bags in tow—after check-in in late November, but there was were more to discover as we reached our third-floor room. Picasso-like black-and-white images of faces were on opposing hallway walls near our door. Inside, more contemporary art complemented the room’s post-modern desk chair, sofa, and several futuristic light fixtures.
The art experience didn’t stop there. En route to the Crescent’s Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, Emilia’s, we passed through the Circle Bar, the center of which is a circular bar inspired by the Fort Worth Circle, a society of artists formed in the 1940s who transitioned from more conservative regional themes into “surrealism and abstraction…drawing from their own fertile imaginations,” as described by the Amon Carter Museum’s exhibition from the era.
Dinner was served in an alcove bordered by two 6-foot-high mixed media drawings by artist Andrea Rosenberg. Blue #42 and Green #32 invoke “forms of not botanically correct flowers,” Runyon says. “They are some of the most subtle artworks in the collection. The restaurant seemed to call for a more subdued art experience.”
Not so subdued were the meals themselves—medium-rare wood-fired beef filets with a Barolo wine and mushroom reduction from Emilia’s open-flame grill; brazed Arctic char, served skin-side up in a bowl of seafood bisque; and one of Emilia’s Italian specialties, long strands of malfatti, an al dente pasta with pecorino cheese and pink peppercorn. That was accompanied by a shared pizza of sausage and teardrop peppers, starters like a sweet potato bisque graced with lobster chunks, and a dessert of moist bread pudding, which one member of the party topped with a shot of Grand Marnier.
Emilia’s is named for Fort Worth’s sister city in north central Italy, Reggio Emilia. Guests also can order from a casual menu in the Circle Bar or dine al fresco in Crescent’s adjacent courtyard, warmed on winter days by a two-way fireplace. In mid-January, the more formal Blue Room will open adjacent to Emilia’s—“a place for lingering, more indulgent meals,” as the hotel puts it.
While the Crescent lobby’s artwork provides a link to Fort Worth’s museums, three canvases in the hotel’s private dining room on the north side of the courtyard “are a gentle nod to activities one block away, the oldest indoor rodeo in the world and the Fort Worth cutting horse mecca,” Runyon says.
California painter Andy Woll, a dedicated equestrian, illustrates three muscular horses in redolent hues of amber, tan, black, and expressionistic blues, whites, and grays, leaning down to graze. As if on cue during our visit, hundreds of trailers cram the parking lots of Watt Arena in the Will Rogers Memorial Center complex several blocks south of the Crescent for the 2023 National Cutting Horse Association Finals.
Presiding over the Crescent’s courtyard is Joint Effort by sculptor Jose Dávila of Guadalajara, Mexico—a 9-foot heap of balancing grayish San Andres stone blocks, punctuated by an irregularly shaped blue stone near its crest. Dávila “provided a design that can be enjoyed 360 degrees,” Runyon says. “Considering Mexico shares a border with Texas and impacts Texas culturally, we thought it best to include some of Mexico’s top talent.”
Goff has said he hopes the Crescent will be Fort Worth’s “living room.” Indeed, the lobby is interspersed with comfortable sofa and chair ensembles and shelves with books about art. Most of the seating in the Circle Bar resembles a modern hospitality space in a private home.
A work in progress, the Crescent will open a rooftop bar later this year that promises to be a further testament of Goff’s persistence to create a destination for fellow Fort Worth visitors and residents and its own local historical context.