Ocean-view rooms at Sunset House have become a canvas for underwater artwork in an innovative interior design project.
Known as “Grand Cayman’s Hotel for Divers, by Divers,” the resort is showcasing the work of a number of prominent local and overseas marine photographers.
The permanent exhibition is being displayed in the hotel’s 18 oceanfront rooms, which have recently undergone a $250,000 renovation and have been painted a neutral color to accommodate the artwork.
Once the pieces are in place, each is rebranded as a signature room.
Cayman’s own underwater photographers Cathy
Church (who operates her photography business on the Sunset House
complex) and Courtney Platt, already have their work displayed in
signature rooms 404 and 406 respectively.
Overseas photographer Marty Snyderman is in 405, Jim Hellemn in 407, Ellen Cuylaerts in 411 and Greg Piper in 421.
lined up for displays in other signature rooms include Ernie Brooks,
David Doubilet, Stephen Frink, Geri Murphy, and Jack and Sue Drafahl.
Plans are also in place to turn two of the ocean-view apartments into themed rooms rather than the focus of just one photographer, with the Stingray City and SS Kittiwake dive sites likely to be featured.
In times to come, the rest of the resort’s 53 rooms may also be adorned with some form of underwater artwork.
Sunset House General Manager Keith Sahm came up with the concept after seeing a similar project in Tacoma, Washington state, a city often referred to as the glass-blowing capital of the U.S.
“There was a hotel that featured different blown-glass artists on each floor, and named the floor after them, showcasing their work up and down the hall, either by photo or actual works in cases,” he says.
With the Cayman Islands being one of the top dive destinations in the world, Keith thought an underwater art exhibition would work equally as well at Sunset House.
And for many of the photographers, it’s the first time they have taken part in a project of this type.
“At first, it takes some explaining, but once they see the value, it’s almost like being part of a shrine,” says Keith, who is himself a diver. “All of the artists have, at some point, stayed at Sunset House and have definitely been acquainted with us over the years. We have been the Mecca for underwater photographers for over 50 years, since the recreational sport’s infancy. Plus, having the legendary Cathy Church right here on our property does not hurt.”
Some of the artwork on display is from the waters around the Cayman Islands while the rest is from dive locations across the globe.
Each photographer is given the freedom to choose their own artwork and how they want to display it.
“It can be from all parts of the world, black-and-white, color, canvas, metal, framed – whatever best suits the photographer and what they want to do,” explains Keith.
There are also biographies and contact details of the artist in each room so that guests have the option of purchasing the work.
“The great part about it is the social aspect for our guests – sharing stories of their room, asking other guests to come over and see their room and vice versa… a great conversation piece, especially when we get dive groups in-house,” says Keith.
The art project does not yet have a name although “Eye of the Diver” and “Rooms with a View,” have been touted as options.
“We might have to have a contest later on, after all the rooms are done, and choose an official name,” says Keith.
While the art exhibition is an added attraction to Sunset House’s rooms, Keith also hopes the displays will help raise awareness of the value of the underwater world.
“The stunning marine life and waters here in the Cayman Islands are what drew me to this place,” he says. “I made my first ocean water dive right off Sunset House in the very early ‘80s. I remember that first dive as if it was yesterday.
“I think Jim Hellemn may have said it best: If anything, the photographs in the signature rooms showcase the beauty of the underwater world, but also depict the fragile ecosystem and the fact that we must take care of it at all costs.
“It would be a travesty to let this beautiful world die from overzealous projects for the chase of the almighty dollar.”