Rockford Artists May Win Big In Hotel Plans

Jun 3, 2015

A 67-million dollar hotel project in downtown Rockford is creating more than jobs for construction workers. Local artists will have a big hand in decorating the Amerock Building’s interior.

Photographer Paul Burkholder with some of his work at the Amerock Building.
Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ

  Paul Burkholder is one of about three dozen artists who met with representatives from Wisconsin-based developer Gorman and Company Tuesday. He had about five minutes to show off his best photos. Burkholder says his wife talked him into applying: “At first I thought decorating a hotel was usually done commercially, but this is a very nice opportunity for local and regional artists to be representative of their work. It’s thrilling.”

Artists stood on broken glass covering the second floor of the Amerock Building, and pitched their projects. The massive factory has stood empty for years. Most of the furnishings are gone. But Gorman’s regional manager Laura Narducci can still see the workers who churned out hardware for cabinets:

“Some people can just see peeling paint or an abandoned building. But there’s so much beauty in what is here! If we can bring it back to life and tell its story, about what happened in this building, I think that would be absolutely outstanding.”

That’s the “industrial chic” design "Lumenology" owner John Sonnefeldt wants to contribute to. He brought a lamp to his pitch session: a lamp crafted out of pipes, light cages, and the engine fan off a 1960s Corvair. He’d like to turn his hobby of repurposing industrial objects into a full-time business and sees the Amerock Hotel as a great opportunity. 

John Sonnefeldt and one of his industrial-style lamps.
Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Narduzzi can’t say how much her company plans to spend on local artisans, but they need a lot to fill the 160 rooms.  The Rockford Area Arts Council is coordinating the effort and the Rockford Housing Authority plans to offer training to residents who want to learn to produce furniture.