The Art of Business

How Austin's Terry Eaton made art his business

Will Anderson Digital Editor Austin Business Journal

Terry Eaton knows exactly how many rooms are in The Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas: 2,995.

That's because his company decorated the walls of each and every one of those rooms — plus hallways and much of the public areas — with 12,788 pieces of art. As founder of Austin-based Eaton Fine Art, the Texas native has curated the creative decorations for dozens of hospitality properties around the United States and some international destinations — and proved that you can follow a passion for art without starving.

The booming growth of Austin’s own hotel sector has brought him more business closer to home, including finding art for the W Austin Hotel, Hotel Van Zandt and the Four Seasons Austin. He says other sectors, such as health care, could also benefit from deliberate art programs.

“The art program should embody what they do,” he said. “The best approach is to explore their surroundings and speak authoritatively to what they are known for.”

Eaton combined his artistic passions with a business sensibility at an early age. He still has a business card from his teen years describing himself as a “freelance artist.”

Eaton started his consulting firm in 1992 in San Francisco but relocated to Austin in 2001. The business is a regular partner for international hotel operators such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc., Related Companies LP, Host Hotels & Resorts and HRI Lodging.

Beyond working in hospitality, Eaton Fine Art has also consulted on the art programs for corporate offices, such as the Houston headquarters of oil and gas driller Cobalt International Energy Inc. In that case, they turned to subjects that were already familiar to executives and employees, such as geodes collected from exploration activities or aerial images of the parts of the world in which they operated.

"The art should be referential to their core business," Eaton said.

Where is your favorite place to eat in Austin? ASTI Trattoria or Bartlett’s.

What is the last good book you read? I’m currently reading “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander. Fascinating book.

What is the first thing you do in the morning when you wake up? I let our two dogs out. Then I go to the gym. I’m in every morning by 6:15.

So you are a pretty committed gym guy? I do cardio and weights. It really is a great way to start your day — it gives you great energy. I tried one time to work out at lunch and I can’t stop the business mind, so that didn’t work out.

What’s your advice for someone who wants to get into a creative business sector? Be passionate about what you do and follow your dreams.

What is your management style? A collaborative and empowering style. I want our employees to feel empowered, to create the most effective art program that we can for our clients and to always think out of the box.

What should people consider when decorating their walls with art? Put on your walls what you love, if it’s an individual. Go to art shows, or if you’re traveling go find something in a different city you fall in love with.

What is your inspiration? Traveling. Going to museums, going to galleries.

What is your top travel tip? Go to great restaurants when you’re out of town. Ask the locals.

What is the most important task for your business? Harnessing all of our creative energy.

What are your hobbies? Cooking. I love cooking soups as well as comfort food: chicken pot pie is one of my favorites. Cooking with friends especially — it’s just this wonderful, collaborative effort.

What is your go-to vacation spot? Either San Francisco or Hawaii.

How do you relieve stress after a long day at work? Aside from cooking with friends, I enjoy a quite evening at home with our kids — aka our dogs — reading a book or watching TV.

Who is a CEO you admire?(Southwestern Airlines Chairman Emeritus) Herb Kelleher.

What is the top character trait you possess for leadership? Being open-minded.

Will Anderson coordinates digital coverage of business news.


Thank you to the Austin Business Journal for the recent profile with our own Terry Eaton!