The 49ers corporate offices, featuring artwork by Tom Mosser. (Photo by Sports And The Arts)

Stadiums are primarily built just to showcase the product on the field. Now, the product on the walls could use a second look. One of the final steps to complete Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., the new home of the National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers, will include hanging more than 200 custom-commissioned art installations and 500 photographs on the walls.

“The owners of the 49ers, the York family, are great sponsors of the arts and really wanted to take the opportunity of having a new stadium to showcase local artists,” said Ali Towle, VP of Marketing at the 49ers. Therefore, the venue walls will be a showcase for local talent and content.

Of the 23 artists whose work will be displayed in the venue, 20 are from California.

And the art they’ve created for the space focuses on the community and the team.

“Really everything about Levi’s Stadium is a celebration of the Bay Area, from the architect’s open design to celebrate the incredible climate, to the interior design based on California spaces, and even the reclaimed and recycled building materials,” said Towle. “Now, that will extend to the décor and art that’s going to be on the walls.”

Some artists are doing portraits of great 49ers players, while others are doing Bay Area-focused content that celebrates vineyards, beaches, the California missions, iconic authors and other local themes.

“It’s a wide range we hope will appeal to all arts and sports lovers,” added Towle.

Tracie Speca-Ventura of Sports And The Arts (SATA) has been working to curate original content for Levi’s Stadium for more than two years. This will be the company’s first foray into an NFL stadium, though she is currently speaking with two more potential NFL clients. Speca-Ventura curated the art at Yankee Stadium in New York, Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., and Marlins Park in Miami, among others. The collection at Levi’s Stadium is two-to-three times larger than other projects she’s worked on.

The Delta Club at Yankee Stadium, New York, featuring classic photos curated by Tracie Speca-Ventura and her team. (Photo by Sports And The Arts)

Though she’s outfitted stadiums with art in significantly less time — completing the art collection at Yankee Stadium in just six months — Speca-Ventura said that the more time her team has to look for artists and artwork, the better.

“Everything is custom created and commissioned for each project,” she said. “We’re not going into an artists’ studio and buying back-stock.”

She and her staff set up shop locally and reach out to artists, working with spaces from local museums to flea markets to get in touch with talent. The 49ers also did a call for art on their website, drawing more than 300 submissions. Of those entries, four artists were up to the museum-quality caliber and vision to be involved with the project.

“It’s the best part of my job,” she said, of looking for and working with artists. “One artist will introduce you to another one who will tell you about someone else.”

Each of the artists is paid for their work.

“One of the big things I push for is that it’s not art for free; the artists spend their time and energy when we commission them for artwork, so we work to give back to the art community and keep artists employed,” Speca-Ventura added. It’s also a golden opportunity for artists to get exposure and the chance for pieces from relatively unknown artists to hang next to those made by illustrious figures in the art community.

Artist Derek Gores was commissioned by SATA to create a piece for the VIP entrance at Amway Center in Orlando. (Photo by Sports And The Arts)

The art will provide a nice counter-point to the focus on technology at the $1.3-billion Levi’s Stadium, with future plans to integrate the art into its app. The app will be capable of allowing fans to live-stream the game, so they don’t have to miss a minute when getting up from their seat, and will also be able to let fans know the length of lines at concession stands and restrooms. There are also plans to create a cashless experience at the venue.

“I hope it will be surprising to people that the stadium experience isn’t just about technology, but will be about a higher-level experience overall,” said Towle.

She said there will also be future investment in more art to keep the collection up-to-date and interesting.

“We’ve put a nice investment into this, so we’ll keep it fresh,” she said. “As the team’s history evolves and if we win a Super Bowl, there will certainly be pieces reflecting that. Part of the fun is that the collection will keep growing with us.”

The investment by a team or venue varies dramatically depending on the square footage to be filled, what type of art they want ranging from sculptures to photographs, and how many pieces will be needed.

“When we meet with a team and they ask for a figure, we can give them a very broad range, but really we ask them what they want to do and what they want in their building, because we customize each project so much for each facility,” said Speca-Ventura.  The value of the collection far outweighs the initial investment. Speca-Ventura said that many of the stadium collections she works on end up valued at $2 million-$5 million.

“The value of the collection is going to be double or triple the price going in,” she added, noting that there are also ways to recoup the initial investment through doing limited edition prints and books.

In the case of the San Francisco 49ers, some of the initial investment could be offset by print sales.

In future iterations of the stadium app, guests will potentially be able to purchase prints of their favorite pieces.

A large piece created by Samantha Wendell overlooks the concourse at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. (Photo by Sports And The Arts)

The art will become more interactive with the visitors through technology, with the app allowing patrons to take a photo of a piece of art to bring up more information about the artist and the specific content of the piece. The 49ers also plan to offer daily tours of the new stadium and are developing one based around the museum-quality collection that will specifically highlight the art.

The idea of an art-specific tour thrills Speca-Ventura, since she said one of the goals is to educate and teach people about art without being overbearing. Decorating with quality artwork allows educational opportunities where patrons wouldn’t necessarily expect them. She remembered one instance where the SATA collection at Prudential Center created a moment for reflection during a National Hockey League event.

“You might not get a father and son who are going to go to a museum together, but here you had a father and son in hockey jerseys stopping to look at a painting, then having a discussion about it,” she said. “That’s the unexpected effect we really try to create.”

Interviewed for this story: Ali Towle and Tracie Speca-Ventura, (215) 480-0007