On a gorgeous summer evening in Milwaukee, over 500 artists, makers, guests and supporters came together to christen Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel as it officially opened its doors to the community. Drawing inspiration from Saint Catherine, the patron saint of artists, Saint Kate is among the first hotels in the nation to broadly celebrate arts in its many forms – from painting and sculpture to dance and drama.
“At Saint Kate, we are curating an experience designed to stir one’s imagination, invite exploration and challenge thinking,” said Greg Marcus, president and CEO of The Marcus Corporation, which owns and manages Saint Kate. “More than an exquisite hotel, Saint Kate is a powerful reminder of the beauty that can be found in the creative process. Whether you’re conceiving something big and bold, or quiet and subtle, Saint Kate is here to support, empower and instigate.”
Russell Bowman, former director of the Milwaukee Art Museum and founding art advisor of Sculpture Milwaukee; Linda Marcus, nationally recognized multi-disciplinary artist, designer and storyteller; along with Saint Kate Curator Maureen Ragalie, formerly of the David Zwirner Gallery and Cristin Tierney Gallery in New York, oversaw the development of the hotel’s permanent art collection and special exhibits, including over 100 works by artists influential in contemporary art.
Upon entering the hotel, guests are welcomed by a life-sized cast bronze Deborah Butterfield horse sculpture, “Big Piney.” Next, a large lithograph by renowned figurative painter Alex Katz sets the tone at check in, and throughout the first floor guests can find works by Paul Druecke, Terry Winters, Michelle Grabner, John Riepenhoff, Judy Ledgerwood, Damien Hirst, Candida Höfer, Sky Hopinka, Beth Lipman and Mickalene Thomas.
As guests take the stairs to the second floor, they are struck by the awe-inspiring Plume 02, from Jason S. Yi, a site-specific installation references the beautiful yet destructive nature of smoke plumes. Next to Jason S. Yi’s Plume 02 is Tom Bamberger’s Red Grass, a digitally altered panoramic photograph which explores the horizon and naturally repetitive landscapes.
Each floor also reflects a form of art – photography, industrial design, painting, mixed media, music, printmaking, illustration and performance – and celebrates the diversity of Milwaukee’s growing artistic community. Photographs of the hands of the hotel’s construction team indicate each floor number in American Sign Language, evidencing authorship of the space and proof positive of their creative roles.
Through a historic collaboration, the Museum of Wisconsin Art established its first downtown location, MOWA | DTN, at Saint Kate. The 1,700 square foot premier gallery in the lobby of the hotel currently features its inaugural exhibition, titled Downtown, which considers the vibrant historic traditions of Milwaukee’s core as well as the social realities that characterize its urban environment. The exhibition includes work by ten artists who live and/or work in Milwaukee. It runs through September 8, 2019.
“This type of hotel-museum partnership is unprecedented in the United States and truly groundbreaking,” said MOWA Executive Director and CEO Laurie Winters. “Our collaboration with Saint Kate allows travelers to gain access to emerging and established contemporary Wisconsin artists through changing exhibitions, artist and curator talks and more.”
Guests can regularly enjoy scheduled curated tours of MOWA | DTN and Saint Kate’s art collections, or explore at their own pace through The Saint Kate Art Tour app. In addition to MOWA | DTN, guests will find:
- The Gallery – A traditional white, cube gallery space located next to MOWA | DTN featuring group shows or solo exhibitions. The Gallery is currently exhibiting Send and Receive, an exhibition by the New York-based artist Lisa Beck. Beck focuses both on the observable aspects of reality, like landscapes and our bodies, as well as things that are too vast or too tiny for us to grasp completely, like space or atomic physics.
- The Space – The home of Saint Kate’s rotating visual arts exhibits, where artists will use the space for large scale, site-specific installations. Currently, The Space exhibits works from MOWA| DTN’s Downtown exhibition, including an installation by Lon Michels and mixed media video by Jessica Meuninck-Ganger and Nathaniel Stern.
- The Closet – An immersive installation room on the second floor of Saint Kate currently exhibiting The John Riepenhoff Experience Presents Yoohee Chang. In this exhibition, featuring works by the artist Yoohee Chang, the artwork is scaled to fit within a small exhibition box. The John Riepenhoff Experience highlights both the playful and collaborative spirit of the art world.
In addition to the visual arts, every day at Saint Kate is alive with dance, comedic, vocal, film and dramatic works. Led by Programming Director John Price, Saint Kate is partnering with organizations such as the Milwaukee Art Museum, The Pabst Theater Group, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts and the Milwaukee Ballet to expand access to Milwaukee’s incredible performance arts scene. Milwaukee’s first resident company of performers, ARCo, or the Artist-in-Residence Company, has a permanent rehearsal and performance home at Saint Kate. The hotel’s very own Arc Theatre, a 95-seat black box theatre, serves as the heart – and main stage – for a variety of performances throughout the day and evening. In addition to live music at the Bar at Saint Kate, the hotel’s lobby bar, guests can also regularly find pop-up performances throughout the hotel – such as improv, artist talk backs and interpretive dance.
Each guest room at Saint Kate features artwork from local and regional artists. Carpeting looks like sheets of paper – an artist’s scraps and drafts thrown to the side. A photographer’s floor lamp and wall sconces with locally designed linen shades provide ample light. Butcher block desks with butcher’s paper in each room not only reference local art students’ drafting tables but also invite each guest to sketch and create at will. For those more inspired by sound, each room is complete with a ukulele, record player and small selection of records.
Among Saint Kate’s many collaborators is Kohler Co., which partnered with local artist Daniel Chung to inspire bathroom fixtures marked by an inlay of floral and other designs in each guestroom. Additional amenities include custom-designed shower curtains, batik-style bed scarves, hand soap created in the shape of an eraser so guests can wash away the vestiges of their work and tree drawings in the closets that celebrate the passage of time.
Two unique music and art studies were also imagined for guests to lounge and discover on the 9th and 10th floors. Guests can peruse the hotel’s curated record collection in the music study or pour over stacks of books and scripts in the art study’s home library-inspired space.
The “Canvas Rooms”
Saint Kate partnered with local artists Lon Michels, John Grant, Rosemary Ollison, Reed Skocz and Cory Zimmermann to design and create five fully immersive guestrooms called the “Canvas Rooms” that allow visitors to literally sleep surrounded by art. Proceeds from each stay in the Canvas Rooms benefit five arts organizations: Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN), The Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Artists Working in Education (AWE), 88.9 Radio Milwaukee and the This Time Tomorrow Foundation (respectively). After the inaugural exhibitions, the Canvas Rooms will rotate with new artists and artwork and will support additional non-profit art initiatives.
Creative fingerprints from all corners of the country can be found at Saint Kate, including architecture and interior design firm Stonehill Taylor, based in New York City, and branding agency, One Design Company, based in Chicago, who collaborated to completely transform the hotel into a one-of-a kind arts destination.
“Collaboration and community are core pillars that inspire our vision for Saint Kate. Thanks to our many partners, along with many talented artists around the world, we are excited to present a creatively bold platform that connects visitors to the spirit of creativity and incredible artistic talent that continues to thrive across the globe. All can be celebrated at Saint Kate,” said Ragalie.