To celebrate our anniversary, my husband and I decided to “escape to Wisconsin” for a couple of days. An invite to the newly opened Saint Kate, the Arts Hotel, was too good to refuse. The drive from Chicago’s Northern easy and pleasant. We discovered that our GPS would not help us to find Saint Kate unless we included “the Arts Hotel”. Once in Milwaukee, it was easy to find the hotel. We parked in the underground lot and emerged in a large multipurpose building. We were delighted to see the “Saint Kate the Art Hotel” sign. Entering the hotel there is a space, called “The Space” which is designated for rotating visual arts exhibits. The current eye- catching exhibit is a huge, colorful and compelling installation by Lon Michels honoring working women.
Walking toward the lobby we noted paintings and sculptures and a box office. Entering the lobby, we were surprised to see two galleries filled with art work. Closer to the registration desk, we observed a motor cycle and a horse – two means of transportation and two stories.
On the floor in front of the registration desk, there was a unique welcome mat that one must step on to reach the front desk. It is a kind of threshold, created by Paul Druecke-“Are Keys to the City”, welcoming all visitors.
Diane checked us in, welcomed us warmly and instructed us about the various amenities and special features of Saint Kate the Arts Hote. In addition to the things I would expect to find at a very special hotel, Saint Kate “is more than a hotel – this is a venue, a platform for exploration, connection and expression”.
After I returned home I shared my experience with my neighbor. She looked at me and said, “How could you leave? It sounds so wonderful.” It was wonderful.
While the usual amenities include: Concierge, WIFI, Minibar & Snack tray, In-Room Dining, Baggage Service, Laundry Service, Transportation, Parking, Kate’s Cupboard, Fitness Room, Business Center, In-Room Safe, and so on, there was so much more. The brochure that provides information about where things and how things work, suggests that Saint Kate, the Arts Hotel is a place to discover, create, a place to connect visitors to the spirit of “creativity pulsing through the city of Milwaukee”…and the art selected contrasts local and global, known and unknown and presents art at its “casual finest”
The work of local artisans and craftsmen is everywhere- comfortable bed with artistic throws blankets, a floral signed sink print, shower artwork and a closet mural, beautifully designed furniture and the most comfortable carpets I have ever walked on. I also delighted in the collection of colored pencils waiting to be used, the old-fashioned record player (vinyl records are available at the front desk) and the ukulele found in every guest room.
A 1,700 square foot premier gallery in the lobby of the hotel currently features its inaugural exhibition, titled Downtown. The exhibit encompasses the vibrant historic traditions of Milwaukee’s core as well as the social realities that characterize its urban environment. It runs through September 8, 2019.
The exhibition includes work by ten artists who live and/or work in Milwaukee. This represents an historic collaboration between the Museum of Wisconsin Art and Saint Kate. “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.” Much more.
I had the privilege of learning about the artwork and the hotel from Maureen Ragalie, Curator of Saint Kate. the Arts Hotel. Maureen grew up in Milwaukee and spent ten years in New York working in the art world and developing valuable skills that she brings to Saint Kate. Highlighting the skills of Milwaukee artisans for those who live there and those who visit is her goal and she has accomplished so much of this in her short time in this job.
Remember that horse in the lobby? It is by Deborah Butterfield, the American sculptor known for her depictions of horses and it was the inspiration for what is now Saint Kate the Arts Hotel. The horse came to Milwaukee as part of an event called,”Sculpture Milwaukee”, and was purchased by Greg Marcus. The Marcus Family had also purchased what had been the Intercontinental Hotel. What better place for the horse? And what better place for all of the current art works?
You won’t want to miss the first floor galleries and the second floor is filled with amazing pieces, too. Walk up the stairs and be amazed.
More about the Saint Kate, the Arts Hotel.
And about that motorcycle. It isn’t displayed as a work of art, though, in a way it is. The Harley was there because there was a Harley-Davidson Convention taking place at the Harley-Davidson Museum. Many of the guests at Saint Kate were wearing the requisite Harley-Davidson shirts – some from Australia, some from Tulsa and other from? A shuttle was running between the hotel and the Harley-Davidson Museum and we decided to see the museum. We were especially interested because my husband once knew one of the thirteen people who rescued the company from bankruptcy and owned the company briefly until it was once again solvent. We found the museum fascinating, history told through Harley-Davidson changes. The displays are compelling. Across from the museum there is a restaurant and gift shop. Check this link for more events than you can imagine.
Back at the hotel, Bennett, who doubles as greeter at the registration desk and concierge suggested three restaurants, two of which we selected for two dinners.
Maureen Ragalie shared with me that there are other art hotels in the U.S. and in Europe but none like this one. Where else are there so many aspects of art, culture, creativity and whimsy in one place? See what is offered:. There are 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 3 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. Chicago Splash Magazine periodically reviews some of these productions.
And, even the food is artistically presented. We enjoyed the food at the hotel. On the first floor, there is “Proof Pizza” and the Bar which offers some food. But on the second floor Aria has a full and interesting menu. It was a lovely place for breakfast. Giggly is next door and boasts a Champagne Bar and a “secret” restaurant. Wanting to explore Milwaukee we went to “Tre Rivali” in the Historic Third Ward which was waking distance, and “Goodkind”, a short drive out of the city center, in a lovely neighborhood. “Goodkind” has my vote, but both were very good.
Photos: B.Keer unless otherwise noted.
Saint Kate the Arts Hotel
139 East Kilbourn Avenue,Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202, (414) 276-8686
The Harley-Davidson Museum
400 W Canal St, Milwaukee, WI 53201 (414) 287-2789