Cincinnati: 21C Museum Hotel
Accommodation that doubles as a contemporary art center
Art, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. So who are we to question the artistic merits of typical hotel décor?
Yet the intentionally and carefully curated art housed in 21C Museum Hotels, a small chain founded in 2006 in Louisville, aesthetically sets these hotels apart.
Ohio’s only 21C, in Cincinnati, is located in the former Metropole Hotel, a century-old building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel is in the heart of the city, a short walk from Fountain Square and adjacent to the Center for Contemporary Art and the Aronoff Center for the Arts, an ideal location for art lovers.
But visitors don’t need to leave the hotel to enjoy intriguing exhibits and site-specific contemporary art installations. Public spaces are filled with interesting and provocative pieces, such as Austrian artist Werner Reiterer’s “Untitled,” a huge brass chandelier that hangs, incongruously, outside the hotel’s entrance.
The main hotel facility changes periodically. A new exhibition, Refuge: needing, seeking, creating shelter, was installed at the end of the summer. The exhibition explores the challenges faced by people and displaced people through works such as Burundian artist Serge Alain Nitegeka’s portraits of refugees painted on shipping crates.
The hotel, a 1.75 hour drive from Columbus, has rates from $249 to $639 per night.
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Milwaukee: Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel
An artist in residence invites guests to leave their mark.
Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel defines itself with the motto “invite participation and expect change”. To that end, the 219-room hotel in Milwaukee’s downtown theater district launched a new artist-in-residence program in September, an initiative that encourages guests to explore their own creativity, in addition to giving one artist each year studio space, stipend, networking opportunities and a chance to exhibit their work.
The first recipient is Jeff Zimpel, a multidisciplinary artist and educator from Milwaukee. Her eight-month residency spans An Ecology of Marks, a community exhibit at [email protected], a nonprofit arts organization in Milwaukee, which drew inspiration from colors and materials found in nature and incorporated the audience to the project. The same principles guide Zimpel in Saint Kate.
Every week, from Thursday to Saturday, Zimpel works in his hotel space, called “Studio Ecology”, where guests are invited to come and chat with him. On Saturdays, he also offers a visit to his studio, the hotel’s permanent collection and current exhibitions. Additionally, Zimpel encourages participation, asking visitors to his studio to make a “mark”, a term he uses to describe creative visual expression, using handmade brushes, natural pigments, tiles of resin and watercolor paper.
Zimpel’s residency will culminate with a two-month exhibition at Saint Kate, and while the content of that exhibition is undefined, it may incorporate some guest-made marks, says Saint Kate curator Samantha Timm. “It engages a lot of our values in Saint Kate,” she says.
The hotel, a 7-hour drive from Columbus, offers rates from $249 to $1,861 (the latter for a two-bedroom suite) per night.
Cleveland: The Metropolitan at 9
An architectural gem with its own dog park
When visiting an unfamiliar city, one of the greatest joys is discovering architectural treasures during a short walk down any street – walking your dog, perhaps? Cleveland’s Ninth Street offers plenty of such finds, not the least of which is the Metropolitan at the 9, a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel.
The 29-story Brutalist-style tower sits right next to the 1907 neoclassical and Beaux-Arts building of the Cleveland Trust Co. — an architectural contrast if ever there was one. The hotel tower, built in 1971, was designed as the headquarters of the Ameritrust bank by famous Hungarian modernist architect Marcel Breuer.
The bank was bought out and vacated the building in 1996. The tower nearly fell in the wrecking ball, but preservation efforts prevailed, and in 2014 the vacant building was converted into luxury apartments and the Metropolitan at the 9.
The hotel takes full advantage of features left over from its banking days, including the original vaults beneath the Cleveland Trust Co., now containing the Vault Cocktail Lounge. But what really sets the hotel apart from its architecture is its attitude towards dogs, who are not only welcome for an additional fee, but also have access (along with their owners) to their own dog park. on the 29th floor. And, as a bonus, cats are forbidden.
The hotel is a 2 hour drive from Columbus and costs $175 to $535 per night.
Toronto: The Drake Hotel
A hipster hot spot is growing.
First off, Drake doesn’t own the Drake Hotel. The hospitality landmark in Toronto’s ultra-hip West Queen West neighborhood answers this question on its website: “We enjoy everything in Toronto, including Drake!” states the website. “We opened our doors in 2004, long before @champagnepapi was #the6ix God.”
Indeed, over the past 18 years, the flophouse-turned-boutique hotel has set a new standard for design, cultural cachet and stylish accommodation in “the Six”, as Drake calls his hometown (a reference to area code 416). The hotel has also become a linchpin in the transformation of West Queen West into an arts, nightlife and shopping hub, declared by Vogue in 2014 as the second coolest neighborhood in the world (behind only Shimokitazawa in Tokyo).
Since then, gentrification has tamed West Queen West: many shops, bars, galleries and other cool pioneers have closed or moved in search of cheaper digs. But not all of the neighborhood’s charms have gone away by any means, and the Drake remains a West Queen West anchor, though the hotel has evolved as well.
In December 2021, The Drake opened its Modern Wing, a five-story contemporary addition that more than doubled the number of rooms (from 19 to 51). Other highlights include a lobby bar with a cozy retro vibe and the Rooftop Terrace Suite, a boxcar-inspired retreat with two bathrooms, kitchenette, terrazzo-covered bar, private terrace, and an exorbitant price – $2,499 in Canadian Dollars for one night in October ($1,906 in US currency).
Yet even with this extravagance, the Drake remains true to its roots. More affordable “crash pad” rooms are available, and the hotel’s signature live music venue, the Drake Underground, continues to book an eclectic lineup of up-and-coming DJs, indie-rock acts, and hip-hop artists. Then there’s the hotel’s “pleasure menu” of sex toys and other erotic treats available through room service. The Drake may have grown up, but he still wants to have fun.
The Drake is a 7 hour drive from Columbus. Rates are $251 to $1,906 per night (US currency).
This story is from the October 2022 issue of Monthly Columbus.