by Hili PerlsonJan 28, 2023
Situated in the heart of Milwaukee’s theatre and entertainment district, Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel blends exceptional hospitality with artistic expression. Owned by Marcus Hotels & Resorts and designed by Stonehill Taylor, it is one of the first boutique arts hotels in the United States to propagate the performing arts as well as regional and national artists’ works. Positioned at a walking distance from notable arts attractions, the hotel embodies art in many forms through an immersive guest experience, including visual arts, music, theater, dance, and literature.
Inspired by Saint Catherine, a famous patron of the arts, the 219-room destination features five unique culinary experiences, a 95-seat black box theatre for rotating performances, multiple gallery and exhibition spaces and a 11,597 square feet of flexible meeting and event space.
Russell Bowman, former director of the Milwaukee Art Museum; Linda Marcus, artist and designer, along with Saint Kate curator Maureen Ragalie, oversaw the development of the hotel’s permanent art collection and special exhibits that include over 100 works by influential artists in contemporary art.
The hotel designed by Stonehill Taylor combines rich materials with elegant finishes in the reception lobby to accentuate world-class modern artist installations, standing exhibitions and live performances. The Deborah Butterfield horse sculpture, titled Big Piney, stands to welcome the guests from the customised undulating reception desk. The surrounding lobby features concrete floors paired with white wall coverings and painted millwork to mimic a gallery space, while wood tambour highlights add warmth.
A large lithograph by renowned figurative painter Alex Katz overlooks guests as they enter the lobby. Drawing attention towards the central gallery space, a sinuous, double-backed sofa, comfy accent chairs and a bronze drum-shaped coffee table atop a circular deep red rug offer hotel guests and gallery-goers a place to sit and enjoy the art hotel showcases.
The Bar at Saint Kate serves as the focal point and an important gathering area for all its visitors, guests, artists, and performers alike. The space was designed such that it also attracted pedestrians of downtown Milwaukee by strategically placing seating along the full-height windows facing the street.
A large geometric patterned rug softens the tone of the space and separates the bar from the lounge seating. To accentuate the space further, a hyper-realistic sculpture of two human figures sitting across a long table, aptly titled ‘The Dinner Table’ by Charity White easily merges, becoming a part of the entire setting with guests.
The Bar can also transform to accommodate pop-up performances by local artists and musicians, including those from the Marcus Performing Arts Center, the Pabst Theatre among others.
The galleries at the Saint Kate Art Hotel become the most unique feature that make them stand apart from conventional hotels, making it a converging point between art and hospitality. Guests can enter the hotel’s three galleries from the lobby, the bar or the southern public atrium. Visitors have the freedom to view the curated art exhibits in the MOWA|DTN gallery, the Gallery, and the Space, as well as attend performing art shows in the Arc Theatre, a fully tech capable black box theater with flexible seating and curtain rigging.
It is not just the areas of activity that are adorned by artworks but equal importance has been given to the transition spaces as well. The hotel’s eight guest corridors focus on educational disciplines from the world of arts, intended to immerse guests into the minds of the local artists of the Milwaukee community.
Keeping the focus on the artistic aspect in the hotel, the guestrooms at Saint Kate are also designed such that they are suitable to an artist’s mind at work. The flooring is highlighted by a carpet that appears as covered in sheets of paper – scraps and drafts thrown to the side. Wall covering used throughout the room is a tonal moiré pattern while a charcoal wall-covering accent drives the users’ eyes behind the tufted headboard.
Butcher block desks with butcher’s paper in each room not only reference local art student’s drafting tables but also invite each guest to sketch and create at their own will. Various instruments, such as ukuleles, are also available for more musically inclined guests to muse over and play.
Saint Kate collaborated with local artists and created five fully immersive guestrooms that allow visitors to live in an ambience surrounded by art. The canvas rooms are given to local artists as blank slates and the completely unique finished products belong to the users to explore. From photography and materials to the actual paint on the walls, these beautiful rooms allow one to peek inside the minds of artists such as John Grant, Lon Michels, Rosemary Ollison, Reed Skocz and Cory Zimmerman, while also taking in spectacular views of the city.
Located on the second floor, the Aria Café & Bar is Saint Kate’s restaurant where guests can enjoy any part of their day. A muted palette of neutral browns and blues and low bookshelves create a comfortable yet luxe space reminiscent of one’s own living room.
Adjacent to the café is the ‘Giggly Champagne & Wine Bar’, Milwaukee’s only champagne bar. Intimate and refined, the design team’s aspiration for the space was to create an enlivening environment for pre-theater drink crowds visiting the Arc Theatre or its neighbouring performing arts centers. Giggly is designed elegantly with rich velvet blue lounge chairs as well as wood-and-brass coffee tables.
Stonehill Taylor also created two unique rooms, a music and an arts study, where guests can lounge and discover new music and literature. The ninth floor study has been given the feel of an audiophile’s studio apartment with classic deep dyed rugs, assorted midcentury lamps, and comfy leather chairs. A ceiling plastered with music posters caps the room, adding inspiration for perusing the hotel’s curated record collection in pull out storage units. An additional lounge can be found on the 10th floor, where guests are welcome to pull from and pour over stacks of books and scripts in a home library-inspired space.
The Simone Ballroom on the second floor also serves as a space to convene for corporate events, parties and weddings. A paint-roll patterned sea blue, navy, and gray rug covers the floor, adding exciting colour and character while four Nicholas Frank prints, three Richard Galling oil paintings, and two Peter Barrickman’s adorn the walls.
Every room and corner at Saint Kate features artwork from local as well as regional artists, thus becoming an exciting promoter of the arts. These include photographs, paintings, sketches, designs of sinks and shower curtains to even designs of bed scarves and lampshades. Daniel Arnold, Daniel Chung, Ben Fairly, Lin Linder are a few artists who have their work displayed here. For instance, an inspiring artwork by Jason Fricke is showcased in the form of sketches of dancers, musicians and performers in the Milwaukee area, inspired from performances. Nina Ghanbarzadeh has contributed through her Farsi script from Persian poetry crafted into complex drawings by turning text into patterns and shapes. Niki Johnson’s soap in the shape of an eraser allows the users to erase their mistakes, while washing away the dirt on their hands.
Standing perfectly in sync with the city’s rich cultural identity and a symbol for the arts community, Saint Kate’s motto, ‘invite participation and expect change’, challenges visitors to keep an open mind, embrace change to evolve as individuals.