Creativity & Panache Make Milwaukee's Saint Kate-The Arts Hotel a Must-Visit

By Stephen Ostrowski | December 11, 2019 | Lifestyle

A Milwaukee newcomer celebrates the creative life at every turn.

The_Gallery_John_Riepenhoff_Lisa_Beck_Credit_David_Mitchell-0001.jpg
John Riepenhoff’s “Handler” (2019) turns heads outside The Gallery, one of a handful of exhibition spaces (shown here displaying Lisa Beck:Send and Receive).

On arrival at Saint Kate-The Arts Hotel, your intuition falters. Beeline to your room? Sure, but not after lingering at the reception desk to study the Alex Katz lithograph hanging behind it (that would be “Nicole,” 2018). Steps away, “Big Piney” (2016), Deborah Butterfield’s stately cast bronze horse, begs for closer inspection. Next, a detour to Candida Höfer’s photograph “Teatro La Fenice di Venezia V” (2011), enveloping a nearby wall. And that’s just one part of the lobby.

Reception_Desk_Alex_Katz_and_Deborah_Butterfield_Big_Piney_Credit_David_Mitchell-0001.jpg
In the lobby of Saint Kate, Alex Katz’s “Nicole” (2018) and Deborah Butterfield’s “Big Piney” (2016) set the tone for an artful guest experience.

That invitation to stop, stare and absorb enlivens the Milwaukee newcomer at nearly every step, whether in its 219 guest rooms, each accoutered with museumcaliber works by homegrown and regional names; four exhibition spaces (including MOWA︹DTN, a downtown annex of the Museum of Wisconsin Art); or the Arc Theatre, its black-box theater showcasing local talent (hear something melodic in the distance? It might be one of the pop-up performances that transpire in the hotel’s public spaces). “That’s what really makes us most unique: the diversity of fine art, local and nationally renowned artists, a theater= component and performances,” says general manager David Bodette. With in-room flourishes like ukuleles, drawing paper and record players, Bodette notes, guests are empowered to get their creative juices flowing too: “It’s all to free your mind, take you away from whatever is challenging you, and allow you to be the real you.”

The_Leopard_Room_Lon_Michels-0001.jpg
Lon Michels’ unforgettably punchy Leopard Room, one of the hotel’s five Canvas Rooms.

And while the hotel—whose name nods to Saint Catherine, the patron saint of artists—champions all forms, its undeniable draw is its portfolio of visual art spanning painting, video, sculpture and other media. “Throughout the collection, you’ll see some really big-name, internationally known artists, but right next to them, you’ll find a Milwaukee-based artist, and they’re in conversation with them,” says Saint Kate curator Maureen Ragalie of the hotel’s 100-plus piece permanent collection, which also counts Damien Hirst, Terry Winters and Michelle Grabner as featured names (the splashy hallway leading to Aria Café & Bar, one of the space’s five food and drink concepts, is worth the reso alone). The ultimate distillation of the artful ethos? One of the hotel’s five heady Canvas Rooms, each realized by a specific Milwaukee artist with auteurlike precision. Particularly splashy is Lon Michels’ Leopard Room, whose ubiquitous motif, like the space surrounding it, brings new meaning to the phrase “room with a view.” Canvas Rooms from $274 per night, 139 E. Kilbourn Ave., Milwaukee, WI, 414.276.8686



Photography by: LOBBY & GALLERY PHOTOS BY DAVID MITCHELL; CANVAS ROOM PHOTO COURTESY OF SAINT KATE-THE ARTS HOTEL/ALL COURTESY OF SAINT KATE-THE ARTS HOTEL