Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Saint Kate Hotel: For the Arts Enthusiast

Deborah Butterfield, Big Piney, 2016, Cast bronze with patina 93 x 112 x 50"

If you’re in Chicago and looking for an easy weekend getaway, this is it!

A couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation to attend the Grand Opening of the Saint Kate Hotel in Milwaukee. After a bit of research, I found that the Saint Kate—named for Catherine, the patron saint of artists—is being touted as the nation’s newest and most immersive arts hotel, showcasing both fine and performing arts. I was intrigued. Unlike most of the country’s art hotels, the Saint Kate’s mission is to—not only—highlight two-and-three-dimensional visual art, but also dance, poetry, and theater. I eagerly accepted the invitation.

The drive from Chicago to Milwaukee was quick and painless—a little more than an hour. Making my way from the intestate to the hotel, I noted the absence of heavy traffic and the beauty of the city’s architecture.

The afternoon began with a preview tour of the hotel’s unique facilities. Curator, Maureen Ragalie, brought attention to some of the work found in the Saint Kate’s permanent fine art collection. The collection is comprised of works by numerous internationally known artists including, Damien Hirst, Alex Katz, and Deborah Butterfield (above). But the splendor of the Saint Kate is the opportunity to experience fine art created by renowned artists in proximity to amazing regional works—all of superior quality, demanding equal attention.

Brema Brema, photographic drown image

The Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) is collaborating with the Saint Kate hotel, as such, creating MOWA | DTN (downtown). The inaugural exhibition—titled Downtown—features work by ten artists who live and/or work in Milwaukee. The collection attempts to produce a visual conversation about Milwaukee as a city in the twenty-first century—offering diverse perceptions, highlighting tradition and bringing attention to current social challenges. The included artists are: Mark Brautigam, Brema Brema, Adam Carr, Portia Cobb, Mark Klassen, David Lenz, Jessica Meuninck-Ganger, Lon Michels, Keith Nelson, and Nathaniel Stern.

MOWA’s Executive Director, Laurie Winters, was the point person for the Downtown exhibition. With her curatorial history at the Milwaukee Art Museum and her leadership at MOWA—Winters became the ideal consultant for the Saint Kate project. In conversation, Winters pointed out that Greg and Linda Marcus are the driving force promoting the arts in Milwaukee—and that she was thrilled to have an opportunity to work with them.

Exhibiting artist, Lon Michels also spoke highly of working with the Marcus’ and the Marcus Corporation. Michels pointed out that “…the bar has been raised by the Marcus Family in all of their endeavors—their love of the arts, passion and integrity.” 

Lon Michels, Canvas Room, Saint Kate Hotel

I spent some time talking with Lon Michels about his installation as well as the leopard-print room that he produced for the Saint Kate. Michels’ work induces a “wow” factor through repetitive patterns of intense color. The two installations created for the Saint Kate are overwhelming based on scale alone. Each experience offers a sense of mania, enticing viewers to loose themselves in the experience.

There is a similar outcome created when exploring the installation by Lisa Beck. Found in an intimate gallery adjacent to the Downtown exhibit, Beck creates a powerful experience for her audience. Curated by Maureen Ragalie, Beck’s inaugural contribution—titled Send and Receive—is both colorfully brilliant yet quietly introspective. The gallery incorporates two large meditative colorfield paintings—subtlety reminiscent of Mark Rothko—with a series of grouped transparent spheres “dripping” from the ceiling. The spheres distort the surroundings while reflecting the canvases and the other spheres. 

Lisa Beck, Send and Receive, installation view

I strongly suggest that you book a weekend at the Saint Kate. This hotel is perfect for anyone interested in the arts. The experience will be complete with theatre, dance and poetry performances, amazing fine art, wonderful restaurants, and a variety of drinking establishments. Saint Kate—The Arts Hotel is located at 139 East Kilbourn in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Rooms start at $216 per night. Book at:

And make sure that you check out the Historic Third Ward (about a 15 minute walk). There's a wonderful Public Market, more great restaurants and wonderful galleries. I'm looking forward to my next trip to Milwaukee!

Deborah Butterfield’s horse sculptures are self-portraits in which she uses the horse as a metaphor for self. Each sculpture is cast from carefully selected branches, sticks, driftwood, and other found objects. She uses these materials to “draw” the horse -not just the outline, but the energy and gestures of the horse. She then casts these so called “ghosts” in bronze, burning away her initial creation.

Lon Michels: Additional works by Lon Michels can be experienced in a group exhibition titled Nature Morte at the nearby Tory Folliard Gallery through September 7th. The Tory Folliard Gallery is located at 2330 Milwaukee Street, in Milwaukee.

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