Ever dreamed of spending the night in a museum? You can make that fantasy a reality by booking a room in one of the growing number of hotels pulling double duty as art gallery spaces.
Hotels such as The Edwin in Chattanooga reflect the culture of the cities where they are located by commissioning works by local artists. Others, such as the 21c Museum Hotels, host rotating exhibits and permanent collections featuring the works of world-class artists. All of our favorite art-centric hotels have an on-site restaurant and bar (often found on the roof) that draw locals and even visitors staying elsewhere to enjoy a drink or a meal accompanied by a feast for the eyes.
Founded in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2006 by collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, 21c Museum Hotels now have nine locations and two more in the works. But rather than a chain of hotels, 21c considers itself as a "multi-venue contemporary art museum" with a hotel and restaurant attached to each outpost. Each features commissioned pieces as well as curated rotating exhibits, cultural programming and original artwork in guestrooms. Aside from the Louisville original, the closest locations to Chattanooga are in Nashville, Lexington and Cincinnati.
Marketed as "handcrafted" boutique hotels, Graduate Hotels offer themed accommodations in college towns across the U.S. with decor that features artwork and artful design elements fitting with the location's theme. At Graduate Nashville that means country kitsch, like the Minnie Pearl textile art in the lobby or the abstract portraits of Dolly Parton in the hallways. Unique design elements like the Taco Bell and Checkers art display in the lobby — a nod to the businesses that once stood in the same location, as Vandy grads may recall — and the Dolly Parton-themed rooftop pool celebrate the most memorable details that make the university towns where they're located special to graduates and first-time visitors alike. Adding to the boutique hotel brand's artsy feel, Graduate Hotels recently launched an artist-in-residence program called Sweet Dreams Society, in which local creators can apply to live and work in a studio space in select hotel locations, including Nashville and Athens.
Billing itself as part hotel and part museum, Chattanooga's Edwin Hotel is a great example of an art-centric hotel that also brings in locals with the creative Southern dishes of its restaurant, Whitebird, and its rooftop bar, Whiskey Thief, with city views that are their own work of art. Spending time in the hotel's common areas is like perusing a gallery, with a collection of more than 75 original works including pieces by local artists such as Kevin Bate and Hollie Berry.