Travels

Saint Kate, The Arts Hotel | The museums of Florence will leave you in awe

Book a one-night stay at the art-filled The Saint Kate, Milwaukee. Dubbed The Arts Hotel, the Saint Kate features a notable collection of modern art in various galleries in the hotel.

Works by local and nationally acclaimed artists in permanent residency and revolving exhibits invite exploration of the corridors and rooms where innovative and electric pieces light up the night.

To celebrate your self-guided art tour, you’ll have a duet of Champagne at the bar before you retreat to your art-filled room where you’ll find retro touches like a record player (you can borrow records from the vinyl library in the lobby) and a ukulele.  Rates start at $211 per night per room.

The backstory of Saint Kate, The Arts Hotel

The Saint Kate is part of the Marcus Hotels & Resorts, but is a singular hotel. The former Intercontinental was snapped up to become a beacon for the arts in Milwaukee. Greg and Linda Marcus have been longtime lovers and patrons of the arts in the city (Linda is an artist herself), and they wanted a venue that didn’t just claim its artistic bona fides through a single muraled wall or handful of pieces near the check-in desk. Linda began collecting pieces from both local and internationally known artists, like Chihuly and Rauschenberg, before she was even sure how they would fit into the space. Slowly though, the flow of the permanent collection took shape. In addition, the hotel set up gallery and theater spaces to showcase rotating exhibits from artists plucked from all over the world. But while the visual arts are impossible to miss, Greg Marcus wanted this particular arts hotel to be multi-disciplinary. Music is almost as omnipresent as the work mounted on the walls with live performances every night of the week, and the hotel’s impressive and eclectic record collection at your service with record players in every room. Though live theater is still coming back online after the pandemic, a dedicated black box will be home to plays and comedy shows. The hotel is a home for art, broadly defined.

Why book Saint Kate, The Arts Hotel

Art hotels can feel unwelcoming, with collections meant to be examined in silent contemplation. But Milwaukee’s Saint Kate is not that. Contemporary art is spread through common and private spaces in a way that coaxes you to stay, have a drink, and strike up a conversation about something you may not totally understand, preferably while listening to a live trio in the lobby. A stay here will immerse you in art that will, at turns, challenge you and bring a smile to your face. All of it may just make for the coolest hotel in the state of Wisconsin.

Set the scene of Saint Kate, The Arts Hotel

Though there are longer term plans to have an art installation outside, right now the exterior could fit right in with some of the banks and professional buildings nearby, save for one sign that indicates you’re about to enter a unique space. In fact, it is the sign: an enormous marquee towering over the entry that brings to mind the glory years of America’s first movie palaces. Inside, recent arrivals are greeted with glasses of Champagne, a killer soundtrack (N.E.R.D., Dr. Dog, Stevie Wonder b-sides) and, most prominently, Deborah Butterfield’s enormous horse sculpture—the first of an almost uncountable number of remarkable works that define the hotel.

The Rooms:

The collection spreads to every inch of the rooms—not just to the images on the walls (which Linda will enthusiastically tell you, were selected not to be “hotel art”), but to the custom printed lampshades, the Todd Mrozinski mural in the closet, and, my favorite, the shower tiles with designs carved by Linda Lindner. Even the bag for the hairdryer is a work of art.

As for how the rooms themselves function, they’re smartly laid out, putting the space where you need it most, which is important since some of them can run a little tight. But the glassed-in showers are big enough to lay down in; and rooms with separate sitting areas, which here are not just reserved for suites, have the feeling of an apartment.

No discussion of the rooms would be complete without mention of the Canvas Rooms, a selection of spaces turned entirely over to individual artists to do with as they please. They are more immersive experiences that will range from the calming to the frenetic (see: Lon Michels’ Leopard Room), but remain spaces where you can actually sleep in a work of art. They’ll change out every 18 months or so.

Food and drink:

On the lobby level you’ll find Proof, a Neapolitan pizza joint that not only serves as the fast-casual option for the hotel, but as a welcome addition to the city’s larger pizza scene, with a regular stream of boxes filled with sausage, broccoli, and burrata pies headed out the door to locals. It’s also where you’ll find the wraparound bar, a buzzy multi-generational scene with a short but potent list of house cocktails, like a Manhattan riff punched up with cherry liqueur made with Door County cherries.

Upstairs, the recently opened Aria serves an upscale ode to the heartland and the Wisconsin supper club. Chicken and dumplings that executive chef Paul Funk has been perfecting for years; a pitch-perfect broast-ish chicken (named as it is to avoid ending up on the wrong side of Big broasting); and a bread course of housemade pretzel chips served with a magnificent fruited cheese spread. Before or after a meal at Aria, swing by the attached Giggly, the only Champagne bar in Milwaukee.

The neighborhood:

Milwaukee is a city that always gets short shrift to Chicago for…reasons, I guess. But it is flush with often unappreciated energy and culture. The Saint Kate sits, appropriately for an arts hotel, smack in the center of two of the performing arts venues that anchor the city, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater and the Pabst, neither of which is more than a two-minute walk from the hotel door. As more shows are added to the schedule through 2024 and into 2022, the staff will be happy to recommend one. The picturesque riverwalk is an easy three blocks away, where you can stroll the water or rent a kayak, and the Third Ward (and its breweries, bars, and restaurants) is 15 minutes away on foot. If you’re ever at a loss for something to do, however, every room comes with a pocket-sized book full of Milwaukee recommendations, from jazz clubs to diners to museums big and small.

The service:

There is a Wisconsin Nice (sorry Minnesota, you don’t get to claim it all for yourself) to everyone you encounter at the Saint Kate, but don’t think this crew is some golly-shucks Midwest stereotype. They understand the unique space that they’re in and they seem to love it. They are more than happy to talk art with you curator Sam Timm will even take you on a guided tour of the collection—or recommend some choice Milwaukee activities.

For families:

There isn’t one specific item that illustrates the fact that this is a family-friendly hotel. But the fact that a place with this many valuable works of art on display is welcoming to families at all may come as a surprise (it’s also pet-friendly, and I saw more than one golden retriever walking through the lobby during my visit). But it is. There is no hall monitor tailing kids to tell them to stop running, and the tweens I saw milling around both in the lobby and in the halls were quite comfortable being themselves.

The single most appealing aspect of the Saint Kate is the way it surprises you around every corner. So many works are hiding in plain site, like Charity White’s lifelike sculptures of a widow and her middle-aged son that I kept thinking were two people having dinner next to me, or Jessica Meuninck-Granger’s expansive graphic work that can only be seen from the landing on the walk up to Aria, or the painting on the underside of a coffee table reflected in a mirror below. It can feel a bit like scavenger hunt in the best way.

Most popular facilities

  • Parking on site
  • Free WiFi
  • Non-smoking rooms
  • 3 restaurants
  • Fitness centre
  • Facilities for disabled guests
  • Room service
  • Bar
  • Breakfast

Parking available at the hotel

How much does it costs to stay at Saint Kate

The prices at Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel may vary depending on your stay (e.g. dates you select, hotel’s policy etc.). See the prices by entering your dates.