Saint Kate Milwaukee's Arts Hotel: a sneak peek before opening day

Saint Kate Milwaukee's Arts Hotel: a sneak peek before opening day
Saint Kate getting ready for June 4 opening. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Saint Kate, (139 E. Kilbourn Ave) Milwaukee's exciting new arts hotel is almost ready for its close-up. Here's what we saw, five days prior to opening day--coming June 4.

Part of Milwaukee’s transforming downtown, Saint Kate, named after Saint Catherine, the patron saint of artists will offer an experience unlike any other hotel in the entire through its celebration of the arts.

Marcus Corp. CEO, Greg Marcus (part of the family that created Summerfest and own the Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee Hilton and more) said the redesign of what formerly was the InterContinental Hotel Milwaukee started earlier this year in January.

 Greg Marcus

Greg Marcus

Marcus explains that after doing research on what people want when they travel, he discovered that travelers “don’t just want to get a room, they want an experience.”

The result: Saint Kate--The Arts Hotel.

Milwaukee is on a roll with the 2020 DNC coming to town next July, the new Fiserv Forum, an innovative streetcar system, The Hop that moves visitors and residents in state-of-art streetcars (free the first year), the relaunch of America's Black Holocaust Museum and now a one of a kind arts hotel.

The arts hotel features a theatre that will present plays, lectures, classes, musical and dance performances along with world-class gallery space; a working Artist-in-Residence studio and event spaces to host rotating exhibitions, screenings, workshops and more.

The Hop.

The Hop.

On the day we were there, construction crews were hustling to put finishing touches on Saint Kate.saintkateconstructionThe art community, the media and other invited guests wait for the highly anticipated  sneak peek tour of the hotel.

The crowd. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The crowd. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

We started the tour in the lobby of the hotel where we were greeted by Big Piney (pictured below). Artist Deborah Butterfield describes the horse as a self portrait where she uses the horse as a metaphor for self. The 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 what becomes a “ghost horse” in bronze, burning away her initial creation. Butterfield's work is in many collections including the Art Institute of Chicago.

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Big Piney, 2016 Cast Bronze Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Across from the lobby bar, we were introduced to Sandra. A provocative piece by artist Mickalene Thomas, a multimedia artist, whose work examines themes of female power, beauty, and sexuality in the context of art history and pop culture.

In the photograph of her mother, Sandra Bush Thomas (pictured here) Mickalene places her mom in a classical pose of nobility and strength, reclaiming the use of art historical tropes to express the power of black women.

Thomas has exhibited her works at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Aspen Art Museum and others.


Sandra: She's A Beauty 2, 2012 C-print 48 x 48 in

From there we entered the 1700 sq. foot first floor Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA/DTN) gallery to view their inaugural exhibit, Downtown that showcase the vibrant historic traditions of Milwaukee’s core as well as the social realities that characterize its urban environment.

Ten artists who live or work in Milwaukee—Mark Brautigam, Brema Brema, Adam Carr, Portia Cobb, Mark Klassen, David Lenz, Jessica Meuninck-Ganger, Lon Michels, Keith Nelson, and Nathaniel Stern—have created a visual conversation about Milwaukee as a city of the twenty-first century for the exhibition.

A Poet Phone (housed in a 1970's styled phone booth) at the entrance of the exhibit features seven Milwaukee poets reciting more than a dozen poems.


Among other works, Lon Michels’s large-scale sculpture of “downtown” women whimsically celebrates femininity while slyly confronting gender biases in the city’s traditional bastions of power.

Lon Michels’s stands in front of his sculpture "Downtown Women." Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Lon Michels’s stands in front of his sculpture "Downtown Women." Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

From there we stepped inside The Arc Theatre – a 90-seat black box theater  where we were treated to a special performance.

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Next we toured the hotel's guest rooms.

Five of the property's rooms have been designed by Milwaukee-area artists--including Lon Michels, Reed Skocz, Rosemary Ollison and John Grant. 

The room pictured here was designed by Rosemary Ollison who has just been named Wisconsin Artist of the Year. A self taught artist, Ollison considers her work a gift from God saying “My present works reflect only the joy, delight, fulfillment and pleasure I experience in living.”


Artist Rosemary Ollison surrounded by her original creations. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

In addition to the artist rooms, the hotel offers an additional 214 art ubsoured rooms all featuring original art plus a record turntable and vintage vinyl. Guests on the ninth and tenth floors also have access to art and music lounges complete with snacks.

Hotel room. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Hotel room. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer


Executive Chef Aaron Miles checking on his special recipe for Brussel sprouts. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The tour concluded with a menu sampling and a look at the hotel's food and beverage scene that includes Aria Restaurant, the Giggly Champagne Bar, the lobby bar and Proof Pizza also in the lobby.

For reservations and information, click here. Reservations are currently available online for stays beginning June 16. 

Exhibitions at MOWA | DTN will be free and open to the public. 

To enter to win an invitation (or two) to Saint Kate’s Grand Opening Party and a future one-night stay at the hotel (for two), click here

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