Interview with the General Manager of Louisville's 21c Museum Hotel

Interview with the General Manager of Louisville's 21c Museum Hotel
What is unique about your hotel's location?

Nestled in the heart of Museum Row in downtown Louisville's historic West Main corridor, 21c is an epicenter for culture, activity, and artistic expression for the city and region. The union of 21c Museum Hotel, Proof on Main, and the International Contemporary Art Foundation create an exciting array of events, including artist lectures, and dinners, a monthly film series, musical performances, Trolley Hop activities, and much more. While there's often something going on at 21c, the central setting in Louisville's revitalized downtown and the proximity to the bourbon-rich countryside affords visitors with countless attractions and a rich history within a day's journey.

What authentic local experiences will guests have access to?

Louisville has a vibrant arts community. The performing arts community is one of few in the U.S. with professional opera, ballet, theater, orchestra, and children's theater. In addition, Louisville hosts some of the country's outstanding cultural events, from the Humana Festival of New American Plays to the Idea Festival. Located in the heart of Museum Row, 21c Museum Hotel is the gathering spot for attendees of these events. The Proof on Main bar and restaurant regularly burst into a spontaneous and unplanned public "After Party" where the directors and actors mingle with hotel guests during the Humana Festival. The Idea Festival brings the world's most accomplished technologists, filmmakers, authors, musicians, architects and innovators to Louisville each fall, and they in turn congregate at the 21c Museum Hotel.

Additionally, 21c and Proof on Main are a stop on the Urban Bourbon Trail and within an hour's drive to Bardstown, the Bourbon Capital of the World. With dozens of distilleries – including Maker's Mark, Jim Beam, and Woodford Reserve – along the countryside offering tours and tastings. Guests really seem to love our local flavor!

What are some amazing things that your Concierge can arrange?

With a great selection of dynamic packages, we've taken the guesswork out of a getaway weekend. From spa getaways to tours of local horse farms, the countless attractions and a rich history ensure Louisville has something for everyone. A visit to this city is not complete without a tour of Churchill Downs. Even if you can't score tickets to the Run for the Roses, the Kentucky Derby Museum is a mecca to horse racing fans and the track offers thoroughbred racing during their spring and fall meets, as well as daily simulcast wagering year-round.

Remember Louisville is first and foremost an art city. We can help score you the best seats to a show with the Louisville Orchestra, Kentucky Opera, Louisville Ballet, Actors Theatre, PNC Broadway Series at the Kentucky Center's Whitney Hall, or Stage One, Louisville's children's theatre. Alternatively make time for the Speed Art Museum, Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft, and popular East Market galleries. Glassblowing is also popular with two downtown studios available for tours and demonstrations—Glassworks and Flame Run.

Guests are also welcome to take part in the many activities presented by the 21c Museum. From a monthly film series and poetry reading, a new weekly summer "Yoga with Art" and "Cabaret Life Drawing" sessions, to a continuing Artist Talk series, we're proud to host an exciting program of free events that engage the community and hotel guests alike.

Does your hotel have a philosophy?

Since our conception, environmental awareness and a commitment to eco-friendly practices have guided our daily operations. In developing 21c, our owners, Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, sought to make downtown Louisville a more vibrant and attractive place to work, live, and play. Faced with ever-expanding suburban sprawl, they hoped to invigorate downtown, bringing life back to the urban center. To accomplish this goal, they began with a belief that "Art Drives Commerce." While this idea seemed counterintuitive to some, the immediate critical acclaim and subsequent public embrace of 21c and Proof validated the concept. While we believe that generating a profit and being environmentally conscious are not mutually exclusive, we consider eco-friendly practices necessary to being responsible members and supporters of our global community. Put simply we believe you should: "Always Strive to be Green".

What makes your hotel memorable and unforgettable?

The vision behind 21c Museum Hotel is that art can be part of daily life. At 21c, art is an unexpected encounter, a new idea, a starting point for a lively conversation. It is integral to the experience at 21c Museum Hotel; it's not merely decoration but is at the core of the unique character of 21c. Visitors find themselves engaging with the art immediately upon arrival. Permanent installations such as the Red Penguins by Cracking Art Group and Text Rain by Camille Utterback draw people in to the whimsy and fun at the very core of the 21c experience..

What will guests rave about to their friends and family?

Art is around every corner at 21c Museum Hotel—in the elevators, courtyards, hallways, landings, roof, public restrooms, floor, and in the Proof on Main restaurant and bar. Installations flow out onto the city sidewalk engaging passersby. It's a different, and complementary, art experience than you have in a traditional museum

The public response to this unique experience has been tremendous. More than 200,000 people visited in 2008, some to stay in the hotel, some to have a meal or a cocktail at Proof on Main, some to view a special exhibition at 21c Museum or attend a live event. Travelers voted 21c Museum Hotel one of the twenty best hotels in the United States in Condé Nast Traveler's Readers Choice Award and the London-based newspaper, The Independent, selected 21c as the only U.S. hotel in its Top Five Art Hotels in the World.

What is the atmosphere of your hotel? What types of guests does it attract?

Ingeniously carved out of five abandoned tobacco and bourbon warehouses along West Main Street's famed cast iron corridor, 21c manages to retain the buildings' historic character and provide a strikingly modern home for the rotating art exhibitions. Designed by award-winning Deborah Berke & Partners Architects, the renovation highlights historical elements such as original brickwork, arches, and prismatic leaded glass transoms. Interior finishes employ beautifully crafted artisanal materials: hand knotted rugs, handblocked linen upholstery and reclaimed wood floors, all in a neutral palette.

The guest rooms and suites at 21c provide a welcomed sanctuary from the art and activity that fills the Museum. Rooms are spacious with high ceilings, large windows, and many feature original exposed brick walls. Furnishings include plush bedding, custom furniture, and a few surprises. Generous sized Malin + Goetz bath amenities, plush bathrobes, nightly turndown service and a fully stocked mini bar are all standard features.

21c attracts a wide range of travelers. From starving artists to luxury seekers, bourbon enthusiasts to business executives, 21c appeal is undeniable.

What makes your hotel a destination within itself?

Through relationships with existing art institutions, our farming community and urban landscape, our team works to add an exciting dimension to the cultural mix and support the growing vitality of our neighborhood. 21c is more than just another hotel, its part of the life of the city. Art is at the heart of the 21c experience and we've become a living, breathing cultural center in itself!

Do you have a favorite meal in your restaurant?

Proof on Main fosters sustainable agriculture and features locally grown produce and ingredients in its dishes and drinks. It's difficult to pick a favorite because the menu changes nearly everyday, depending on the harvest from our rooftop garden at 21c, as well as a vegetable garden at Woodland Farm. The staff takes immense pride in caring for the produce – everything from Swiss chard to heirloom tomatoes to sweet basil and garlic – come directly from our Urban Garden to the plate in the restaurant. If forced to choose, the Bison Burger is always a perennial favorite!

Be sure to save room for some homemade Italian goodness. The Proof Gelato Cart makes its way around downtown, keeping locals in the know on daily flavors via its on twitter feed.

What is the best way for guests to "arrive in style" to your hotel?

The bejeweled 21c Pip Mobile is an experience in itself. Watch heads turn as you explore Louisville in a 1995 Lincoln Towne Car stretch limousine covered in brightly colored in red gems by local artist Monica Mahoney. For guests wanting to be a bit less conspicuous – and eco-conscious – 21c offer cruising bicycles for guests to explore downtown.

Do you provide any welcoming or parting amenities to guests?

Dinner at Proof ends with a cheery pink poof of house-made cotton candy and no visit to 21c is complete without a stop by the Museum Shop. Featuring a wide range of items chosen to create a lasting impression of your visit to 21c, the Shop also highlights the wares of select local artists with an emphasis on sustainable products.

We can also arrange a variety of whimsical, artful and local amenities for our guests. We contact all our guests prior to arrival to take care of every last detail and customize each experience.

Can you recommend other destinations/hotels nearby (within 300 miles) that your guests should consider combining into a trip?

For friends coming in through Chicago, I always recommend the modern luxury of the The James Chicago. In Nashville, The Hermitage Hotel captures historic Southern elegance at its finest. For a unique getaway the Blackberry Farm in Tennessee is always a treat. Closer to home, a tour through Bourbon Country is always at the top of my "Must Do" list for visitors.

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