Check In: Designtripper at the 21c!

Louisville, Kentucky
04.20.2011 | by: Meghan

After spending a few rollicking hours at the kid-geared UnMuseum in Zaha Hadid’s Contemporary Arts Center, we loaded the kiddos (who may have been kicking and screaming) back in the car for a two-hour drive to Louisville, Kentucky, where we’re staying at the super-famed 21c Hotel. I cannot stress enough: This place is worth every single dribble of high praise. It is mind-blowingly cool. Take the repeat video of a sleeping couple in twisted sheets projected onto the floor in front of the reception desk. Or the interactive installation–Text Rain–in the elevator bank that drops little words of a poem around your shadow reflection. My toddler played with both for hours. But guess what? The staff totally encourages it. That’s right–no “please do not touch” signs or fussy  attendants following you around with the stink eye.

The story behind the hotel is pretty incredible, too. The owners Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown started the hotel not just because they have a vast personal collection that they wanted to share (much of the art on display is theirs), but they also wanted to help rescusitate the downtown. The couple, who lives on a 1,000-acre farm 25 miles down the river (they raise bison!), believe people can help save farmland through urban revitalization. Make things more interesting downtown, and folks will want to be there again. And so far, their plan seems to be working. In the past five years since the 21c opened, the people are flocking–tourists and locals–and there’s a renewed interest in the downtown scene.

The exhibits change pretty regularly, with major shows two to three times a year. Right now, the exhibit taking up most of the space is Cuba Now–a whopping collection of amazing contemporary art by Cuban artists (inspired by a trip Steve and Laura Lee took to Cuba in 2003; they’ve been collecting Cuban art ever since). The hotel is open to art viewers 24 hours a day–a fact I find pretty extraordinary. I like knowing that if I woke up at 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep, I could go downstairs and watch all the videos I can’t get through with a toddler tugging at my skirt. But even better: the cold milk and warm cookies the staff brought, unsolicited, to our room before bed.

Tomorrow, we’ll show you everything we’ve done and seen in Louisville–which is such a beautiful, lush city of trees, historic cast-iron architecture and derby fever (even though it’s a couple weeks away).

For more photos from the road, go to the Lincoln-Designtripper site!

[Disclaimer: Ford Motor Company is the paying sponsor of designtripper’s road trip to New Orleans, which also included a Lincoln MKX for the duration of the trip.]

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