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Contemporary collectors and preservationists Laura Lee Brown and Steven Wilson aimed to build a hotel brand around 21st-century art when they founded 21c Museum Hotels in 2006. The art enthusiasts established the first outpost in Louisville, Kentucky, looking to bring world-class art to tourists and local communities. Since then, the pair has launched seven properties in cities throughout the South and Midwest, with the Durham location debuting in 2015. This 125-room hotel occupies downtown’s historic Hill Building, a 17-story Art Deco high-rise by renowned architects Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, also the talent behind the Empire State Building. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the structure was revamped to provide more than 10,000 square feet of space for rotating, curated exhibitions of global artwork and conceptual site-specific installations like Duke Riley’s mosaic made from cigarettes, titled “It Will Warm You Twice.” Beyond admiring the inspiring works peppered throughout the property, guests can dine at Jeff Seizer’s Counting House, a restaurant that combines local Southern cuisine with European techniques, and be pampered at the on-site spa. (21c Museum Hotel, $161-$710, 111 N. Corcoran St., Durham, North Carolina. 919-956-6700, www.21cmuseumhotels.com/durham)
Local art is the star at this waterfront hotel in downtown Chattanooga. The Edwin houses more than 75 pieces of art reflecting the Scenic City and Tennessee River Valley. QR codes provide details about the artwork and the artists. Located beside the pedestrian bridge, The Edwin is within walking distance to museums, the Tennessee Aquarium and the Bluff View Art District, a neighborhood centered around the arts. This 90-room luxury property has amenities ranging from Whitebird, a restaurant serving Appalachian-inspired fare, and Whiskey Thief, a cocktail bar dedicated to Tennessee’s signature spirit. Ama Spa, named after the Cherokee word for water, is a full-service wellness spa specializing in the indigenous peoples’ ritual of “going to water” to nourish, protect and heal. (The Edwin Hotel, $191-$331, 102 Walnut St., Chattanooga, Tennessee. 423-713-5900, www.theedwinhotel.com)
Part of Marriott’s luxury Autograph Collection brand, Kessler Collection hotels are known for their eclectic aesthetic and galleries chock full of curiosities. The Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook is located 5 miles south of downtown by the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and its namesake art gallery is the Kessler Collection’s largest, with 2,600 square feet of exhibition space behind the hotel. On display are contemporary paintings, sculptures and jewelry created by regional and international artists, and all of it is available for purchase. Open 365 days a year, the gallery regularly adds new works and supports emerging and local talent. Guests looking to up their culinary game can take a cooking class in the kitchen of the hotel’s farm-to-table restaurant, Habitat Feed & Social, or take a lesson in wine blending. Other amenities include Poseidon Spa. (Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook, $228-$909, 2655 Lane Park Road, Birmingham, Alabama. 205-414-0505, www.kesslercollection.com/bohemian-mountain-brook)
Winter Park, Florida
The Alfond Inn is owned by nearby Rollins College, a private liberal arts school established in 1885, and a rotating collection of contemporary artworks from the Alfond family collection (courtesy of alumni Barbara and Ted Alfond, and the Rollins Museum of Art) adorn the hotel’s interior spaces. Gisela Carbonell, the Rollins Museum of Art’s curator, hosts art tours at the inn each week (currently virtual due to COVID), and self-guided tours are also encouraged. The hotel features beautiful outdoor spaces including a verdant courtyard, a gorgeous conservatory and an elevated pool. Sculptures can be admired throughout the hotel gardens. Amenities include Hamilton’s Kitchen, serving traditional Southern cuisine. Currently, The Alfond Inn features 112 guest rooms and suites, but the hotel is in the midst of an expansion with 73 additional accommodations scheduled to be completed in 2023. A spa is also in the works. (The Alfond Inn, $334-$624, 300 E. New England Ave., Winter Park, Florida. 407-998-8090, www.thealfondinn.com)
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