An Art Gallery for Everyone – 21c Hotel in Oklahoma City

The Sigh 2017 Frances Goodman sequins on linen in 21c Hotel Oklahoma City Pop Stars modern art exhibit (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

“The Sigh” 2017, Frances Goodman, hand-stitched sequins on linen in the 21c Hotel Oklahoma City Pop Stars! exhibit (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The 21c Hotel chain is an interesting concept – boutique hotels located in small-to-mid-sized U.S. cities, usually housed in historic or unique buildings, that each include a modern art gallery/museum that is free and open to the public, 24/7.

I dropped into the 21c in Louisville, Kentucky while exploring the city’s Urban Bourbon Trail, but had a chance recently to spend more time in the Oklahoma City 21c.

Located in the western part of downtown in the OKC Arts District, the hotel is a converted Ford automobile assembly plant, so the vibe is very industrial and open.

21c Hotel downtown Oklahoma City a former Ford assembly plant (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The 21c Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City is in a former Ford auto assembly plant (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

There is a rusty metal “tree” sculpture near the entrance – Woozy Blossom – that is actually a sidewalk mister, which was a nice cooling touch on a hot day.

When you walk in, you can see both permanent art installations and whatever temporary exhibit is on display, which that day in OKC was “Pop Stars! Popular Culture & Contemporary Art,” running through February 2019.

Lobby of 21c Hotel Oklahoma City (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Lobby of the 21c Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

I’m not a big modern art enthusiast, but a walk through the hotel opened my eyes to the many different ways that artists can communicate with us.

The pop culture references ranged from light-hearted fun to very serious, stop-you-in-your tracks pieces.

36 Michael Jackson songs by Graham Dolphin 2006 in 21c Hotel Oklahoma City Pop Stars exhibit (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Every lyric in the album – “36 Michael Jackson songs” by Graham Dolphin, 2006, ink on record cover, in the 21c Hotel Oklahoma City Pop Stars! exhibit (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

If you’ve ever decorated a cake or cookies with icing in a pipette or piping bag, you’ll appreciate this nod to the rock band Guns N’ Roses…

The Gun in Roses 44 by Lisa Alonzo 2014 closeup at 21c Hotel Oklahoma City Pop Stars exhibit (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Closeup of “The Gun in Roses 44” by Lisa Alonzo, 2014, at the 21c Hotel Oklahoma City Pop Stars! exhibit (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

I loved the colorful pieces by Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj, framed in soda cans with Arabic logos, like this one using Mountain Dew cans around a very dashing and fashionable subject….

Lisa 2015 by Hassan Hajjaj at 21c Hotel Oklahoma City Pop Stars exhibit

Lisa, 2015, by Hassan Hajjaj in the 21c Hotel Oklahoma City Pop Stars! exhibit

This photo about the impact of consumerism and branding on even the very young certainly grabbed my attention:

Dietrich Wegner Cumulous Brand 2009 photo at 21c Hotel Oklahoma City Pop Stars exhibit

Dietrich Wegner’s Cumulous Brand, 2009, in the 21c Hotel Oklahoma City Pop Stars! exhibit

Even though I wasn’t a hotel guest, I was curious about what the actual hotel part of the building looked like, so I marched onto the elevator and went to the 4th floor.

It was another sensory experience.

One side of the elevator is open to the shaft wall through a mesh screen, and colors change as you pass the floors.

When I got off on the 4th floor and looked around, here is the first thing I saw (there is one of these on every floor….)

You Always Leave Me Wanting More SuttonBeresCuller art installation 21c Hotel Oklahoma City 4th floor (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The big red arrows are “You Always Leave Me Wanting More,” a SuttonBeresCuller art installation at the 21c Hotel Oklahoma City (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The big open hallways off of the elevator were a bit TOO industrial for me. Rows of hotel room doors marching down an echo-y concrete floor is not really my style, although each floor’s glass cubed center column lets in lots of light.

Here is what one type of room looks like:

Deluxe Double Queen room 21c Hotel Oklahoma City (courtesy 21c Hotel website)

A Deluxe Double Queen room 21c Hotel Oklahoma City (courtesy 21c Hotel website)

What I hadn’t realized is that every floor has permanent art installations that guests can enjoy.

Since I was already on the 4th floor, I spent some time looking at several pieces near the elevator by multimedia artist Heather Clark Hilliard.

Here they are grouped together….not particularly interesting from a distance….

21c Hotel 4th floor art installations by Heather Clark Hilliard (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

21c Hotel 4th floor art installations by Heather Clark Hilliard (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

But when you look more closely, there is a LOT going on.

Look at the intricacy of this wall hanging, made of bits of PVC pipe, plant-dyed wool, and crochet….

Can You Hear Me Now 2012 Heather Clark Hilliard at 21c Art Hotel Oklahoma City (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

“Can You Hear Me Now?” 2012 by Heather Clark Hilliard at the 21c Hotel Oklahoma City on the 4th floor (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

As a writer, my favorite of the group was of course this big word-centric piece, “Scroll #10: Archives, I Have Just One Thing to Say.”

It is a combination of phrases on the nearby wall, plus rolled and stitched little word bundles suspended from the ceiling….

Scroll #10 Archives I Have Just One Thing to Say Heather Clark Hilliard at 21c Art Hotel Oklahoma City (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

“Scroll #10: Archives, I Have Just One Thing to Say” by Heather Clark Hilliard at thhe 21c Hotel Oklahoma City on the 4th floor (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

There is a restaurant and bar in the hotel, with a little seating area near the bar where I plunked down for a moment to admire a hypnotic moving sculpture called River of Time, created just for the Oklahoma City hotel.

River of Time kinetic sculpture at 21c Hotel Oklahoma City (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

River of Time kinetic sculpture at 21c Hotel Oklahoma City (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

A description from the hotel website:

“Inspired by the history of assembly-line production, River of Time uses conveyor belts whose top surfaces are replaced with semi-transparent colored sheets of acrylic to create moving panels that flow along the conveyor paths like an animated river. The ‘river’ flows up and over the center of the installation like a waterfall. Behind the waterfall is a large clock that shows the current time through LED lights that shine through the panels of acrylic as they pass in front.”

It’s tricky to see the LED time numbers through the moving “assembly line,” but ask the bartender; they’re used to showing people.

If you are ever in a city with a 21c Hotel, make plans to drop in and see what is going on. I’d only planned to look around for an hour or so in Oklahoma City, and I finally had to drag myself away after over two hours.

Maybe next time I’ll even stay there!

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