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