Posted at 1:34 PM on November 23, 2010
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Arts around the state
When I think of art hotels, I tend to think of destinations like Paris, Berlin and New York.
Now I also think of Fargo.
While on my recent trip to the Fargo-Moorhead area, I took a tour of Hotel Donaldson (also known as "The HoDo"), created and run by Karen Stoker. Each of the 17 suites in the hotel features the work of a different artist from the region. Stoker says it was while she was in the building process, looking to decorate the rooms, that she met with an interior designer to choose artwork. The prices were high and the art lacked soul. Stoker thought "I have enough artist friends and know enough artists to give this hotel a sense of place."
With that my mission became complete - to create memorable experiences for our guests and teammates by celebrating our community's visual, culinary, performing and literary arts.
In addition to the artwork in the rooms, the HoDo lounge hosts musical performances and features more art on - and in - the walls.
Stoker says showcasing regional art distinguishes her hotel while making each guest's experience unique.
Karen Stoker in one of the guest suites at Hotel Donaldson
The artwork in the hotel ranges from painting and prints to pottery and sculpture. One room is reserved for showcasing the work of a local MFA student, and rotates artists each year. Stoker says the response to the artwork has been overwhelmingly positive.
With humility, I've lost count of the number of times guests have told us that they travel the world and the hotel donaldson is the nicest hotel they've stayed. Our return rate is a strong indicator of our guests' reaction as well. Over half of our business travel is repeat guests - some have stayed more than 100 nights. We have a couple that comes to Fargo/Moorhead for fun - they've been with us 50 times.
Artwork is the primary focus of the rooms at Hotel Donaldson
So what does Karen Stoker think of the cultural scene in Fargo-Moorhead?
Those that don't know would laugh at the question, but beginning as a remote outpost on the prairie, I think you learn to dream, collaborate and create. Our symphony is over 75 years old, our three universities all have very strong art programs that add so much to our community, and then there's our performing arts school at "Bluestem Center for the Arts" that is just a jewel. I have friends who are visual artists who left and came back because of our quality of life and the impact they can have on the community. Our cultural scene is robust and dynamic. People often think the grass is greener - I like to fertilize the side I'm on.
The Hotel Donaldson is located at 101 Broadway in Fargo.