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21c opens Metropole on Walnut, shares art

A bright, smiling face—it's electric, really—greets diners at today's opening of Metropole on Walnut, the 21c Museum Hotel restaurant downtown.

The art installation, created by New York-based Sanford Biggers, serves as a cultural tease for the more than 8,000 square feet of exhibit space set to open with the 21c before the end of the year.

"We have eight site-specific commissions that are in various stages of being installed," says Molly Swyers, SVP of design and communications for 21c Museum Hotels. The Cincinnati location is the company's second site, with a flagship in Louisville and a third site slated to open next year in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The boutique hotel serves as a free museum open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, Swyers says. Though the iconic 21c penguin sculptures (red in Louisville, yellow in Cincinnati) will remain on-site, curated exhibits within the museum hotel will change regularly.  "On any given visit, you'll see something different or new."

Guests won't even have to enter the 21c to experience the art. Last week, workers began installing a sound installation by Austrian artist Werner Reiterer; it's the same one that used to hang outside 21c's Louisville restaurant, Proof on Main.

"There's a trigger for chandelier inside the hotel," Swyers says."It's been adjusted some and we had to do some engineering around constructing the sidewalk to support it."

The opening of the 21c isn't just a boon for art lovers and foodies. Swyers says the company hired 160 employees property-wide, including a mix of 21c-seasoned pros from Louisville and newcomers from Cincinnati. "You have a good mix of people who have been with 21c for some time and people who are just joining the team," she says.

Metropole chef Michael Paley is one of the Louisville transplants, as is the site's food and beverage manager.

"I'm excited just to open the doors and see people's reactions to the space," says Swyers, who has been working on the project for two years.

As she plans the full opening in the next few weeks, she notes that 21c's historic predecessor, the Metropole Hotel, opened its doors on New Year's Eve in 1912. "It's exciting to make this a public space again, and it's nice to be inviting the public back in."

Follow 21c and Metropole on Walnut on Facebook to find out more about the opening, enter a yellow-penguin-spotting contest and sign up for regular email updates.

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter.

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