How to Meet in a Museum

Author: Barbara Palmer       

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There are a few special rules for meetings and events that are held at the 21C Museum Hotel in Oklahoma City. For example, buffet tables can’t be placed right next to the wall, so that guests don’t inadvertently “splash a ladle of marinara sauce on the paintings,” said Melanie Briley, director of sales and marketing for the hotel.

That’s because the hotel is first and foremost a real museum, one of seven museum hotels owned by philanthropists and contemporary art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson. Curated exhibitions of work commissioned by the couple or drawn from their personal collection rotate throughout the museum hotels for nine month-long periods.

Brown and Wilson take a position of making art radically accessible in their hotels — exhibitions in the Oklahoma City hotel are free and open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hotel’s meeting spaces include six galleries, meaning that whiteboards mingle with paintings, photographs, sculpture, and multi-media works by leading artists.

The two also are historic preservationists, and have established their hotels in downtown locations that Briley describes as “underutilized.” The 21C Museum Hotel in Oklahoma City is in a century-old, red-brick building built by Henry Ford as an assembly plant for Model Ts — the hallways literally are wide enough to drive a car through them.

The 135-room Oklahoma City hotel is two years old, and much of their business is driven by “unofficial ambassadors who fall in love with the brand,” Briley said. Events are a one-of-a-kind experience at the hotel — there’s really nothing else like it, she said. “Clients come in and ask us to do things that they may secretly think will never happen,” she said. “We say yes — and people are really surprised and then tickled by that.”