In New Orleans, an Art Break Hotel

The Four Percent


This article is part of our latest Design special report, which is about expanding the possibilities of your home.

Don’t call Travelers New Orleans a bed-and-breakfast.

For one thing, there’s no breakfast (for now, anyway). For another, the phrase “conjures images of lace curtains and doilies,” said Ann Williams, who, with her mate, Chuck Rutledge, and a few other partners opened the nine-room, frippery-free inn in the Lower Garden District in April.

Ms. Williams said she preferred to call Travelers New Orleans “an artist-run hospitality venture.” The lodging is overseen by resident artists, who live on the building’s third floor. In exchange for their work (around 20 hours a week) on front-of-the-house jobs like turning beds and advising guests about local attractions, they receive a furnished room, utilities, studio space and an hourly fee that usually adds up to about $800 a month.

They also receive time: to paint, write, sculpt, bake or pursue whatever their calling is.

Inspired by the collectively owned and operated 3B, a bed-and-breakfast in Brooklyn, which closed in 2016 following a change in the building’s ownership, Travelers New Orleans is the second establishment Mr. Rutledge and his partners have created with artists running the show. Their first, also called Travelers, opened two years ago in Clarksdale, Miss., where Mr. Rutledge lives and works as a developer.

The design is just a starting point, according to Mr. Tate, who is also a partner in the venture. “I like the idea that the spaces accumulate material,” he said. There is room for improvisation, and if anything needs to be altered, he isn’t far away: His nine-person studio works out of the building’s ground-floor commercial space.

The group was given a budget of about $19,000 to design their own quarters. The furnishings came from thrift stores, estate sales, Facebook Marketplace and Renaissance Interiors, a consignment business in Metairie, La. Mr. Babington added his own art to the living room: a self-portrait rendered in rust on an old Mercedes hood. The furnishings will remain after the residencies have ended, in a year or more.

“Any artist with a bag full of clothes can walk in the door,” said Shana Betz, a filmmaker who is married to Mr. Babington. The couple moved into Travelers with their 3-year-old daughter in March after an itinerant year. Now they and another tenant, Hannah Richter, a writer, are poised to become co-owners of the limited liability company that manages the hotel. The property will remain under the ownership of Mr. Rutledge and his partners.

They hope that Travelers will be a place to help artists reclaim time. Ms. Betz is using hers to work on a television pilot. Mr. Babington said he was looking forward to experimenting with his alarming media in a dedicated studio again.

“Having a big space vastly changes what you’re able to do,” he said. (The owners have leased a property down the street for the artists to use.)

Ms. Richter plans to use her residence to develop a writing portfolio in order to apply to an MFA program. Describing the appeal of Travelers, she went straight to Virginia Woolf: “This is a room of my own where I can live and work without too much distraction.”


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