Embracing Art, History, and Community in Clarksdale
Art has always been a constant force, defying the odds and surviving the test of time. It thrives in both the best and worst of circumstances, transcending barriers of censorship, personal struggles, and societal changes. Artists persist, driven by their passion and undeniable talent. However, there is one crucial element that art requires: time.
Unfortunately, many artists today struggle to balance their creative pursuits with financial stability. They find themselves working in unrelated jobs before they can even begin to create. This reality limits their creative potential and compromises their ability to thrive. New Orleans developer Chuck Rutledge understands this struggle all too well. As the co-owner of an artist-owned boutique hotel, The Travelers Hotel, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, he recognizes the importance of providing artists with the space and time to nurture their craft.
A Historic Transformation
Located on 3rd Street, The Travelers Hotel is housed in a building with a rich history. Originally known as The Travelers Hotel, the second floor served as a stopover for railroad workers visiting Clarksdale, while the first floor functioned as the Clarksdale Printing Co. until the 1990s. After nearly three decades of vacancy, Chuck Rutledge and his partner Ann Williams invested $2.4 million into renovating the building, taking great care to preserve its historic integrity.
Today, The Travelers Hotel stands as a testament to creativity and community. Its lobby is a spacious and inviting area, featuring distressed walls, high industrial-esque ceilings, and an abundance of natural light. The carefully curated space is adorned with handmade mid-century modern furniture and showcases a stunning collection of local art. Rutledge and his sister, Ann Rutledge, personally crafted much of the furniture found in the hotel’s twenty guest rooms.
A Cooperative Approach
What sets The Travelers Hotel apart is its unique business model. The hotel is owned and operated by a cooperative consisting of nine members. Sponsored by Rutledge and Williams’ nonprofit organization, Coahoma Collective, the cooperative provides free housing and studio space to its artist-owners. In exchange, they contribute approximately twenty-five hours of work per week to either the hotel or the nonprofit’s second venture, the Collective Seed & Supply Co. general store. This model allows artists to have the time and resources they need to focus on their creative pursuits while actively participating in the revitalization of Clarksdale’s downtown area.
A Vision for Revitalization
Rutledge and Williams’ decision to establish The Travelers Hotel in Clarksdale was driven by a desire to bring new life to their hometown. Clarksdale, often referred to as the “Birthplace of the Blues,” boasts a rich cultural heritage. However, like many small towns across the South, it faces numerous challenges, including a struggling economy and a lack of opportunities for young people. Rutledge and Williams aim to address these issues by attracting creative individuals who can contribute fresh perspectives and unique skills to the community.
Their efforts go beyond merely increasing tourism. While Clarksdale’s blues music draws visitors from around the world, Rutledge and Williams understand that relying solely on tourism will not bring about substantial economic change. Instead, they strive to create sustainable businesses that can generate substantial income for locals. By fostering a vibrant artistic community, they hope to transform Clarksdale into a hub of creativity and innovation.
Art and Community Revitalization
Coahoma Collective, the nonprofit behind The Travelers Hotel, plays a vital role in driving arts-driven revitalization in downtown Clarksdale. By facilitating the creation of new businesses and activating the local streets, the collective aims to improve the overall quality of life for both residents and visitors. With their focus on attracting individuals seeking a creative lifestyle and encouraging investment in the community, Rutledge and Williams hope to establish a strong sense of local identity and stimulate economic growth.
Looking Ahead: Sunflower River Art Park
Rutledge and Williams have big plans for Clarksdale’s future. One of their most ambitious projects is the Sunflower River Art Park, set to be located at the heart of downtown. This expansive greenspace, spanning forty acres along the Sunflower River, will bring people from all walks of life together to enjoy art, music, and cultural events. The park will feature a series of art installations, walking paths, and ramps to ensure accessibility for everyone. It will serve as a place where residents and visitors can gather, share meals, enjoy performances, and experience the transformative power of art.
Expanding the Vision
Inspired by their success in Clarksdale, Rutledge and Williams are also planning to create affordable housing for artists in New Orleans. This project, similar to the model described in Catherine Lacey’s essay “A Way for Artists to Live,” will provide a nurturing environment for creatives to live and thrive. By offering affordable housing options and supporting artistic endeavors, they hope to continue making a meaningful impact in the lives of artists.
DHPL Travels – Your Gateway to Clarksdale
DHPL Travels is thrilled to showcase The Travelers Hotel in Clarksdale, Mississippi. This unique boutique hotel represents the perfect blend of art, history, and community. Whether you’re an artist seeking inspiration or a traveler looking to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Clarksdale, The Travelers Hotel is the ideal destination. Visit DHPL Travels to discover more about this remarkable hotel and begin your journey to Clarksdale today.
If You Go (once all this is over):
Afternoon Stroll: Explore the vibrant downtown area of Clarksdale, adorned with stunning public art through the “Paint the Town” program. From realistic portraits to thought-provoking murals, the streets of Clarksdale are bursting with color and creativity.
Pre-dinner Beers: Unwind at The Travelers Hotel’s inviting bar, offering a wide selection of regional and national brews. Strike up a conversation with locals and fellow travelers, and immerse yourself in the friendly atmosphere.
Dinner: Indulge in a culinary treat at the Hooker Grocer & Eatery, a cozy and unpretentious restaurant known for its delicious dishes. From mouthwatering Shrimp and Dirty Grits to creative specials, the menu offers something for everyone.
Juke Jointin’: Immerse yourself in the authentic experience of Red’s Blues Club. This legendary establishment is housed in the historic Levine’s Music Center building and hosts renowned blues musicians from around the country. Let the music envelop you as you dance the night away and savor the smoky aroma of barbecue.
Breakfast: Start your day at the Bluesberry Cafe, where you can savor a hearty breakfast while enjoying live music from Mississippi Marshall. The warm ambiance and soulful tunes create the perfect atmosphere to kickstart your morning.