The hotel’s Palm Avenue entrance.

Image: Gene Pollux

With its sexy rooftop bar, art-filled lobby and a ballroom that’s already booked dozens of events for the coming social season, the Art Ovation Hotel is creating buzz on a corner of downtown that has been vacant for years.

Part of Autograph Collections Hotels, a group of independently owned luxury hotels under the Marriott International umbrella, the 162-room boutique hotel is directly across Cocoanut Avenue from bustling, multivenue Florida Studio Theatre and a quick stroll to the Sarasota Opera House.

Hotel management wisely married the hotel to Sarasota’s vibrant arts community. A “culture curator” gives tours of the artwork exhibited around the hotel, and the public can pop into a studio space in the lobby to watch local visual artists at work. Jazz groups and solo musicians perform regularly in the lobby, and the hotel hosts “Uke on the Roof” jam sessions for area ukulele players. Guests can explore their own creativity with the musical instrument found in each room, along with a leather-bound sketchbook; the first drawing is by a Ringling College of Art and Design student. The art school is partnering with the hotel to bring guests to the RCAD campus for exhibit openings and lectures, and students in the school’s new creative writing program will host poetry and short story readings at the hotel.

The Art Ovation Hotel opens in the middle of a hotel boom that’s brought eight new hotels to Sarasota since 2016, with an additional four expected to be completed by the end of 2018. Another four are in the permitting process.

Will the emphasis on arts play? Yes, says Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota—not only here but nationally. “The Art Ovation’s embrace of our community’s arts and culture,” she says, “makes it stand out from the numerous other hotels opening across the U.S.”

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