There are plenty of “boutique” hotels in South Beach, but The Betsy is the boutique hotel that is also an art gallery and literary salon. And unlike those boutique hotels that host exhibits and parties during Art Basel and Art Week Miami, the Betsy makes the arts a focus year-round.
Owner Jonathan Plutzik said there are two reasons for this emphasis:
“First, our family has always cared deeply about the arts. My father was a poet and, although he died relatively young, the influence was significant. My mother always had the view that creativity and the arts trump everything else... It’s very much in our DNA,” he explained. “The second piece of the puzzle is the brand of Miami Beach. It’s all about sparkly, shiny things — all of that is true — but that only describes 50 percent of why Miami Beach is special. It’s actually filled with a surprising number of interesting and interested people who care about the arts.”
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Plutzik, a retired Wall Street banker, jumped at the opportunity to plant his flag in Miami Beach and purchased the Betsy, an Ocean Drive landmark since 1942. The hotel had been host to many historic events over the decades and got a huge boost as the location for a 1985 photo shoot for fashion designer Calvin Klein, beginning the golden era for the neighboring Art Deco district.
As part of a major renovation in 2009, Plutzik sought to capitalize on the revitalized art scene in Miami: “In addition to ensuring a luxurious experience, we asked if it was possible to bring these interests into the hotel environment.” Plutzik’s guiding philosophy was to incorporate PACE (philanthropy, arts, culture, education) principles into the design and activities at the hotel, and his sister, Deborah Briggs, a conservatory-trained musician, took on the role of vice president, responsible for programming hundreds of concerts, art exhibits, literary and cultural events each year.
The hotel hosts a writer-in-residence program, welcoming poets and authors at all stages of their careers for free stays. More than 450, including Pulitzer Prize winners and U.S. poet laureates, have called the hotel home for a week.
The hotel’s new restaurant, Poeti, opening during Art Basel, will incorporate the words of 13 local poets into the design, creating a public art experience, and an adjoining property will soon increase the exhibit and event space.
And, of course, the hotel will host several special exhibitions — 24/7 — during Art Basel, as well as a new collaboration with the famed Fridge Art Fair, “Mini-Fridge.”
“In so many ways it’s exceeded our expectations, especially in how much has grown out of the vast number of partnerships we have with local institutions — both big and small — who share this enthusiasm,” said Plutzik.
For more information about art events at The Betsy South Beach and reservations, go to TheBetsyHotel.com.