Contributor

Steve Wilson

CEO of 21c Museum Hotel, Hermitage Grand Gala host, passionate contemporary art collector/world traveler, avid combined driving competitor

Steve Wilson has found success by using his passion and intuition as a guide in preservation, investing, collecting contemporary art and farming. A native Kentuckian, Wilson actively pursues community development projects aimed at revitalizing urban, cultural and architectural landscapes, and offering alternatives to suburban sprawl. <br /> <br /> Wilson and his wife Laura Lee Brown are the founders and creative force behind 21c Museum Hotels, the award-winning boutique hotel and restaurant group. With the goals of engaging the public with contemporary art in a new way, and contributing to the revitalization of Louisville’s cultural center, they opened 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Louisville in 2006. They converted five vacant buildings into a contemporary art museum accessible to the public free of charge, 365 days a year, and combined it with Louisville’s first boutique hotel. 21c would create both an economic driver for the community and an oasis where art challenges, amuses, stimulates conversation, and provokes new ideas. Much more than just a place to spend the night, 21c is an inventive union of genuine hospitality, careful design and culinary creativity — all anchored by a contemporary art museum with thought-provoking exhibitions, interactive site specific art installations and a full roster of cultural programming.<br /> <br /> The couple never imagined expanding 21c into new markets, but opportunities for growth followed the success of the Louisville property. Brown and Wilson founded 21c Museum Hotels LLC in 2007 to oversee the expansion and management of 21c nationally. 21c currently operates hotels in Louisville, KY; Cincinnati, OH; Bentonville, AR and Durham, NC. Hotels are under construction in Lexington, KY and Oklahoma City, OK. Projects are under development in Kansas City, MO, Nashville, TN and Indianapolis, IN. The company is equally focused on creating unique, chef-driven restaurants that are as much a part of the community as the hotel. Currently, 21c operates a diverse portfolio of restaurants including Proof on Main, located in 21c Louisville; Metropole, located in 21c Cincinnati; The Hive, located in 21c Bentonville; Counting House located at 21c Durham and Garage Bar in Louisville, KY. <br /> <br /> In 2011, Brown and Wilson led a group of investors to purchase Whiskey Row, a collection of buildings constructed between 1852 and 1905, next to downtown Louisville’s YUM! Arena. The buildings once housed a variety of whiskey producers and merchants, and were on a list of Louisville’s Most Endangered Historic Places. These buildings not only represent an important part of the city’s history, but they provide a vital link between the east and west ends of downtown. <br /> <br /> Brown and Wilson also focus on protecting and preserving the farmland of Kentucky. They were instrumental in safeguarding nearly 2,000 acres of Kentucky farm land from development and co-founded Oldham Ahead, a land conservancy group. Their 1,000 acre Woodland Farm is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to the couple’s sustainable bison operation, Kentucky Bison Company. They also saved famed Kentucky thoroughbred operation Hermitage Farm from development. They continue to operate the thoroughbred operation in addition to a Sport Horse training facility and events venue at the property’s historic Main House.<br /> <br /> Wilson attended Kentucky’s Murray State University and went on to work for the administrations of four Kentucky governors. He is also very active in civic affairs as well as the national arts community. Among other activities, he is currently serving on both the Kentucky Horse Park Board and the University Of Louisville Board Of Trustees. He is a past President of the National Bison Association, and retired member of the Kentucky State Fair Board and Speed Museum. He is a member of the National Committee of the Whitney Museum in New York and recently started a term on the United States Equestrian Foundation Advisory Committee.

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