A newly opened hotel in downtown Clarksdale, Miss. aims to serve as a hub for the arts and help revitalize the small Delta town – which bills itself as the birthplace of the blues – and surrounding Coahoma County, where more than 36 percent of the residents live in poverty.
The 20-room Travelers Hotel is an artist-run cooperative business owned by Coahoma Collective, a nonprofit organization that supports the arts and community development, according to Mississippi Today. Rooms can be booked for as little as $115, and revenue from the hotel will be used to fund Coahoma Collective’s arts programming.
A long list of blues music legends have called Clarksdale home, including Son House, John Lee Hooker, Ike Turner, Sam Cooke, Muddy Waters, Junior Parker, and others. Legend holds that blues great Robert Johnson himself (pictured above) sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his prodigious talent just outside the town. Clarksdale and the surrounding area have long been a magnet for rock musicians ranging from Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin to Tom Waits and Elvis Costello. The city is also home to actor Morgan Freeman’s famous Ground Zero Blues Club, the Delta Blues Museum and the annual Juke Joint Festival.
The Travelers Hotel will provide high-end lodging for tourists interested in Clarksdale’s blues-steeped culture. Artists can display their work in the hotel, create exhibitions and become part owners in the hotel, while helping attract tourists and growing the local economy. The facility will host community gatherings and entertainment nights as well.
Coahoma Collective also operates the Collective Seed and Supply Co., a general store in Clarksdale. Its co-op members work two to three days a week at the store and the hotel, and artists receive a stipend and free room and board in a living space above the store. A plan is under development to let traveling artists stay in the hotel for free in exchange for donated artwork.
Charles Coleman, one of the co-op member/artists and community engagement director of Coahoma Collective, told Mississippi Today that the hotel will give visitors a chance “to experience the true Clarksdale culture (and) vibes.” The hotel features hand-built furniture and an interior reminiscent of the 1920s, when the building that houses the hotel was built.
“We know it’s a boutique-ish-style hotel, so we’ll be able to see taxpayer dollars boost the economy,” Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy told Mississippi Today. “It’s just a perfect amenity that couples all (the) downtown activities from blues (to) tourism” as well as the newly opened Third Street Bistro restaurant located next door and other soon-to-open eateries.
Jon Levingston, executive director of the Clarksdale/Coahoma County Chamber of Commerce, said the facility has “contributed to the development of downtown. The hotel possesses a truly cool and hip vibe, creatively and comfortably decorated. I welcome them as a great addition to our community and appreciate how much they will contribute to our local economy.”