1. Liquid Assets Under California's Hearst Castle
Hidden beneath the tennis court at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, this shimmering, Olympic-size indoor pool was designed—along with the other structures on William Randolph Hearst’s 250-acre oceanfront estate—by Julia Morgan, California’s first female architect. Bedecked with cobalt-and-gold Venetian tile mosaics, marble ladders and alabaster lanterns, the chamber, built in the early 1930s, introduced art deco flourishes to the traditional Roman bath—with a sheer opulence that attracted guests from Greta Garbo to Winston Churchill. The 165-room castle, originally called La Cuesta Encantada, or the Enchanted Hill, was completed just three years before Hearst’s death in 1951, and became a California State Park in 1954. Today, the newspaper baron’s hilltop retreat, which served as inspiration for the Citizen Kane estate, is open to the public for tours—and starting this spring, after a multiyear, $5.4 million restoration, the grand outdoor Neptune Pool will be on view as well. The 1936 Greek Revival masterpiece has played a starring role in everything from Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus to Lady Gaga music videos.
2. Hotel Suites Designed Specifically for—and by—Songwriters in Nashville
Dierks Bentley moved to Nashville in the nineties, where he played dive bars and wrote music in a run-down old firehouse. “There was nothing in there except a couple of rooms with metal folding chairs and a table,” says the 14-time Grammy nominee. “But there was magic in there.” Now Bentley is hoping to bring that same charm to Nashville’s historic Hutton Hotel, where he and One Direction’s Ryan Tedder each designed custom writer’s rooms for travelers and local artists needing space to create. The upgrade was part of a six-month, seven-figure renovation unveiled at the end of 2017. Bentley’s aesthetic was informed by his southwestern roots, and his signature suite features Navajo carpets, clay Saltillo tiles, leather chairs—as soft and worn-in as an old baseball glove—plus custom Martin guitars and a closet that doubles as a soundproof vocal booth. Tedder (who wrote “Rumor Has It” with Adele) went the other way; his escape was influenced by industrial lofts and features stark, natural light shining on a Gibson piano and a desk sourced from a local antique shop—a nod to Music City’s legacy as a mecca for songwriters. For Bentley, what’s more important than decor is “the energy of the room.” (Insert praying hands emoji.) Whether you’re a solo artist or your entourage rolls deep, fear not—both writer’s rooms accommodate up to 15 people. —By Mickey Rapkin
3. Singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane Makes Art Out of Amtrak
The day after our most recent presidential election, songwriter Gabriel Kahane set out on a cross-country listening tour aboard Amtrak, hoping to find out whether the country was really as divided as it seemed. Over two weeks and nearly 9,000 miles, Brooklyn’s Kahane—whose vibe is somewhere between classical music and pop soothsayer—broke bread with schoolteachers, retirees, nuclear engineers, climate change skeptics, two ultramarathoners, a widow experimenting with online dating and some Amish-like folk known as the Old Order German Baptist Brethren. Those often very-personal conversations inspired a concept album, 8980: Book of Travelers (out this spring), and a national tour that mines the heart from the heartland like some auditory update of Robert Frank’s seminal photo album The Americans. As Kahane sings: “Is difference only distance from the people I don’t know?” On February 19, Kahane will be performing Bright and Fair, an orchestral piece adapted from the material, at Carnegie Hall with the young musicians of Ensemble Connect. —MR
4. Mr. Chow and the Art of the Meal
Los Angeles—Fifty years ago, Michael Chow founded his eponymous restaurant empire with a few simple ingredients: hand-pulled noodles, Beijing duck, white tablecloths, and a bottomless helping of personality. A painter and architect before turning restaurateur, Chow cultivated a decadent scene at his locations in New York, L.A. and London, where rock stars, models and celebrities mixed in equal measure with some of the late 20th century’s most important artists. Many of those latter patrons made a habit of leaving the magnetic proprietor generous tips, including custom dishware by Cy Twombly, silkscreens by Andy Warhol, portraits of Chow by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Helmut Newton, Julian Schnabel and Keith Haring, and a pair of matchbooks designed by Ed Ruscha and David Hockney. Those treasures are collected for the first time in Mr. Chow: 50 Years, an anthology out in February. The secret to commissioning so many giants of contemporary art, Chow admits, was remarkably simple: They ate for free.
5. A Triple Header from Simone Leigh
Boston—Sculptural forms like Untitled, IBEJI I, 2017, which explore themes of history, race, gender and identity, won Brooklyn-based artist Simone Leigh the 2017 Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize from the Studio Museum in Harlem (it comes with $50,000). A selection of her work can currently be seen at MassArt through March.
6. Moveable Feasts from Outstanding in the Field
Palm Springs—When Jim Denevan was head chef at Santa Cruz’s Gabriella Cafe, he came up with a radical riff on its farm-to-table fare: bring the table to the farm. Nearly 20 years later, his pop-up dinner party series, Outstanding in the Field, has seated thousands of guests in the stunning settings where their meals were sourced, from the riverbanks of the Georgia Lowcountry and an oyster farm on Puget Sound to this hilltop pasture outside Houston, Texas. Up next is a 200-guest dinner on a citrus ranch in Palm Springs, California. One constant is the pantry: a vintage 1950s tour bus.
7. The Gilty Pleasures of the McFerrin Fabergé Collection
Houston—The imperial-size 1902 Kelch Rocaille Egg is made of gold, platinum, rose cut diamonds and translucent green enamel. It’s one of 600 pieces that make up the McFerrin Fabergé Collection at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the largest private collection of Fabergé in the world, now on display in a new purpose-built gallery.
8. She’s All Hat
Atlanta—On display at Jackson Fine Art gallery through March, the stunning photography of Minnesota native Erik Madigan Heck—including Muse, Old Future, pictured here—collapses the categories of fashion, painting and classical portraiture.