The Betsy Hotel: The SoBe Boutique Is Doling Out Culture, Hospitality

Written By Josie Gulliksen
April 25, 2016 at 1:50 PM

The Betsy Hotel: The SoBe Boutique Is Doling Out Culture, Hospitality

The Betsy Hotel on South Beach is more than just a lovely oceanfront hotel on famed Ocean Drive, it’s also home to the PACE (Philanthropy, Arts, Culture and Education) Program, the only one of its kind.

On any given day, visitors to The Betsy-South Beach may encounter an event that celebrates world culture, ranging from salons for an intimate audience of 12 with a visiting artist, and those that have included novelist Amy Tan and flutist Eugenia Zukerman. Or perhaps singers from the Florida Grand Opera performing for 100 people. They even have a monthly pet adoption program for a local animal shelter. There are also libraries in every room and bookmarks on the pillows at night.

“We share the fruits of our success by nurturing community; we build community by embracing the interests and values shared by good people everywhere,” said Deborah Briggs, vice president for Philanthropy and Community at The Betsy. “Partnership is key to this program, so working with others to bring shared resources to bear allows our partners and us to accomplish our goals together.”

Those partnerships happen in a variety of ways from conventional to unexpected: For example, Robert Zuckerman, an artist who contacted them after reading an article in the Miami Herald. What ensued is now a deep collaborative relationship resulting in his artworks currently on display at their National Poetry Month Exhibition “Portraits of Poets.”

Speaking of National Poetry Month, The Betsy has been the host hotel for the O, Miami Poetry Festival since its inception in 2011. Briggs says they have a deep respect for founder Scott Cunningham and his team. This year’s full slate of poetry-related events included a Fireside Chat with the Great American Poet Gerald Stern; the aforementioned new exhibition; release of a bilingual chapter book The Cave Canem Reading; and poetry programming for varied audiences such as Le Petite Poets, Soapbox Poetry, and Yiddish Poetry Salon.

The Writer’s Room at The Betsy Hotel (Courtesy of The Betsy Hotel website)

The inspiration behind the PACE programming was a combination of Miami’s rich creative community and Briggs’ family’s own existing commitment to philanthropic work. “It is what inspired us to champion Betsy’s concept for PACE right out of the gate, when we re-opened our doors in 2009 after a floor-to-ceiling restoration,” said Briggs.

For the first year, they spent a good deal of time meeting with colleagues in the charitable and service communities to delineate the areas they could best enhance. Some of those early partners are still with them today while other partners they met in the years that followed.

In the seven years PACE has existed, they have grown the program organically, with hundreds of charitable partners. There are also a host of yearly anchor programs they’ve developed.

Those include:

Season of Gratitude – the period that runs from Veterans Day to Valentine’s Day, when they embrace all cultures and traditions through creative expressions.

Escribe Aqui/Write Here – an Ibero-American Literary Festival that runs in tandem with National Hispanic Heritage Month, funded for its second year by the 2015 Knight Foundation Arts Challenge Program.

TransArt – honoring the artistic voices of transgender writers, filmmakers, performers, and visual artists with lead partners TransMiami, Unity Coalition, Reading Queer, and Miami Beach LGBT Visitor’s Center.

Overture to Overtown – a 21-day jazz festival held in March showcasing Miami’s best and brightest jazz musicians.

And in 2012 they opened The Writer’s Room, which offers emerging writers, artists, and thought leaders a space to create, develop their craft, and share their work through community programs.

The plan for Fall 2016 is to create a single unified property with the adjacent historic Carlton Hotel, creating room for more PACE programming throughout the entire hotel experience.

To learn about all The Betsy’s cultural programming, visit


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