Arts / Museums

Inside Dallas’ Sweet Tooth Hotel — How an Immersive Art Wonderland is Adapting and Changing

This World of Yarn is Like Nothing Else

BY // 04.19.21

“Intangible, A Fiber Fairytale” is a colorful, fiber-filled getaway to explore at the immersive Dallas art experience known as Sweet Tooth Hotel. Before the pandemic, visitors were encouraged to interact with the art. Now, sadly, viewers may only look but not touch.

When my friends and I made the show part of a recent girls’ weekend in Dallas, however, this small concession didn’t bother us at all. There was still so much to take in and discover. Predicting that some visitors would yearn to touch, the staff gifts everyone with a small, fluffy pom-pom to squish and keep. Our small group could probably be heard a mile away as we met each room with a collaborative “Awww. . .”

We highly recommend this unique exhibit that will make you feel like a kid again. Left to right: Estefany Sanchez, Elizabeth Moeller, Rachel Birdwell, Milca Sanchez. (Photo by Crystal Correa)
We highly recommend the “Intangible, A Fiber Fairytale” exhibit that will make you feel like a kid again. Left to right: Estefany Sanchez, Elizabeth Moeller, Rachel Birdwell, Milca Sanchez. (Photo by Crystal Correa) 

When is a hotel not a hotel? When it’s an immersive art experience. From the moment you walk up to Sweet Tooth Hotel (at 2316 Victory Park Lane), you’re transported to another world. That’s exactly what Jencey and Cole Keeton wanted when they came up with the idea for this one-of-a-kind venue. They imagined a place where emerging artists could share their experiential art.

The cutest outdoor seating outside the Sweet Tooth Hotel welcomes you.
The cutest outdoor seating at the Sweet Tooth Hotel welcomes you. (Photo by Crystal Correa)

This hook and needle wielding gang is hoping to inspire others to pick up this addictive hobby when they get back home. The show validates that crocheting and knitting aren’t just for your grandma anymore. They’re making a comeback — and they’re cool.

This is the perfect inspiration for those who have taken to fiber crafts during the pandemic. Working with yarn is meditative, after all. And once you’re through,  you have something to give or keep that you made with your own hands. Now, this source of inspiration is sticking around longer, too.

“We’re excited to announce that ‘Intangible, A Fiber Fairytale’ will be extended through the summer of this year,” Keeton says in a release. “This installation was created by a national group of female fiber artists, in partnership with Craft Yarn Council, and incorporates more than 2.5 million feet of yarn. There are 11 colorful immersive art installations to explore, and we’re so thankful to everyone who has come out to support local art.”

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All the Fiber Ladies

The show features nine talented all female yarnpreneurs: yarn-bomb extraordinaire London Kaye (Los Angeles); fiber artist Niki Dionne (Dallas); muralist and illustrator Alli Koch (Dallas); fiber artist Jackie Lawrence (Denton); installation fiber artist and yarn bomber Hannah Busekrus (Austin); crochet designer Twinkie Chan (San Francisco); textile designer Molly Sydnor (Dallas); Sally Ackerman, co-founder of Dallas Yarn Bombers (Dallas); and knit artist Joanna Lin (Dallas).

London Kaye Photo Credit TA Visuals (Photo by Timothy Alsbrooks)
London Kaye’s faucets leak so much yarn that they could fill an ocean, from “New York City” to the “Mermaid Lagoon!” (Photo by Timothy Alsbrooks)

London Kaye just wants to “brighten people’s day.” The L.A. yarn bomber has two rooms in this show. One pays homage to New York City. The other is an underwater getaway any mermaid would love.

Have an underwater mermaid experience in the room made by London Kaye. (Photo by Crystal Correa)

Under the camouflage of bright fluffy pom-poms and a claw-machine game, Niki Dionne of Dallas has hidden a deeper message. She allows the viewer to reflect on the apprehension and uncertainty a player feels against the machine. This African-American artist calls attention to the reality of inequity in a system that’s rigged against women of color.

Niki Dionne Photo Credit TA Visuals (Photo by Timothy Alsbrooks)
Niki Dionne is her name —and pom-poms are her game. (Photo by Timothy Alsbrooks)

Referred to as the “black sheep” in this yarn family, Alli K has brought her sophisticated, monochromatic floral murals to the woolly show. Latch-hooker Jackie Lawrence created large yarn-filled walls, all done by hand. The process wasn’t new for the fiber artist, but the size of the space was. The giant, vibrant panels are her way of trying to connect with something larger than herself.

“Making larger-scale work ties into that,” Lawrence says. “You’re literally being dwarfed by the work.”

Jackie2 (Photo by Timothy Alsbrooks)
Fiber artist Jackie Lawrence may be shy, but her choice of colors is not. (Photo by Timothy Alsbrooks)

Hannah Busekrus from Austin is a graphic designer by trade and uses those skills to add a third dimension to her 2-D art. Her latest passion, tufting, was her tool of choice to bring a cat and mouse to life. Cali pattern designer Twinkie Chan makes food-inspired crochet and cute amigurumi. In her installation, you will find more than 200 bakery-inspired/cafe faves. From donuts to cakes to ice cream, oh my!

Elizabeth Moeller sits next to her idol Twinkie Chan’s crocheted tiered cake that looks good enough to eat. (Photo by Timothy Alsbrooks)
Elizabeth Moeller in a cafe bakery inspired themed room next to her idol Twinkie Chan’s crocheted tiered cake that looks good enough to eat. (Photo by Crystal Correa)

Molly Sydnor’s take on the show was to create tactile memories. By weaving tapestries to cover almost every surface, her installation plays with themes of childhood and memory. Her playground jogs the mind with optical and textural illusions ranging from the very innocent to adult-like content.

All hard surfaces are up for grabs. Come in for a swing like Rachel Birdwell is here at Molly Sydnor's "Temporal Jungle." (Photo by Crystal Correa)
All hard surfaces are up for grabs. Come in for a swing like Rachel Birdwell is inside Molly Sydnor’s “Temporal Jungle.” (Photo by Crystal Correa)

Sally Ackerman emerged from her street yarn-bombing cocoon to make an Enchanted Passage filled with life-size crocheted and knitted butterflies and flowers. She’s also the organizer of the Dallas Yarn Bombers, a group that gathers to make large yarn installations.

Joanna Lin is a multifaceted maker who dabbles in graphic design, tampon design, motion graphics animation, artist assistance and freelance design. Her humorous products are a mixture of functional and nonfunctional objects.

TAV05831 (Photo by Timothy Alsbrooks)
Eat your cotton candy and drink it, too. (Photo by Timothy Alsbrooks)

Delicious Enough to Eat

So, you’ve enjoyed your hour-long tour, seen tons of almost good-enough to-eat crocheted food, and are minutes away from hangry. Don’t worry, Dallas’ ever-growing Victory Park neighborhood has you covered. There are a lot of great restaurants within walking distance.

The Sweet Tooth Hotel even has a Cereal Bar of its own with cocktails. The signature drink is made with champagne, vodka and topped with a sugar rim and cotton candy. Don’t be fooled: These sweet drinks pack a punch. Pink and floral outdoor seating with a view is available.

Sweet Tooth Hotel has made several changes in order to reopen to the public. To make your visit easy, be sure to arrive 30 minutes early. There’s paid parking close to the building. Have tickets downloaded and ready to scan makes for a fast and contact-less entry. Staff is limiting entry to 10 guests at a time, and individual groups are staggered for entry. Bring your mask or buy one like mine at the gift shop made by Jencey Keeton’s mom. A limited number of tickets are sold every month, with weekends being especially popular.

We were very happy with how well our T-shirt color choice blended in with the gallery and our sweet drinks. Estefany Sanchez, Rachel Birdwell, Elizabeth Pascoe, Crystal Correa, Milca Sanchez (Photo by Estefany Sanchez)

Future Sweets and Treats

As far as future exhibits go, the Sweet Tooth Hotel isn’t quite ready to let go of Joanna Lin aka Soft Suprise. Sources say a motel is making an appearance in the near future, so stay tuned for more.

Be sure to bring a camera because Instagram-worthy picture opportunities abound. This current exhibit will run through the end of June.

General admission tickets to Sweet Tooth Hotel run $20; students, senior citizens and military, $17; children 2 to 12 years old, $15; kids under the age of 2 are free. You can book tickets in advance here.

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