Whether you are a studied art aficionado or a casual fan, these 10 destinations overflow with public art, art festivals, art tours, and art galleries and museums to feed your art-loving soul.
Columbia, South Carolina
When arriving in Columbia, set the GPS for The Vista, a city district packed with public art. In addition to the art found at every corner, there are more than a dozen galleries, showcasing creative works by local, regional and international artists. Visitors also can follow the city’s public art driving tour. Keep your eyes peeled everywhere you go for murals, sculptures, monuments and other works across Columbia.
Fargo, North Dakota
While many may think of Fargo as a snowy destination — which it certainly is during the winter — this northern city also boasts a rich relationship with art, evidenced in the artwork found splashed across everything from electrical boxes to warehouse walls. Whether posing with Bob Dylan or getting your angel wings, there’s no shortage of opportunities to become one with the interactive murals in Fargo. To get started, take along this handy map of some of the city’s most popular murals.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids showcases sculptures and artwork throughout the city, most notably La Grande Vitesse, a 42-ton sculpture that serves as an iconic photo backdrop for visitors and residents of this Michigan city. When in downtown, look for the five Artposts, miniature art galleries organized by the Avenue for the Arts. Check out such notable museums as the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.
This college town provides many opportunities for art enthusiasts of all ages. It begins with the Hattiesburg Public Art Trail that is filled with more than 40 murals, sculptures and hand-painted utility boxes. In downtown, head to the Hattiesburg Pocket Museum, a tiny art museum surrounded by murals, 3-D installations and more. For more art to love, check out the Sarah Gillespie Collection, featuring more than 600 works, including artists from every part of Mississippi. There’s also the Lucile Parker Gallery on the campus of William Carey University.
Kansas City, Missouri
Trying to determine where to start when it comes to exploring art in Kansas City is a real challenge. Our recommendation is to begin at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which showcases a collection of more than 42,000 pieces, with some dating more than 5,000 years old. Next, take a stroll through the Crossroads Art District in downtown, where you’ll find galleries galore, plus gorgeous murals along the way. A great time to check the arts district is the first Friday of every month, when the district shows off artwork, street performers, food trucks and more.
While Memphis has long been known for its music and food scenes (deservedly so), the city also has its fair share of notable public art. You’ll find plenty of murals and sculptures, from downtown to Soulsville and beyond. However, there’s much more to see. For instance, at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens, you can peruse European and American Impressionist paintings, along with a mix of contemporary pieces. A special treat is the fine metalwork at the National Ornamental Metal Museum, the “only institution of its kind in North America.”
Monterey County, California
While the Pacific Ocean is quite captivating, Monterey County offers plenty of murals that offer quite the view. You can start with “Carmel Shell” in Carmel-by-the-Sea, before heading out on the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail, where you’ll discover more murals. In Sand City, amidst the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, nine new murals were added to the public art scene. The town also has many art galleries, where you can view a variety of regional artwork.
When visiting downtown Norfolk, visitors don’t have to go far to find public art. The city’s NEON District is home to murals and sculptures, which guests can tour with a guide or on their own. There also are more than 50 pieces of public art throughout the city, so you’ll find some at every turn. These include both individual sculptures and the many colorful “mermaids” scattered throughout the city. You can view some of the most notable glass art collections at the Glass Light Hotel & Gallery, the Chrysler Museum of Art and The Perry Glass Studio.
Given Arizona’s wide-open spaces, it’s not surprising that Phoenix also is home to some larger-than-life murals. A great place for viewing murals is Roosevelt Row, the city’s walkable arts district, with a mural on almost every corner. A good starting point is the 1-1/2 Street Mural Project, next to The Churchill, where street art reigns. Roosevelt Row also is home to the city’s First Friday Art Walk, a self-guided art walk in which visitors can pop into various galleries, check out different art installations and enjoy live music along the way. Plenty of great places to eat too!
This small town in the Shenandoah Valley offers a collection of contemporary murals throughout downtown, along with a museum of contemporary arts and a film collaborative. Specifically, the Staufferstadt Mural Project brings in artists from around the globe to add to the town’s mural collection. Taking a stroll through downtown Strasburg provides a look at these works of art at your leisure.