10 Underrated Cities for Art Lovers
Discover creative, offbeat and inspiring art scenes across the country.
Whether you want to browse contemporary exhibitions or pop into cutting-edge galleries, there's a vibrant arts city for you. (Getty Images).
If you consider yourself an art aficionado, you've probably made the pilgrimage to iconic cities such as New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. But if you're looking for an under-the-radar art mecca where you can pop into tucked-away museums and galleries and discover a mix of classic and modern displays, these little-known cultural epicenters feature plenty of celebrated collections. To explore a lesser-visited locale, head to these diverse and up-and-coming arts cities.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
When you picture Puerto Rico, beautiful beaches likely come to mind. But thanks to the city's rich Taíno, Caribbean, and North American heritage, you'll also find a thriving arts scene. Take the Puerto Rico Museum of Art, which houses a collection of Puerto Rican art dating back to the 17th century, or the Puerto Rico Museum of Contemporary Art, which features modern art, including paintings, sculptures and mixed media. In Old San Juan, you'll also find the National Gallery, which houses the largest collection of José Campeche paintings and artworks by Francisco Oller and his disciples.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe may feel like a small town, but with more than 250 galleries, the city offers the third-largest art market in the country. Take a walk down Canyon Road and you'll find some 100 galleries featuring contemporary paintings, traditional Native American weavings, ceramics, jewelry and more. The mile-long street also has bragging rights for having the highest concentration of art galleries in the nation. You'll find the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and more.
In Cincinnati, you'll find plenty of art galleries along with 102 murals that relay the history and culture of the city. Plus, the Cincinnati Art Museum showcases a robust collect, covering more than 65,000 works encompassing 6,000 years. And for modern art enthusiasts, the Contemporary Arts Center is the place to go. Peruse the art of well-known artists like Ugo Rondinone and Glenn Brown. Afterward, step into the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and be prepared for a stirring and eye-opening exhibit on slavery and civil rights that you won't soon forget.
You may associate Detroit with the automobile industry, but Motor City is no stranger to art. Over the last couple of years there's been an art boom of sorts. The Z Garage in downtown Detroit features murals from 27 artists across the country and the Dlectricity, a nighttime festival of art featuring local, national and international artists draws 75,000 people to Detroit for the two-day event. And last year, Detroit's Eastern Market held the first Murals in the Market event, which brought 40 new artists to paint murals in the neighborhood.
Greenville, South Carolina
South Carolina may be world-renowned for its mouthwatering barbecue, but its flourishing art scene has emerged on the art aficionado's map, with more than 70 works featured as part of Greenville's Arts in Public Places initiative. An "Orbital Trio" serves as the anchor of North Main Street downtown at NOMA Square, while nearby, you'll find "Octo 2," a kinetic, wind-powered stainless steel sculpture made up of linked stainless shapes rotating around a circular axis. Plus, there are nearly 50 museums and galleries across the city, including the largest Andrew Wyeth watercolor collection in the world at the Greenville County Museum of Art. And a number of art-focused events take place regularly, including Art in the Park and Greenville's signature event, Artisphere, a nationally recognized art festival.
Cape Coral, Florida
In Cape Coral, you'll find Cultural Park Theater, a fine arts center that houses the Cultural Park Theatre Company, the Cape Coral Arts League, the Cape Coral Historical Museum and the Cape Coral Council for Arts and Humanities. This community space rotates fine arts exhibitions, classes and special events. And the annual Cape Coral Festival of Arts each January is one of the city's premier events, with more than 100,000 people and hundreds of artists flocking to South Cape Coral for the two-day event. What's more, the Westin Cape Coral Resort At Marina Village is into the art scene with on-site group painting classes on the property's lawn.
This tiny town of 10,000 is home to the Whitney Western Art Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, along with numerous galleries and stores. The Whitney Western Art Museum is one of five museums under the roof of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, all which include world-class art. Other museums include the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Plains Indian Museum, the Draper Natural History Museum and the Cody Firearms Museum. Plus, many of the town's most famous art pieces come with an interesting and quirky backstory. Be sure to check out the galleries, as well as the Cody Mural Historical Site and Pioneer Museum.
Des Moines, Iowa
How much do you know about Des Moines? This capital city has a 28-piece sculpture park smack dab in the heart of downtown, along with plenty of public art displays throughout greater Des Moines. Plus, many local restaurants display local artists works on the side of their buildings or on their walls. Standout art spots include the Des Moines Social Club, the Moberg Gallery, the Des Moines Art Center and Artisan Gallery 218. Plus, the popular annual Des Moines Arts Festival, which includes live music, performing arts and visual arts, has received prestigious accolades.
While you may expect to find top-notch art in Seattle, Bellevue offers an is flourishing arts scene in its own right, with a world-class museum, one of the oldest art fairs in the country and nearly 130 public art displays scattered throughout the city. The Bellevue Arts Museum is a leading destination in the Pacific Northwest and features world-renowned contemporary art and the BAM ARTSfair, a three-day event that showcases handmade crafts and art from more than 300 artists. What's more, Bellwether Exhibition and Art Walk features installations from local and international artists across downtown.
Cleveland is getting increasing acclaim from critics for its up-and-coming arts scene. The Museum of Contemporary Art is where you'll find famous modern art works on display. And the Transformer Station Contemporary Art Space, a former 1924 railroad station turned museum, is a local favorite for its contemporary art displays and photography exhibits. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Museum of Art recently celebrated its 100th year and there's much buzz about the recently opened Hilton Cleveland Downtown, which houses some of the most unique locally curated art in the city. Inside the hotel, you'll find a photo mosaic mural composed of 2,800 selfies by Clevelanders that, from afar, depicts the Cleveland skyline.
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Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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