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Top 25 Small Cities for Art

May 2011 | BY | Issue 76, Summer 2011

The top 25 small cities for art for 2011 are:

1. Asheville, N.C.

A rendering of the expanded Asheville Art Museum. Credit: Courtesy of the Asheville Art Museum

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville offers the best of both worlds: breathtaking scenic beauty and a population that values creativity and work made by hand. “Asheville is funky, eclectic and rooted in generations of homespun crafts inspired by the surrounding mountain beauty,” says reader Dan Ward, of Weaverville, N.C. “The mountains make us whimsical, and whimsy fuels creativity.”

What’s New?

The renowned Asheville Art Museum has plans to double its size, with a groundbreaking anticipated for 2012. The expansion will hold its ever increasing collection—with the permanent collection exhibition space growing by 70 percent and a special changing exhibition space that will double.

Up and Coming

This summer three venues are individually hosting wood art exhibits, creating a “woodturning trifecta” for collectors. Blue Spiral 1 Gallery will feature a group exhibition with more than a dozen Southern woodworkers July 1 through Sept. 30. Grovewood Gallery will feature 19 woodturning artists from all over the U.S. July 1 through Oct. 2. And the North Carolina Arboretum is hosting an international exhibit of 45 of the world’s most outstanding wood artists until Sept. 5.

The Bele Chere Festival, one of the Southeast’s largest free outdoor festivals and a local favorite, stages its 33rd annual event in downtown Asheville July 29-31, with nearly 200,000 people expected to attend.

2. Santa Fe, N.M.

The Intuit Show of Folk and Outsider Art has partnered with SOFA WEST to showcase work by self-taught artists including Clifton Sulser, whose carved figures are show here.

Enjoy blue skies and sunny days? Looking for a destination rich in history, heritage and the arts? Then Santa Fe is the place for you. With more than 250 galleries and numerous museums, Santa Fe has what it takes to satisfy art lovers. Reader Joan Woodbury, of Salt Lake City, Utah, explains, “Santa Fe is lovely for the eyes, has incredible artists who produce meaningful work and provides intense experiences that have lasting impressions.”


What’s New?

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture presents a significant collection of Huichol art from the early part of the last century in “Huichol Art and Culture: Balancing the World.” Running until Feb. 12. 2012, the exhibit features examples of ancient, symbolic textile designs, richly decorated votive gourd bowls, beaded jewelry and more.

“Artist of the Week—Docent Talks” take place every Wednesday now through Aug. 31 at the New Mexico Museum of Art. Artists displayed in the museum are featured in a series of gallery talks by docents of the New Mexico Museum of Art.

Up and Coming


Summer is art market season in Santa Fe. High on the list are Art Santa Fe which will celebrate its 11th year July 7-10 by providing a total experience that includes contemporary galleries from all over the world; Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, July 8-10, which attracts established traditional artists from across the globe to display, demonstrate and sell their work; SOFA WEST: Santa Fe & the Intuit Show of Folk and Outsider Art, Aug 4-7, a glittering array of international dealers showcasing contemporary decorative, non-traditional and outsider art; and the 90th annual Santa Fe Indian Market, Aug. 20-21.

3. Gloucester, Mass.

A newcomer to the Top 25 list, Gloucester is home to museums, galleries and the oldest working art colony in the U.S.

Cape Ann, a thriving arts and cultural destination, lies just 30 miles north of Boston along one of the prettiest stretches of coastline in all of Massachusetts. Billed as one of the last great unspoiled places, its harbors, lighthouses, beaches, coves and coastline have been attracting artists almost from its beginnings in 1623.

Cape Ann’s four communities include Rockport, Essex, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Gloucester, America’s oldest seaport. “Art is vital to the lifeblood of Gloucester. There are many beautiful places with seashores and harbors but the combination of arts, culture, and industry are rarely so integrated and integral to the life of a city. It makes Gloucester a very unique place that celebrates art in a way that most cities can’t,” says resident and AmericanStyle reader Barbara Silberman. Gloucester is home to a large population of artists, many of whom display their work in Rocky Neck Art Colony galleries and studios. You can visit the Rocky Neck Gallery or enjoy open studios and entertainment during Nights on the Neck, on the first Thursday of the month from June to October.


What’s New?

This year an iconic red brick building on Gloucester’s Main Street, known to locals as “The Blackburn,” was transformed into The Cape Ann, also known as “The Annie.” The building was revitalized to promote the arts in the community and serves as a venue for performance and visual display. Located within The Annie is “The Art Parlour,” an expansive gallery space that allows local artists to show their work free of charge.

Up and Coming

The annual Cape Ann Artisans’ Studio Tour takes place June 18-19 along the scenic coastline of Gloucester and Rockport, allowing visitors to meet more than 15 professional artists and see their work where it was created.

The Annual Gloucester Waterfront Festival will showcase the juried work of over 175 artists and craftsmen from throughout the U.S. in the city’s historic Fort Park on Aug. 20-21.

4. Saugatuck, Mich.
5. Sarasota, Fla.
6. Sedona, Ariz.
7. Key West, Fla.
8. Frederick, Md.
9. Taos, N.M.
10. Bradenton, Fla.
11. Corning, N.Y.
12. Eureka Springs, Ark.
13. Brattleboro, Vt.
14. Berkeley Springs, W.Va.
15. Carmel, Calif.
16. Beaufort, S.C.
17. Burlington, Vt.
18. Naples, Fla.
19. Laguna Beach, Calif.
20. Chapel Hill, N.C.
21. Annapolis, Md.
22. Northampton, Mass.
23. Aspen, Colo.
24. New Hope, Pa.
25. Watkinsville, Ga.

13 Responses to “Top 25 Small Cities for Art”

  1. Watkinsville well deserves a place on this list. Among the more expected and ‘famous’ art destinations listed, Watkinsville, the Artland of Georgia is a small community where every citizen either creates art, appreciates the wide range of folk and fine arts down every street, or financially supports arts, the artists or literally purchases, sometimes hoards art that is great now, but will reach notoriety soon or in centuries to come. A small caldron of every art form, now an unintended secret Mecca for artists, soon to be universally ‘discovered’ tressuretrove that is big in talent but small and stalwart in the area’s stubborn hold on privacy and maintaining their secret, exclusive grasp on art for those who live, work and breath the magic air of this magic place.

  2. Having grown up in Asheville MANY years ago I am living proof of the creativity-nurturing environment in this magical mountain town. At age 9 I had my first public exhibit at what was then the S&W Cafeteria in downtown Asheville. I can still see my crayon and watercolor “pumpkins on the mountain” matted and sitting on an easel in the middle of the large picture window. There were VERY few restaurants in Asheville 50+ years ago so providing valuable display space to promote art instead of the daily special was strong evidence of the Business community’s support for the Art community – a condition which today is still alive and well in Asheville North Carolina. And it’s hard to tell who has benefited more! A visit to downtown Asheville in 2011 will reveal an “Art display” in nearly EVERY picture window, including 25 art and craft galleries. -”Van”, owner-editor, ClimbEveryMountain.com, Florida’s Carolina Connection

  3. Awesome for Taos, NM to be ranked so highly! If you plan on visiting to explore and experience the Light, Land, Legend of Taos, plan your stay to be right in the heart of historic downtown just a couple blocks from Taos Plaza, all the shops, museums, and galleries that Taos is known for. You will enjoy your stay with Indian Hills Inn, Taos Plaza. Check out our Facebook page for the many goings on. See you soon in Taos!

  4. Where’s Alexandria, VA on this list? It’s truly surprising to me that it’s not listed. Alexandria is a wonderful magnet for artists and artistic support networks. I recently moved here, largely because it is an oasis for artists! Starting with the extensive community activities of the Alexandria Commission for the Arts (http://www.alexandriacommissionforthearts.org/) – and carried forth by fabulous destinations such as The Torpedo Factory (http://www.torpedofactory.org/) and the Del Ray Artisans (http://www.thedelrayartisans.org/). I guess we’re a well kept secret!

  5. Asheville once again deserves the top spot, however, you didn’t even mention Asheville’s River Arts District where over 150 artists create their works. You can visit their studios and see and learn how their art is created, as well as purchasing art directly from the artist. It’s an experience very few cities offer.

    It only makes Asheville even more deserving of the title #1

  6. You’re missing the best of the West!!! Nothing in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, or Montana? Bozeman, Jackson Hole, Cody, Missoula, Idaho Falls, Bend – hippest of the best small cities are here in the WEST!

  7. Given that Santa Fe consistently ranks in the TOP THREE art markets in the United States (period — like lots of actual art sales), I’m kind of surprised it ranks No. 2 in Small Cities, but okay, whatever. That’s nice.

  8. The Conring Museum of Glass is worth seeing, but please warn artists that Corning NY is not artist-friendly. Try to pursue your dream in this small town, and watch it get crushed!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Sarasota Among Top 25 Arts Destinations | Apt46
  2. Sarasota Among Top 25 Arts Destinations | Apt46
  3. Gloucester Voted #3 Small Arts City In The Country | GoodMorningGloucester
  4. AmericanStyle Magazine | Top 25 Arts Destinations: Small Cities | carol elizabeth pennell asheville native real estate broker pennell@beverly-hanks.com 828.273.7770
  5. Sedona Arizona, A Top Art Destination » Sedona Arizona Real Estate with Ault&Associates

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