Santa Fe, New Mexico
The desert light, the expansive landscapes, the inclusive community: Those factors and more are why artists began to flock to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the 1920s and 1930s.
The city has “always been attractive to the renegade who can come and be left alone out here,” said Joanne Hudson, public relations manager for Tourism Santa Fe.
Georgia O’Keeffe is easily the area’s most famous example. Although she lived an hour outside of Santa Fe in the remote town of Abiquiú for nearly 40 years, she moved into the city for the last two years of her life. Groups can tour her historic home and studio in Abiquiú and visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.
The city has a few well-known arts districts, but the one-mile stretch of Canyon Road that’s lined with more than 100 galleries is by far the densest. Groups will also find galleries throughout the downtown Historic Plaza, along with gift shops, boutiques and restaurants.
The Railyard is the redeveloped historic rail hub that is now an arts-and-entertainment district. The area is home to an eclectic mix of tenants, including the Hispanic cultural center El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe; Warehouse 21, an art center for teens; and Site Santa Fe, a contemporary art space. Site has been closed for the past year as it undergoes an $11 million expansion and renovation. It will reopen in October with additional gallery space and an auditorium, and the new Site Lab space, lobby and shop will remain open year-round.
The city has a slew of studios that offer hands-on classes. Art Adventures in the Southwest leads a three-hour “Sketching and Painting Santa Fe” program — usually outdoors — and Bullseye Glass Co. offers group glassblowing classes. Several companies also offer guided studio and gallery tours.
Grand Marais, Minnesota
Grand Marais, Minnesota, is a tiny town about two hours up the Lake Superior coast from Duluth, Minnesota. Its remoteness and its picturesque scenery are part of the reason Birney Quick spent the better part of three decades championing it as an arts destination.
In the mid-1940s, Quick, an arts professor in Minneapolis, established a summer program for art students to live, work and paint in Grand Marais. And he campaigned his fellow artists, musician friends and patrons to move to Grand Marais, where craggy basalt rocks dot the scenic Superior shoreline, and two lighthouses flank the harbor.
“He basically spent over 30 years encouraging people to come here and move here and make art here,” said Amy Demmer, executive director of the Grand Marais Art Colony.
The two-block business district has a number of galleries, including the Sivertson Gallery, which focuses on art of the North, and Joy and Co., which features emerging and local artists.
The Grand Marais Art Colony offers classes and workshops in its painting, pottery, glass and eco-friendly print studios and provides artist demonstrations every Saturday. The colony’s biggest event of the year is the Grand Marais Arts Festival in July, with over 80 juried artists showing, selling and demonstrating their work in downtown.
Art Along the Lake puts on two studio tours, one in the fall and another over Memorial Day weekend, that allow visitors to go into artists’ home studios. The Betsy Bowen Art Studio is a converted historic church that houses several studios and gallery space.
The North House Folk School offers a range of courses in fiber arts, basket weaving, woodcarving and more. Passengers can also board the school’s restored 50-foot-long schooner for a two-hour sail on Lake Superior from June through August.
Thirty miles up the Texas Gulf coast from Corpus Christi, Rockport is a historic port town that sits on a peninsula. As much as the city is a hub for coastal business, it has carved out a name for itself as an arts haven.
The Rockport Center for the Arts’ three galleries are free and open to the public six days a week throughout the year. New shows open every few weeks, and everyone is welcome to attend free opening receptions, which are always the first Saturday of the show’s run. With enough notice, the center can also arrange custom art parties for groups.
The center’s 10,000-square-foot Sculpture Garden, located in Rockport Harbor with water on both sides, is open 24/7 and features a dozen pieces.
Every Fourth of July weekend, the center puts on the two-day Rockport Art Festival, which features more than 120 artists and craftspeople, as well as food and drink vendors, live music and performances. The three-day Rockport Film Festival always takes place the first weekend of November and screens over 40 independent films.
Self-guided tours of Rockport’s downtown gallery district are always popular, and visitors should look up from their plates while dining because many local eateries also display and sell local artwork.