Ah, vacation. That magical week (or, dare we dream, more) of the year when it’s perfectly acceptable to shed your day-to-day persona and become a totally different person. A totally relaxed person. A person who throws caution to the wind. A person to whom the normal weekday rules do not apply. The person you’ve always wanted to be. The person who goes to bed early, sleeps in late and isn’t afraid to order a cocktail with breakfast.
But as any creatively-minded person knows, when it comes to those of us who make our lives—and livings—in the fine art world, it’s not as easy to just “turn it off” when vacation strikes. In fact, quite the opposite often happens. Because inspiration plays a vital role in the creation of art. And what better way/place/time is there to be creatively stirred than when you’re experiencing a new place (or revisiting a favorite spot) and there are no excruciating deadlines looming (at least not this week)?
Earlier this year, we ran a cover story on the 10 Most Inspiring Cities, as chosen by the hundreds of artists who took time to participate in our online poll and share with us their thoughts on the places that get their creative juices flowing. Truthfully, when it comes to choosing your art-cation destination, any one of the cities profiled within that story would get a thumbs up from our editorial staff-turned-travel advisors. (For those who missed that issue, the 10 places that rose to the top were New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Santa Fe, Chicago, Palm Springs, Miami, Los Angeles, Austin and Jackson Hole).
But when it comes to an art-cation, we wanted to focus on a handful of somewhat smaller cities that offer all the elements of a great vacation destination (yes, in many cases, this means beaches, we promise) and where longheld artistic traditions are evident. Art isn’t a commodity in the five destinations we’ve chosen to profile, it’s a way of life.
So, without further delay—and because summer’s a wastin’ (that breakfast cocktail won’t order itself)—we present five choice destinations for your next art-cation!
Located at land’s end, on the tip of Massachusetts’ Cape Cod, Provincetown (or P-Town, as it’s typically known) is one of the country’s oldest art colonies. Which may help explain how it has managed to pack such a huge creative punch (including more than 40 galleries) into a less-than-10-mile mass of land.
Originally established as a fishing and whaling center, the tiny oceanfront town became a popular creative haven in the late 1800s, when the railroad made it easily accessible to tourists—artists among them—who were lured by the town’s expansive ocean views and one-of-a-kind light (which often seems to shine from all directions simultaneously). As such, P-Town is a major hub for plein air painting, dating all the way back to the days of artist Charles Webster Hawthorne, who opened the Cape Cod School of Art in 1899.
The teaching trend continues to this day, with such venerable in-town institutions as the Fine Arts Work Center (www.fawc.org), which offers week-long workshops for emerging poets, painters and writers, and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (www.paam.org), which endeavors to advance the area’s fine arts industry with a host of educational opportunities, exhibitions and other special events throughout the year.
“Provincetown is the most enduring art colony in the country, and is full of artists, art lovers, art collectors, art galleries, art schools and art celebrations,” says Margaret Murphy, executive director of the Fine Arts Work Center.
When it comes to dream vacations, Hawaii is one state on just about everybody’s jetsetting bucket list. In West Maui, art-minded travelers will find a place where beauty and nature combine in Lahaina, another small whaling town-turned-artistic hotbed, which runs along Hawaii’s coastal Route 30.
The heart of this cultural breeding ground is undoubtedly Front Street, which was recently named one of the country’s “10 Great Streets” by the American Planning Association.
“Natural beauty, history and community pride have coalesced to create a place that is special, in different ways, to each individual who traverses Front Street’s wide and unique sidewalks,” notes American Planning Association CEO Paul Farmer of the accolade.
The area in and around Front Street is also home to dozens of local art galleries covering a variety of artistic disciplines. Among them is the Old Jail Gallery, which is run by the Lahaina Arts Society (www.lahaina-arts.com), a nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing local artists, which boasts a membership of nearly 200 artists (which isn’t too shabby in a town with a population just north of 11,000).
The largest city in Western North Carolina is also its most artistically-inclined, with strong traditions in live music, performing arts, film and fine arts. Traditions that led AmericanStyle Magazine to name Asheville the country’s number one “Small City for Art,” stating that “Asheville offers the best of both worlds: Breathtaking scenic beauty and a population that values creativity and work made by hand.”
In addition to Bele Chere (www.belecherefestival.com), the Southeast’s largest free arts and music street festival, the city is also home to the impressive Asheville Art Museum (www.ashevilleart.org), which presents an exciting year-round schedule of special exhibitions and events. The Asheville Downtown Gallery Association (www.ashevilledowntowngalleries.org) boasts 23 member galleries in the downtown area alone, and hosts bimonthly art walks so that visitors can have a chance to tour them all (the next one happens on August 3rd).
“Asheville is a wellspring of talented creative people,” says Lauren Johnson, an illustrator and co-owner/creative director of ZaPow! Inc. (www.zapow.com), a writer and artist development community and the Southeast’s only gallery dedicated to illustration and popular culture art. “It is because of Asheville’s community of talented artists as well as devoted lovers of art that ZaPow has been able to thrive.”
Hudson Valley, New York
It may be considered cheating to give New York’s Hudson Valley just one spot on this list. Because, in actuality, the area we’re referring to is comprised of more than a dozen communities, New Paltz, Poughkeepsie, Saugerties and Woodstock among them. But the upstate region’s artists have banded together to promote and inspire each other in such a way that we’re sure you’ll give us a pass on this technicality.
The best way to wrap your head around the many art-friendly venues and opportunities the area offers is to visit ArtAlongTheHudson.com. “Art Along the Hudson is 10 artistic communities and eight studio tours,” says the organization’s chair, Linda T. Hubbard. “All summer long (and year-round) there are art happenings… and in the summer—outdoor concerts, art openings, theater, dance and more.”
In 2011, The New York Times even heraled the “Brooklynization” of the Hudson Valley, noting various incidents of creative New Yorkers (many Brooklynites among them) making their way two hours upstate, and bringing a piece of the city with them.
Jane Coats Eckert, president of Eckert Fine Art (www.janeeckertfineart.com) in Millerton, is one art industry insider who did just that. “I feel the reason art lovers come to Dutchess County, where my gallery is located, is for the hunt,” she says. “They feel they can discover a hidden treasure, especially those familiar with the New York City art scene. Quaint villages and towns with a fine art gallery become destinations for them, which leads to more business for the restaurants and surrounding shops. Being close to the borders of Connecticut and Massachusetts, my clients are sophisticated, with many involved in the creative world—actors, writers, dancers, museum personnel and artists. Others are successful business people from New York City who settled here for the same reason I did: To enjoy the natural beauty of the Hudson Valley area.”
When you’re ready to trade in an ocean view for a mountain vista, Boulder is your place. Long considered one of Colorado’s most liberal cities, the city has attracted a diverse population of free-spirited and open-minded residents, plenty of artists among them.
It’s also home to The Boulder Arts & Crafts Co-op (www.boulderartsandcrafts.com), one of the country’s oldest artist cooperatives, which stocks more than 20,000 individual items (paintings, photography, pottery, furniture and more) from the hundreds of regional artists it represents. There’s also the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (www.bmoca.org), which aims to be “a catalyst for creative experiences through the exploration of significant art of our time.”
“I find Boulder appealing because of the diversity of ages, education, interests and experiences of the people here,” says Cristy Taylor, board secretary of the Boulder Art Association (www.boulderartassociation.org), an 86-year-old nonprofit organization that nurtures fine artists of any experience level. “As artists, we find commonality in our appreciation of the environment in which we live, and in our appreciation of each other as artists.” That environment, of course, includes inspiring views of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains (the city is located in its foothills, about 25 miles northwest of Denver). ABN
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