9 Art Walks We Just Can’t Get Enough Of
There’s no quicker way to get your culture fix than taking an art walk (the gratis glasses of vino don't hurt, either). Here, we track down the best walks around the U.S., from monthly open-to-the-public art gallery events to self-guided graffiti mural tours—and everything in between.
A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.
November 10th marks the next DTLA Art Walk, but you can catch the event on the second Thursday of every month. Pick up a map of participating venues at the Art Walk Lounge before hightailing it to Gallery Row—a dense collection of artist lofts, studio spaces, and galleries that line Spring and Main Street from 2nd to 9th. While you’ll spot plenty of abstract, avant-garde works, the tour also passes by historic cultural monuments and contemporary centers like the Romanesque Revival Fine Arts Building and the LACDA (Los Angeles Center for Digital Art).
Second Saturdays, Wynwood, Miami, FL
Ever since Art Basel made the jump from Switzerland to Miami in 2002, Wynwood has maintained its standing as a heavyweight on the international art scene. That said, professional curator or not, anyone with an inkling of art appreciation will enjoy perusing Miami’s best graffiti murals, sculptural exhibits, and design showrooms during Second Saturdays, when more than 70 galleries and shops open to the public. Far from a stuffy affair, the neighborhood hosts more of a block party than a strait-laced wine and cheese function (but don’t fret, there will be wine and cheese—along with food trucks, DJs, and live performances). Street parking is nearly impossible, so plan to get there early or Uber your way in.
Public Art Walk, Boston, MA
Boston is crawling with public art displays—in the ballpark of several hundred, actually—but the Boston Art Commission makes navigating easier with a self-guided public art walk that includes 100 of Beantown’s very best pieces. Use the Public Art Walk guide to map out a route that tackles the paintings, murals, monuments, fountains, and even design-centric municipal buildings you’d most like to see. Some highlights: Nancy Schön’s ‘Make Way For Ducklings’ (a series of bronze mallard statues in the Public Garden), the New England Holocaust Memorial (six 54-foot glass towers etched with the numbers 1 through 6 million and inscribed with survivor’s stories), and the Arthur Fiedler Memorial, a gigantic sculpture of the Boston Pops Orchestra conductor’s head that was constructed from 83 pieces of aluminum.
Street Art Walk, Williamsburg & Bushwick, NY
Sure, you can always rely on Instagram’s ‘Search & Explore’ page to find the most photographed murals in NYC (see Homer Simpson Avocad’oh by Hanksy), but, sometimes, the best ones are the most elusive. No worries, though, because where social media loses its edge, Street Art Walk comes in to personally escort you around Williamsburg and Bushwick in pursuit of the coolest (legal and illegal) paste-ups, stencils, murals, stickers, left objects, and graffiti gems. While two-hour Saturday and Sunday tours are always different, since works pop up (quite literally) overnight, you can still count on catching pieces from well-established local and international artists like Roa, Paul Richard, How and Nosm, and Buff Monster on your next jaunt.
First Fridays, Philadelphia, PA
Similar to the once decrepit industrial districts of many other cities, Philly’s Old City neighborhood went through something of a renaissance in the 70s, as artists began turning decommissioned factories into studios and lofts. Since 1991, the area has been hosting First Fridays, a monthly arts community open house that brings together 40 multi-media galleries. Head to the one-square-mile neighborhood – America’s most historic – on November 4th to take in contemporary art, theater performances, comic book collections, music galleries, and the PhilaMOCA (Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art), which was a tombstone showroom in its pre-gallery life.
First Thursday Art Walk, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA
Pioneer Square has been Seattle’s indisputable artistic hub since the 60s and has the distinct honor of being the first U.S. neighborhood to launch an official art walk back in 1981. Now, every first Thursday of the month, galleries full of rare books, ceramic sculptures, 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings, and hand-blown glass open to the public from 6 to 8pm. Between stops on your gallery crawl, be sure to keep an eye open for public installations like the Pioneer Square Park Totem Pole and the bronze fallen firefighter memorial sculptures in Occidental Park.
First Thursday Art Walk, Portland, OR
The Pearl neighborhood has long been the beating heart of PDX’s art scene, so it’s only natural that, for the last 29 years, it’s been hosting a district-wide First Thursday gallery walk that shows off the area’s best art dealers and collectors to some 10,000 patrons. Hit the streets on November 3rd and December 1st—you can map out your plan of attack with this nifty guide—to see renovated warehouse studios and pop-up street galleries full of sculptural paintings, black and white photography, acrylics, live music, and, more than likely, some Portlandia-esque hipsters.
Wabash Arts Corridor, Chicago, IL
Columbia College Chicago breathed new life into the Windy City’s South Loop neighborhood in 2013 when it established the Wabash Arts Corridor, a 40,000-foot stretch of unused space turned immersive “living urban canvas” that runs the length of Wabash Avenue from Van Buren to Roosevelt. While the area is constantly evolving, it currently encompasses 19 galleries, 14 performance spaces, and 40 large-scale murals by local and international artists. The WAC periodically hosts free art crawls, but you can also go on a self-guided tour or arrange one through hotels like the Hilton Chicago.
Mural Challenge, Lexington, KY
If you live your life glued to Instagram, then we’ve got the art tour for you. Little ol’ Lexington created the Mural Challenge to encourage locals and visitors to get out and see the city’s best public art—with installations from world-renowned graffiti artists like Roa, MTO, Eduardo Kobra, and How & Nosm—but, seeing as it’s 2016, they decided to do so with a social media-spin. Those who track down at least ten of Lexington’s murals (in order to answer and submit these questions) and share a photo in front of at least one with the tags #sharethelex and #legalgraffitilex win a prize.
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