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Art Districts: Beauty on the Block

Nestled in communities across the U.S. are areas dedicated to celebrating and creating art. And while no two locales are the same, it’s their unique size, vibe, works of art, venues and people that make them all worthwhile. 

Here are six flourishing art districts you and your group need to explore. 

River Arts District

Asheville, North Carolina

Just minutes from downtown Asheville, the River Arts District — or the “RAD,” as the locals call it — is a mile-long collection of galleries and working studios along the French Broad River that are housed in 23 former industrial and historic buildings. Here, more than 200 artists can be found practicing their craft, from sculpting and basketry to photography and bookbinding.

Groups can expect to spend more than a day at the RAD, admiring outdoor murals and sculptures, browsing studios, purchasing artistic creations and watching live demonstrations.  Since the district doesn’t have designated open/closed periods, visitors can often find artists at work at any given time. 

In addition to watching the magic happen, groups can put their creative skills to the test. Many artists offer hands-on classes in mediums like sculpting, jewelry making and painting. 

riverartsdistrict.com

Pueblo Creative Corridor  

Pueblo, Colorado

Music, dance and visual art  intermingle in the Pueblo Creative Corridor, which comprises the city’s three historic centers: Downtown Main Street, the Union Avenue Historic Commercial District and Mesa Junction. 

Downtown Main Street boasts a collection of local galleries and shops as well as the popular Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, where visitors can enjoy a dance or musical performance or peruse the rotating exhibits found inside the Helen Thatcher White Galleries. Also a draw is Founders’ Plaza, where visitors can find exquisite sculptures of Pueblo’s founders. 

Groups can also enjoy the lively Union Avenue, which boasts a slew of galleries, street performers and concerts. Or, they can go for a relaxed stroll in Mesa Junction, a quaint neighborhood that’s home to galleries, cafes and Rawlings Library. 

puebloarts.org

Chewelah Creative District  

Chewelah, Washington

About 45 miles north of Spokane is the charming rural community of Chewelah, the creative district of which has been growing since 2019. The area is known for its collection of colorful murals, and groups can download a scavenger hunt provided by the district and take a self-guided mural tour. Additionally, the district is full of artists who specialize in different mediums, from painting and woodwork to music, jewelry, collage and dance. 

Events are held throughout the year here, as well. A quick scan of the district’s online calendar will provide groups with details surrounding upcoming art workshops; farmers markets, where visitors might be able to snag a gorgeous piece of pottery or a woodcarving; and First Thursday Art Walks, where the district highlights a selection of creative members and their work.  

Also a hit is the community’s Chewelah Center for the Arts, which has hosted a number of events, from productions and dinner shows to author nights. 

chewelahcreativedistrict.org

Mass Ave Cultural Arts District 

Indianapolis

Shortened to simply Mass Ave when coming out of the mouths of locals, this five-block arts district on Massachusetts Avenue is considered downtown Indianapolis’ front porch, where fun and friendliness abound. Groups can spend hours enjoying the area’s outdoor art and traipsing in and out of its eclectic restaurants, shops and galleries. A few must-visit spaces include Homespun: Modern Handmade, a gallery, workshop and boutique that sells works by more than 300 artists, crafters and makers, and Franklin Barry Gallery, which showcases everything from alabaster sculptures and handblown glass to pen-and-ink drawings and oil-on-canvas works. 

While groups are sure to have an unforgettable experience any time of year, the summer brings the annual IndyFringe Theatre Festival, where more than 300 genre-defying local, national and international performances take place over a three-week span. 

massaveindy.org

South End Arts District

Burlington, Vermont

Housed in what once served as the city’s manufacturing district is Burlington’s creative hub. Here, groups get the full experience. In between hopping in and out of artists’ studios and galleries and perusing local shops that sell everything from guitars and vintage clothing to furniture and medicinal herbs, visitors can enjoy the district’s flourishing food scene. 

One exquisite piece of art groups won’t want to miss while here is the world’s tallest filing cabinet. The sculpture was created by Bren Alvarez in 2022. In addition to admiring artists’ work, groups can take their creative skills for a spin. New New Art Studio, for example, offers several workshops in media such as woodcutting and printmaking. 

While the district is a great place to explore all year, it is recommended that groups come during the summer, as every Friday night brings Truck Stop, a free outdoor block party, where galleries, studios and businesses showcase and sell art and other goods. 

loveburlington.org/south-end

The District: Czech Village and New Bohemia

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Located in the south end of Cedar Rapids’ city center, The District is made up of two historic neighborhoods: The Czech Village and New Bohemia. This 40-block area is considered the place to be for those looking to immerse themselves in music, art, dining and shopping. When it comes to the arts, groups can take a self-guided tour of the city’s 10 gorgeous murals or enroll in a ceramics or glassblowing workshop at the Iowa Ceramics Center and Glass Studio. 

Additionally, fun, creative events are always on The District’s calendar. Examples include outdoor yoga, an improv night held on the first Thursday of every month and the Rock the Block summer concert series held every Friday evening from May through August. 

While here, groups soon learn this area is a jackpot for snagging artsy finds. Cute antique and décor shops can be found all over the area. 

the-district.org

Downtown Arts District

Orlando, Florida

Downtown Orlando boasts an arts and culture destination dubbed the Downtown Arts District, where groups can both admire exquisite visual works and immerse themselves in the performing arts.

CityArts Orlando, the district’s flagship venue, is made up of a collection of must-visit galleries, such as Spotlight Gallery, Spotlight Hallway and Redefine Gallery. Here, groups can enjoy works by local, regional and international artists. Plus, the building’s exterior — Queen Anne-style architecture with dark green paint and red trim — is a piece of art itself. 

Also found at CityArts are a number of performances, such as the In Between Series, which offers live, experimental, creative music and storytelling competitions.

Groups can also attend one or more of the many events held throughout the district each year, such as the 3rd Thursday Orlando series, which includes live performances, a gallery hop, a makers market, and food and drink options. 

orlandoslice.com

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