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Embrace Local Culture

Arts centers enliven communities across the country. They showcase the talents of local creators, preserve history and keep stories alive for future generations. Many regional art centers offer experiences for group tours, which help people learn about the communities they visit so they can take those stories and memories home with them.

Here’s a look at eight arts centers throughout the United States.

Abbeville Cultural and Historic Alliance

Abbeville, Louisiana

The Abbeville Cultural and Historic Alliance is home to the Vermilion Arts Center, the Acadian Centre Acadien and Abbeville Cultural and Historic Alliance. The art center’s rotating and permanent exhibits tell the area’s history. A photography collection at The Acadian Centre Acadien depicts Le Grand Derangement, the expulsion of Acadian families from Nova Scotia in 1755 that led many to settle in Louisiana. The Abbeville Cultural and Historic Alliance highlights local history and artists but is best known for its celebration of the area’s French heritage, with its giant omelet celebration every November. The Confrerie D’ Abbeville welcomes groups to see how a 5,000-egg omelet is made in a 12-foot skillet.

Augusta Heritage Center

Augusta, West Virginia

The Augusta Heritage Center explores the traditions, customs and folklore of the eastern region of West Virginia with summer camps and conferences where master artists teach traditional dancing, bluegrass instruments and storytelling.

Throughout the year, the center hosts concerts by bluegrass musicians, square dancing and weekly Pickin’ in the Park events. Its cooking classes focus on skills like canning and creating dishes from local, fresh farm foods. The center’s goals are to bring folk arts education to underserved communities so that everyone can be exposed to new experiences and to create a more inclusive and culturally rich society by preserving and celebrating cultural traditions. 

The annual Augusta Festival, a juried craft fair of regional artisans, foods and traditional entertainment, also hosts the West Virginia Open Fiddle and Banjo Contest..

The Arts Center at Duck Creek

East Hampton, New York

Located on an 18th-century homestead on Montaukett ancestral territory and indigenous land, The Arts Center at Duck Creek features arts and local history programming from May to October. The property’s 19th-century barn was previously owned by abstract artist John Little, who used the space during the 1950s as his art studio and a gathering place for fellow artists in the Hamptons. Its annual music series celebrates varied genres including contemporary jazz, Western classical and Indigenous music. While some events require reservations, all programming is free.

Ely Arts and Heritage Center

Ely, Minnesota

The Ely Arts and Heritage Center tells the stories of the state’s mining past in the city’s historic Pioneer Mine buildings. While the mines have been closed since 1967, the heritage center offers tours of the Shaft House during the summer months. Former miners and their relatives serve as tour guides so groups hear first-hand stories about the mines and those who worked in them. In the winter, the Shaft House has exhibits and photos of Ely’s iron mining history. The center also hosts the annual Ely Winter Festival, with beginner snow-carving classes for groups and the public. Groups can also schedule weekend-long adult art camps throughout the year. The center’s annual juried art exhibit features artists from Ely and northeast Minnesota.

Key West Art and Historical Society

Key West, Florida

As stewards of four museums, the Key West Art and Historical Society tells the stories of the island’s history from many perspectives. Groups can tour the Tennessee Williams Museum, which honors the playwright who called the island home for 30 years, and the Fort East Martello Museum, a civil war fort and tower built to protect the island from a Confederate sea assault. The Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters tells maritime tales dating back to 1848. The Key West Museum of Art and History at the Custom House is a national landmark that details the island’s people, events and artists. Each location also has rotating exhibits of regional art, architecture and history. Popular events like Happy Hour with the Historian are a fun way for groups to learn more.

Palos Verdes Art Center

Palos Verdes, California 

Located just outside of Los Angeles, the Palos Verdes Art Center and Beverly G. Alpay Center for Arts Education welcome visitors to admire the works of local artists and photographers. The Studio School, an on-site art education facility, offers classes for groups. The Artists’ Studio and Gallery is a showcase for local artists, whose work is sold in the adjacent gift shop. Popular events include the annual South Bay area’s Bromeliad Association Annual Show and Sale and the South Bay Orchid Society’s annual fall show and sale.

Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center

San Antonio

The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center preserves San Antonio’s deep history of Latino culture and history.  One way it does so is by hosting the nation’s longest-running Latino film festival, which will celebrate its 45th year in 2024. At the center, visitors can delve into stories of the past at the  on-site Latino bookstore and attend a monthly Latino author series. In its 42nd year, the arts center also hosts the annual Tejano Conjunto Festival, a five-day event with authentic foods, live music and dancing to celebrate Latino culture.

Stokes County Arts Council

Danbury, North Carolina

Part of the local arts council, The Arts Place is both a shop and an educational space in downtown Danbury, North Carolina. The store showcases rural art and is home to North Carolina-made food, books and music. It also offers group classes on topics like knitting, stained glass, barn quilt painting and ceramics. Adjacent to Arts Place is an arts market featuring 150 local artists and crafters. The council’s Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) Group performs regularly in the community. The council also has an ice cream and coffee shop, another way to welcome visitors to experience small town life in North Carolina.