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Towns for art lovers


Courtesy Boothbay Harbor Region CoC

Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Since the 1800s, Boothbay Harbor has been one of New England’s leading arts towns. The region boasts a diverse mix of galleries, artisan studios, educational workshops and music venues.

“We have over 200 artists who live around here,” said Catherine Wygant Fossett, executive director of the Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce. “We have all things from potters to glass to painters and all kinds of activities.”

Those artists, as well as sculptors, jewelers, photographers, crafters and others who call the area home, have organized into several arts associations and have a total of 23 galleries around the area. Visitors can get a studio gallery trail map from the Chamber of Commerce or take art tours of the area from June through October.

The arts come to the forefront during annual special events such as Harbor Lights, a Christmas boat parade; Claw Down, a lobster festival; and Windjammer Days.

“Windjammer Days is a two-day festival in June,” Fossett said. “We close down an alley and have crafters demonstrating there.”

Santa Fe, New Mexico
It’s impossible to discuss America’s arts towns without talking about Santa Fe, the New Mexico mountain destination with more than 250 galleries. Artists flocked to the town from the East Coast throughout the 20th century, attracted to its exotic environment, natural light and Native American heritage.

“They came to Santa Fe and found a very welcoming community,” said Steve Lewis, spokesman for the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They also found very clear light and air, and a very exotic landscape and a mix of exotic cultures that would make for interesting themes in artwork. They started renting houses on Canyon Road for their studios, and that’s how Canyon Road evolved into the gallery district it is today.”

Canyon Road is the community’s classic arts destination, with more than 100 galleries packed into a half-mile. Perusing those galleries, visitors will find many examples of classical Western and Native American artwork. Along the way, they’ll also see lots of public art, as well as painting, glasswork, sculpture and other art hung for display on the gallery exteriors.

One of Santa Fe’s newer gallery areas is the Railyard, a former train hub that has become the center for contemporary art.

“The contemporary line is very wide,” Lewis said. “One of my favorite galleries there is TAI, which does amazing bamboo sculptures that are fascinating to look at. Another favorite gallery, Charlotte Jackson, does luminous blocks of color, either in sculptures or two-dimensional pieces.”

Groups can arrange to have workshops with local Santa Fe artists, or visit one of 14 museums in town, including the International Folk Art Museum, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and several Native American art museums.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.