Curb Your Creative Craving at one of these Artful Southern Getaways

The south is home to many creative destinations that will satisfy your craving for extraordinary works and inspire artists and art lovers alike.


The picture-book-pretty city of Charleston is one of the South’s most popular tourism destinations for good reason—one of which is art. The downtown museums are a great place to start before venturing into the mix of both young-and-innovative and more traditional galleries.

Found on the city’s Museum Mile, Gibbes Museum of Art focuses on American works, with a permanent collection that includes paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as pieces from the city’s renaissance from 1915 to 1945. From now until late April, the rotating exhibits include paintings from the Hudson River School that celebrate the scenic splendor of the Northeast.

The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, part of the College of Charleston, is a small space dedicated to representing artists that are newer, lesser known or otherwise underrepresented. Similarly, the museum welcomes artists who show equal creativity in the mediums they choose. Past exhibitions have included artist Motoi Yamamoto’s landscape patterns created with salt, and Lonnie Holley’s assemblage pieces born of found objects. Note that the museum is non-collecting, as in there is no permanent collection; call ahead to make sure the main gallery will be open as it can take weeks to change out exhibitions. However, the gallery of student artwork is always open to the public. 

Hilton Head Island & Bluffton, SC

Although perhaps better known for golf courses and tennis courts, Hilton Head Island, SC, is also home to greater than 100 art galleries. The neighboring town of Bluffton is less established in the art world, but as an up-and-coming market, its works are more within reach of newer collectors.

With more than 100 art galleries, you’ll need to do your homework for a Hilton Head Island weekend visit, but a safe place to start is The Red Piano Gallery, the state’s oldest. Its walls currently display the works of 33 painters, including the marine-themed watercolors of Ray Ellis and expressionist Dan McCaw. Throughout, you’ll also take in the bronze works of nine sculptors.

In Bluffton, stroll historic Calhoun Street for a variety of galleries. Among them, The Filling Station Art Gallery is an education of sorts in the value of created works: The 50 artists showing have pieces—paintings, photography and sculptures—priced from $5 to $5,000. Abstract expressionist Nicholas Daunt’s pieces are especially fun for their vibrant colors, as are the landscapes of Lara Neece

"The neighboring town of Bluffton is less established in the art world, but as an up-and-coming market."


St. Simons & Sea Island, GA

It’s no wonder this serene coastal hideaway is a hotspot to buy art, given that every view, from the beaches and lighthouses to the marshes and rookeries, is so inspiring.

Only two of the artists on the current roster are locals, but the original landscape and wildlife paintings in Anderson Fine Art Gallery feature moonlit palm trees and sunsets over marshes that could easily be pulled from St. Simons Island. The staff of the gallery, open since 1998, can help first-time buyers choose an investment piece or collectors find that next something special.

If your wallet can’t back a buy at Anderson’s, try next door at ArtTrends. This co-op gallery is staffed by the eight local artists whose works adorn the walls. If you’re curious which tidal marshes inspired a piece, odds are you’re chatting with someone who can answer that. The gallery’s 100 pieces include watercolor, oil and acrylic landscape and abstract paintings, plus a mix of eclectic sculptures. 

The most eclectic mix on the island is found at Glynn Visual Arts Center, where workshops are taught and field trips start. In addition to serving as a nonprofit for the community, the center shows local art—not just paintings, but photography, etchings, pottery, sculpture, jewelry and more.

"every view, from the beaches and lighthouses to the marshes and rookeries, is so inspiring."


Jacksonville, FL

There’s a romance to this city of three rivers, where nighttime brings the lights of the skyline and bridges dancing across the water. It’s also Florida’s largest city, home to more than enough museums to fill a weekend visit.

The Cummer Museum collection spans 4,000 years, from ancient Egypt to the present day. Don’t miss William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s painting, “Return from the Harvest,” a hyper-realist work that chief curator Holly Keris describes as “easy to get lost in.” And, be sure to leave time for Art Connections, the interactive center intended for kids but open to creative types of all ages wishing to create their own portraits and sculptures. End a visit at the historic gardens along the St. John River; the space designed by the Olmsted brothers is especially picturesque. 

Jacksonville’s Museum of Contemporary Art, aka MOCA, is a showcase of dynamic pieces from the 1960s to the present. The permanent collection includes works by abstract expressionist painter Hans Hofmann, sculptor Alexander Calder and photographs by Larry Clark. Upcoming exhibits in 2017 include the muslin-and-wax pod sculptures of Lorrie Fredette, starting April 8, and on June 3, Synthesize, a collection focusing on the unpredictable ways in which visual and sonic arts can merge. 


St. Augustine, FL

America’s oldest city packs all the history you’d expect from 452 years of settlement, and yet, the next generation is creating a fresh buzz by opening art gallery co-ops, cocktail bars and more.

Every hour, legacy tours of Flagler College are offered by current students detailing the history of the property that once was the 540-room Hotel Ponce de Leon. Built by Henry Flagler and opened in 1888, it catered to a wealthy crowd who wintered here. Tour highlights include the collection of Tiffany glass, as well as the rotunda painting with 23-karat gold, created by Library of Congress artist George Maynard

Formerly the Hotel Alcazar, the Lightner Museum houses a varied collection of American Gilded Age pieces, from Rota, the stuffed lion gifted to Sir Winston Churchill, to a desk once belonging to Louis Bonaparte. The third-floor ballroom displays the majority of paintings, including the 1879 Jules-Arsène Garnier work, “Temptation,” shown in the Paris Salon. 

Art galleries are peppered throughout downtown, with clusters on St. George and Artillery Streets. On Artillery, Plum Gallery brings bright, colorful landscapes and contemporary art pieces within reach of the everyday buyer. Gary Borse stands out for landscape paintings of south Florida with pop flair, as does Claire Kendrick who paints classic coastal landscapes with a contemporary edge. The gallery also displays glass sculptures, folded paper lanterns and other fun finds

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