Travel Trending with Kathy Witt: Unexpected art meccas in the US

Sure. Santa Fee has its art colony, Seattle, its experimental arts edge, and New York, enough museums and cultural institutions that it can catalog its own top 50 and still have plenty of must-see’s left for another arts-centric list.

But rocking an arts scene beneath the radar are those smaller towns whose dynamic art galleries, working artist studios, festivals with an arts flair, restaurants known for their food artistry, and art-enhanced accommodations combine to create a surprisingly well-rounded arts ecosystem. Plan a pilgrimage to three such small towns.



Sitting amidst Kentucky Horse Country is a small town perhaps best known as the birthplace of bourbon (a sublime art in its own right), but Georgetown, Ky. is also home to several high-profile artists, including John Stephen Hockensmith, rock star of equine photography and publisher of breathtakingly beautiful collector art books like his “Gypsy Horses and the Travelers’ Way,” “Spanish Mustangs in the Great American West” and, most recently, “The Gift of Color: Henry Lawrence Faulkner,” about the life and art of the prolific Kentucky artist who once hung out with Tennessee Williams and had his work collected by Silver Screen sirens Bette Davis and Greta Garbo.

Hockensmith’s arts headquarters is the Fine Art Editions Gallery & Press, which sits in downtown’s Victorian-era streetscape crowded with shops, restaurants, arts venues and (this being Kentucky), a craft bourbon distillery called Bourbon 30.

Thoroughbred racehorse artist Robert Clark has a gallery here. The Scott County Arts & Cultural Welcome Center, located in the old jailer’s house, exhibits fine art and sells local and regional handcrafted gift items. Nearby Georgetown College has three art galleries showcasing works by new, emerging and experimental artists from around the world.

Visitors to Georgetown can watch Old World artistry take shape before their eyes at Heirlooms & Gretchen’s, one of Kentucky’s only authentic stained-glass shops, and grind, saw and solder their own keepsake. They can dine on inspired cuisine at Local Feed, a farm-to-table restaurant tucked into a former 1890s ice house, whose chef, Justin Thompson, also takes his culinary prowess on the road to Georgetown landmarks for sell-out multi-course Seed to Feed dinners.

They can take it outside to one of the most visually scenic spots in central Kentucky at Yuko-En on Elkhorn Creek. An official Kentucky-Japan Friendship Garden, it is an homage to Tahara, Japan, Georgetown’s sister city, a calming oasis of flowering and native plants, Japanese-inspired sculptures and a pond that invites quiet reflection.

Arts events coming up in Georgetown include the Festival of the Bluegrass, June 7-10; Hockensmith’s The Gift of Color: Henry Lawrence Faulkner New Book Release at Irish Acres Gallery on June 21; and a Seed to Feed dinner at Ward Hall, June 22. Call it a good night in a picture-postcard setting of Kentucky Horse Country at Linden Place Bed and Breakfast Inn.


Plan your arrival in this city set beside Puget Sound on a warm-weather Saturday when one of the best summer markets anywhere is in full swing: fresh-baked breads and pastries, a rainbow palette of fragrant flowers, Washington wines, cheeses, meats, veggies, fruits, chocolates, artisan-made jewelry, tchatches and other baubles, all accompanied by live music, a guy whipping up smoothies and a portable brick oven cranking out pizzas.

Welcome to Edmonds, a scenic charmer in the Pacific Northwest with lushly planted downtown spilling over with three dozen arts venues and events. Among them is Cole Gallery, known for a klatch of award-winning creatives like Pam Ingalls, whose paintings have been juried into more than 125 national and international shows.

Over 100 classes and workshops are on the schedule at Cole’s Art Studio, with Friday nights devoted to Try It! classes that include everything from finger painting to encaustics (hot, melted beeswax). Weekend workshops cover the artistic gamut: watercolor basics, color mixing, plein air painting, landscape painting and more.

Bite into artfully crafted and beautifully plated foodstuffs at Salt & Iron, a contemporary eatery with big showy windows, sidewalk tables and a menu made for grazing your way through several savories with craft cocktail in hand.

Coming up: The Edmonds Arts Festival is a 3-day event held Father’s Day weekend. See how seriously Edmonds takes its art when 250 U.S. and Canadian artists exhibit their works beneath tented booths and hundreds of area artists have their juried fine art shown. Catch music, dance and theater performances; shop the Festival Store; eat your way through festival faves and ethnic specialties; and raise a toast to creativity at the Beer & Wine Grotto.

Turn in for the night in a room adorned with art and furniture by local artists mixed with vintage finds. The Whales Nest is in the heart of downtown Edmonds, near bookstores and bars and within blocks of the ferry and train.


Alpharetta’s downtown historic district bursts into full color over Memorial Day Weekend when nearly 100 artists from around the U.S. converge to showcase their works at the Alpharetta Arts Streetfest.

The free-admission festival offers three full days of strolling through outdoor galleries filled with fine paintings, mixed media, photography, pottery, jewelry, textile, glass, wood, metal and paper art, all accompanied by live jazz and acoustical music, cultural arts performances, children’s activities and festival cuisine.

The festival shines the spotlight on Alpharetta’s unabashed love of the arts. From the seven sculptures from internationally known artists that make up the temporary Miscellany open-air gallery in Brooke Street Park to Alpharetta’s permanent public art collection with works by Georgia artists, there is something beautiful, striking and dramatic to see everywhere you turn.

Create your own masterpiece at one of Alpharetta’s art-inspired attractions like Painting With a Twist, where burgeoning artists can sip wine during a group class, or All Fired Up, where individuals can craft one-of-a-kind pottery pieces.

Arts venues abound, including Sis & Moon’s with treasures curated from new and vintage sources; Out of the Box Art Studio with wheel, clay hand building, drawing, oil painting, acrylic, watercolor, multi-media art and more; and Still Point Art Gallery, a non-profit formal art gallery that supports local and international artists.

Dining is likewise inspired with artfully dressed dishes like charred octopus, squid ink spaghetti and grilled long stem artichokes served in the art gallery setting of Vinny’s on Windward. Like what you see? You can purchase the painting right off the wall.

Overnight at the new Hotel at Avalon, a fantasy land with 23 inspired restaurants, 75 luxe shops and a lobby devoted to all things modern art: statues, hanging pieces and living walls of live grass.



— Alpharetta, Ga.: http://www.awesomealpharetta.com/

For information about the 14th Annual Alpharetta Arts Streetfest (May 26-28), visit www.awesomealpharetta.com.

— Edmonds, Wash.: www.visitedmonds.com.

For information about the Edmonds Arts Festival (June 15-17), which marks its 60th anniversary in 2018, visit www.edmondsartsfestival.com.

— Georgetown, Ky.: www.georgetownky.com.

For information about Festival of the Bluegrass (June 7-10), visit www.festivalofthebluegrass.com. RSVP for the John Stephen Hockensmith’s The Gift of Color: Henry Lawrence Faulkner New Book Release at Irish Acres Gallery in Nonesuch, KY (June 21) at 859-873-7235. Learn more about the Seed to Feed dinner series at www.localfeedky.com/#dinnerseries.

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