By Elisa Rodero
If you’re seeking vibrant arts scenes couched in the charm, scenery and history of New England, Massachusetts has ample offerings. Here are a few places you’ll want to be sure are on your itinerary.
A popular summer destination on Cape Cod, Provincetown boasts the title of America’s Oldest Continuous Art Colony. An incubator of talent for more than a century, the colorful Provincetown arts scene is essential to the fabric and character of the town. Whether you’re seeking larger museum displays or eclectic galleries where you can purchase works by local artisans, the choices in “Ptown” are seemingly inexhaustible.
If you’re looking to stroll through a large collection of curated works, the Provincetown Art Association and Museum draws on its 100-plus year history to provide a cultural cornerstone of the town’s art scene. For those who want to hone their own artistic craft, the Fine Arts Work Center nurtures contemporary artists and writers and features speaker series, artist residencies and writer workshops.
Because Provincetown is easily walkable and art is everywhere, it’s worth setting out early for a stroll around the East End and Commercial Street, where you’ll find more than 40 galleries to suit all tastes. Stop in for a glass of wine and chat with artists and gallery owners at the weekly Friday night art openings.
And of course, any arts town worth its salt matches its creative offerings with vibrant food selections and lively bar scene. Bring an appetite for seafood, a sense of fun and maybe your dancing shoes—Ptown invites you to dive right in.
For a small, rural enclave, Northampton packs a serious arts punch. Easy driving distance from Boston, it gives you just what you’d expect a New England college town—picturesque neighborhoods, bookshops, coffee houses and stately academic halls—and more than a dozen visual arts venues.
The five academic institutions in or around town and its connection to former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge provide the lifeblood of Northampton’s arts scene. Four of the area’s colleges feature vibrant visual and performing arts programs, museums, galleries and more.
Start with the Smith College Museum of Art, where you’ll find more than 27,000 works spanning both the globe and the centuries, as well as lecture series, musical acts, and theatrical performances. The Mount Holyoke College Art Museum offers nearly as much to explore, with 24,000 collected pieces. Nearby Hampshire and Amherst colleges also house reputable museums and galleries.
If presidential history appeals, the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum houses memorabilia and artifacts from this former mayor and resident of Northampton who rose to the nation’s highest office.
Among these noteworthy, serious offerings, there’s also something for those looking for a little more whimsy. A quick 20-minute drive to Amherst will transport you into the pages of your favorite childhood books at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Founded to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books, its collected works by renowned artists from Maurice Sendak to Mo Willems will delight people of all ages.