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The Eastern Shore Art Center is Worth a Visit

Fairhope, Alabama, is a mid-sized city less than an hour from Mobile and is home to the Eastern Shore Art Center. This peaceful suburb may seem like any other town on the edge of a metropolis. But nestled into its downtown area is an art lover’s dream.

The Eastern Shore Art Center is unlike most community art galleries. With a history spanning more than 50 years, the Art Center is truly a one-of-a-kind institution.

Join us as we discover why Fairhope residents consider this gallery a local gem. 

Let’s check it out!

About The Eastern Shore Art Center

The Eastern Shore Art Center was founded in 1954 by Fairhope, Alabama, artists and patrons of the arts. According to the organization’s website, a single-room gallery was built that year and served as the original location.

Over time, the Art Center grew from that initial gallery into a much larger campus. The expansion now includes four learning studios and five exhibit spaces. 

This location offers community events and activities such as classes, a monthly Art Walk, and an annual art show. The Art Center also supports public art programs and public school curricula. 

In 2001, a committee grew out of the Eastern Shore Art Association. The Committee on Public Art aims to connect members of the Fairhope community to art in their daily lives through access to public art. 

Throughout the city, the Committee sponsored or promoted 17 easily-accessible art structures. These installations include memorials, sculptures, and murals.

What Kind of Artwork Does The Eastern Shore Art Center Exhibit?

The Eastern Shore Art Center features a wonderfully diverse array of exhibits. For instance, one exhibit showcases work by members of Studio Art Quilt Associates, a multi-state group of highly skilled textile artists. 

Another exhibit by the Eastern Shore Camera Club is this organization’s 12th annual showcase. It features work by photographers of all ages and skill levels.

Previous exhibits include installations such as The Common Thread by Dariana Dervis. This artist creates three-dimensional works using found objects and collages. Maralyn Wilson’s Creations of a Curious Sort featured clay sculptures inspired by fantastical childhood memories. 

The Art Center’s annual juried art show includes entries in various mediums, from canvas paintings to photographs to sculptures.

While many exhibits highlight local artists, the gallery also focuses on historical and international creators when possible. One show, A Naturalist’s Sojourn in Alabama, highlights the work of Philip Henry Gosse, an English naturalist. Gosse illustrated many of Alabama’s native plants and animals in the mid-19th century.

Where is The Eastern Shore Art Center Located?

Located at 401 Oak Avenue, the Eastern Shore Art Center is in Fairhope’s downtown area. From the Mobile, Alabama, metro area, the gallery is just a 30-minute drive without traffic. This makes the Art Center the perfect destination for a weekend or day trip.

Fortunately for visitors, the building retains its own private parking lot. Street parking is also widely available in the surrounding neighborhood. Parking is sometimes more difficult to find during events such as the monthly Art Walk.

Plenty of restaurants and retail shopping choices are within walking distance. The Art Center’s website even lists one nearby restaurant, Julwin’s, as a landmark for public parking areas. 

Out-of-town visitors can stay at the local Hampton Inn just three blocks away. The gallery’s central location makes it a convenient activity for travelers exploring Fairhope.

A painting of an old-fashioned public clock with "City of Fairhope" engraved on it.

Does The Eastern Shore Art Center Hold Classes and Workshops?

One of the Eastern Shore Art Center’s defining characteristics is the impressive number of classes and workshops available to the public. Few community art centers can boast the variety of programs offered by this gallery.

Adult classes begin at $120. Areas of study include watercolors, clay sculpture, pottery, and photography. Children’s classes start at $100 and include subjects like drawing, mixed-media exploration, and painting. Special holiday classes are also available for kids.

The Art Center also hosts workshops, many of which are more focused than classes. Attendees can focus on specific painting techniques, learn the basics of glassblowing, or create floral arrangements. It seems there’s something for everyone.

Is There an Entrance Fee For the Art Center?

The Eastern Shore Art Center is free and open to the public. Guided tours of the Art Center’s five exhibit spaces are also available free of charge. The gallery is open from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Tuesday through Saturday. 

Does The Eastern Shore Art Center Hold an Annual Festival?

This one-of-a-kind art space doesn’t just hold exhibits. The Eastern Shore Art Center also hosts The Annual Outdoor Art Show, a three-day celebration of Fairhope’s artistic community. It’s been a regular event for the past 50 years. 

The yearly show is held each March on the Art Center grounds and in the surrounding downtown area. The Outdoor Art Show is free to attend and open to the public. 

Past Outdoor Art Shows featured live demonstrations by artisan glassblowers and blacksmiths. Musical entertainment, vendor booths, and food trucks are also available at the event.

Visitors can even enter raffles to win artsy prizes. The event routinely draws more than 250,000 visitors annually. 

A photo of inside the Eastern Shore Art Center.

What Else Is There to Do Around Fairhope, Alabama?

Due to its downtown location, the Art Center isn’t far from Fairhope’s many other attractions. Visitors to the city can enjoy the beauty of Mobile Bay from the Fairhope Municipal Pier. The Travel Lens website calls it “the most popular attraction you can visit in the city.” 

Surrounded by well-kept rose gardens and clean beaches, the Pier makes an excellent spot for picnicking and relaxing.

Fairhope Avenue is another popular tourist destination featuring bookstores, restaurants, and antique malls. Beer lovers can enjoy one of 14 beers brewed onsite at the Fairhope Brewing Company. 

And the city is also home to the Fairhope Museum of History. It’s a perfect destination for visitors interested in learning about Fairhope’s early days.

Nature lovers can travel to Weeks Bay Reserve, which offers a self-guided nature trail through wetlands, forests, and marshes. The Gator Alley Boardwalk is another option for outdoorsy folks looking to see some native wildlife. 

Is a Visit to The Eastern Shore Art Center Worth It?

A cosmopolitan art scene in a city with a small-town feel; what could be better? Thanks to its legendary gallery, Fairhope offers more access to art and educational resources than most similar-sized cities. And it doesn’t hurt that there’s so much to see in the town itself. 

With its large selection of events and rotating exhibits, it’s a must-see location for your art travel bucket list.

Now that you’ve read about it, do you plan to visit the Eastern Shore Art Center? Let us know in the comments below.

Outside Folk Gallery

You can explore folk, street, and outsider art in our personal collection at Outside Folk Art. We’re celebrating these creatives and giving voice to rising black, Native, immigrant, and working mother artisans. 

We’ll also be offering pop-up shows and collaborations with small museums, so be sure to follow us to discover the where and when!

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