Art Lover’s Williamsburg: Museums, Galleries and Festivals

Sample the eclectic array of world-class museums, specialty galleries and lively art festivals in this cultural hub.

An Occasion for the Arts
A Touch of Earth
Yorktown's Art at the River
Black Dog Gallery
Muscarelle Museum of Art

Virginia may be for lovers. But Greater Williamsburg is definitely for art lovers.

The area’s museums and festivals have long been enduring attractions offering everything from contemporary to folk to decorative art.  Amazing art combined with the beauty of the fall season make the Greater Williamsburg area the perfect location for your fall escape!

It’s only going to get better.

Art lovers will get more of a good thing with the $40 million expansion and upgrade to the building that houses two world-class museums, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Construction of the new wing began in the spring of 2017 and will add 65,000 square feet to the museum and will create a new entrance and museum store and add a cafe. Both the museums remain open during their expansion.

But there's no reason to wait to explore the wealth of museum, special exhibitions and arts festivals in the area.

The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum

The Abby Aldrich Folk Art Museum is the oldest continuously operating institution in the United States dedicated to the collection, exhibition and preservation of American folk art.

Among the ongoing exhibits at the museum are “Navajo Weavings” featuring over twenty rare, colorful and pictorial Navajo weavings created by anonymous Navajo women working on hand looms in the late 19th and 20th centuries and “We the People:  American Folk Portraits” featuring a wonderful collection of American folk portraits. Fans of the high seas will want to check out “American Ship Paintings,” showcasing five ships, including the first winner of the America's Cup. For landlubbers, there’s a walk through “Sidewalks to Rooftops: Outdoor Folk Art.” It examines signboards, storefront figures, marine carvings, carousel animals and other pieces from the 19th and 20th century.

The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum of Colonial Williamsburg

Enjoy the finer things at this museum, including the world's largest collection of southern furniture and one of the largest collections of British ceramics outside England. Among the special exhibitions this year are “Lock, Stock, and Barrel,” featuring early British weaponry (runs through Nov. 5); “Upholstery CSI” where you will discover the secrets of the 18th-century upholstery trade., and “Revolution in Taste” an exploration of the objects and evolving social customs that become part of daily life for the expanding middle and upper classes of the eighteenth century.

The Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary

The Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary is closed temporarily as they develop the new Martha Wrenn Briggs Center for the Visual Arts .  It was recently announced that the Muscarelle will move into the former Williamsburg Art Gallery location in Merchants Square this fall.  To follow this progress please visit the Muscarelle website.

Galleries

When you've finished your museum tours, keep on walking through the many galleries in the area.  

Colonial Folk Art in Williamsburg is an eclectic place to find work by local artists as well as vintage works by the Rev. Howard Finster and modern pieces by French artist Max Papart. You’ll also find classes in mixed media and handbuilding ceramics.

The Black Dog Gallery in Yorktown is home to a variety of products including historically accurate floor cloths and furniture; the gallery worked on the movie, The Patriot, as well as the HBO series, John Adams. You will also find antique and contemporary maps, prints and landscapes.  

At the Williamsburg Contemporary Art Center, explore classes for youth and adults as well as ever-changing exhibits featuring regional and local artists.

For something different, there’s Quirks of Art in Williamsburg, one of the area’s sources for handcrafted works from 400 artisans, ranging from jewelry to pottery to clothing. New for 2018 is Quirks sister gallery – The Sideshow – the Greatest Gallery on Earth!  Showcasing the finest fine glass and most stupendous ceramics, vintage vinyl floor coverings, wall art, fine jewelry, and handcrafted furniture – each one a work of art!

The long-standing — 35 years and counting — A Touch of Earth is an award-winning American craft gallery in the Lightfoot section of Williamsburg with prints, paintings, unique pottery, metal works, jewelry and other collectibles.

Prince George Art & Frame on Jamestown Road features local original art and changing exhibits make it one of Williamsburg’s livelier art venues and a stop you will want to make!

Festivals and Outdoor Events

Museums and galleries are just the start of the fun for art lovers in Greater Williamsburg. Be sure to mark your calendar for the spring and fall arts festivals.  Williamsburg's Spring Arts celebrates art, music, food and so much more with more than 50 events from March through the first day of summer in Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown, James City County and York County. Among the events are the annual New Town Chalk Art & Family Fest for pros and amateurs of all ages; the Second Sunday Art Show by Culture-Fix with more than 100 artists and craftsmen; and Art on the Square, featuring more than 100 artists and fine craftsmen in Merchants Square, all in April. In May, Art at the River showcases more than 100 juried artists, live music and food vendors on the York River at Riverwalk Landing in Historic Yorktown.

In the autumn, don’t miss the arts and crafts events of the Fall Arts Season. Highlights include the Yorktown Art Stroll at Riverwalk Landing, when the shops, galleries and restaurants in Historic Yorktown Village host Virginia artists and artisans in late September; the 50-year-old An Occasion for the Arts, a national top-20 art show on Oct. 5-7; and the Art Escape Weekend in early October.

If your love for art tends towards the musical note, check out the extensive festivals and concerts in Greater Williamsburg highlighted by national performers throughout the year. To experience more culture in Greater Williamsburg, check out these fun cultural activities and plan your visit today.

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