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California's Emerging Art and Culture Scenes

Sept. 25, 2017

The Golden State welcomes individuality, thriving off the many diverse cultures and peoples who call it home. Here, art and culture scenes are forever growing and changing, enabling visitors to experience the forefront of creativity each time they visit. Below is a sampling of the emerging destinations that have found their place in California’s art and culture scene.

California’s New Cultural Districts
In recognition of cultural diversity and unique artistic identity, the California Arts Council announced 14 districts as California’s first state-designated Cultural Districts in 2017. While some are well-known, others are hidden gems just recently emerging as thriving arts scenes. Spanning from Redding and Eureka in the northern regions of California all the way to San Diego County in the south, these districts showcase the vibrant local communities that contribute to the unique creative identity of the Golden State. Click here to learn more about the 14 cities that received this special distinction.

San Diego County Offers an Art-Centric Getaway
San Diego’s art-centric neighborhood Barrio Logan boasts Chicano Park, a National Historic Landmark housing the largest collection of Chicano murals in the world and host to many cultural events. Many buildings wear colorful murals from local artists, and warehouses are now funky, creative spaces for art exhibits and music shows. Once a bakery, Bread & Salt hosts cutting-edge art shows. Up in Oceanside, The Oceanside Museum of Art exhibits everything from contemporary art, landscape painting and photography to neon sculpture and studio furniture. Artists Alley serves as home to many striving artists, and the California Surf Museum honors the local surf culture. The Muramid Mural Museum is the first of its kind and dedicated to inspiring mural displays, while three historic theaters promote opportunities for all ages. Both Barrio Logan and Oceanside recently earned the California Cultural District Designation.

Sonoma Valley Creates More than Just Wine
Sonoma’s landscape nurtures much more than grapes; it feeds a vibrant arts scene. Fine arts abound across Sonoma’s galleries, guilds, businesses and museums. World-renowned sculptor Albert Paley displays public art at historic Sonoma Plaza and Sonoma Valley Museum of Art through October. Transcendence Theatre Company presents Broadway Under the Stars in an open-air theatre and Jack London State Historic Park. The Sonoma International Film Festival holds screenings of top independent films year-round.

San Luis Obispo County Now Boasts Several Arts Enclaves
In recent years San Luis Obispo (SLO) County has evolved beyond its agricultural and surf culture roots, giving birth to several thriving arts enclaves. SLO attracts global talent to its performing arts center and thriving downtown arts district, including the SLO Repertory Theatre and SLO Art Museum. The town offers 70 public art works, and First Friday gallery nights. Morro Bay’s must-sees include the Museum of Natural History, Skateboard Museum and Maritime Interpretive Center. Artist enclave Cambria offers fine art galleries, stores selling artisan crafts and live theater.

North Lake Tahoe Now Inspires Indoor Recreation
Long known as an outdoor recreation mecca, North Lake Tahoe now invites visitors to appreciate its indoor beauty too. The town’s arts scene has grown in recent years to include the Maritime Museum, recently expanded cultural programming at Thunderbird Lodge and burgeoning events from the Lake Tahoe Dance Festival to the Made in Tahoe Festival.

Ventura County’s Art Scene Grows
In between cultural meccas such as L.A. and Santa Barbara, Ventura County can at times get overlooked, yet it has much to offer. Built in 1906, Oxnard’s Carnegie Art Museum displays work that ranges from contemporary realism and impressionism to abstraction and finish-fetish. Next door is CAM Studio Gallery where visitors can spot a guest artist at work. The Oxnard Film Society screens a variety of foreign films on first and third Monday nights. In Old Camarillo, the non-profit Studio Channel Islands hosts programs such as Artists-In Residence open studios, arts education classes, diverse Blackboard Gallery exhibitions for emerging artists, cultural events and festivals.

Lake County Hosts State’s First Installation of American Quilt Trail
Picturesque Lake County has been attracting budding artists, talented musicians and rich culture for years, albeit under-the-radar. It’s home to California’s first installation of the American Quilt Trail – a network featuring quilt blocks across North America. Seventy-five colorful 4’ to 8’ quilt blocks adorn barns, pear packing sheds, wineries and historic buildings. Non-profit EcoArts of Lake County promotes arts, education and ecological stewardship through its Sculpture Walk, where local artists transform natural and repurposed materials in a variety of aesthetic and eco-centric ways, blending them into the scenic park.