Columbians [Heart] Art

This article is presented in partnership with Visit Columbia.

Artists have been leaving their imprint on Columbia since the first settlers rolled into the region. Here in this creative city, you’ll find historical masterpieces and fresh contemporary works. You’d expect to find amazing art in local galleries—and you won’t be disappointed—but in Columbia, art also enhances the town’s public spaces.

The City of Columbia’s Public Art Guide highlights 30 public art installations throughout the town. With helpful maps, descriptions and even a downloadable app, the guide sets you on the path to a self-guided art adventure. Spend a day exploring every statue, mural, artful window and painted traffic box, or check them off one by one throughout the year.

ARTlandish Gallery at 1019 E. Walnut Street is filled with the vibrant, compelling work of local artists and has become an important center in the burgeoning North Village Arts District. The artwork alone would be enough to bring people through the door, but ARTlandish is so much more. Those who come to appreciate the bold spirit thriving in the gallery can enjoy a special treat every First Friday when ARTlandish and other North Village Arts District businesses combine their creative energies for a monthly gallery crawl. While you’re there, check out the Catacombs, accessible from the gallery building. You can practically hear the echoes of the music that filled the space when Columbia’s now-defunct “blue laws” sent people who wanted to party underground on Sundays. 

Columbia Art League offers classes, workshops, summer camps and the always popular Art In The Park, but don’t overlook this fine gallery. The gallery at 207 S. Ninth Street aims to encourage and promote area artists by featuring their work in engaging, rotating exhibits. The organization’s focus on education make the gallery a popular spot for school field trips, but anyone of any age will be wowed by the depth of the local talent pool.

The Sager Braudis Gallery, located at 1025 E. Walnut, brings a world of art to Columbia. Its meticulously curated shows feature the work of regional, national and international artists. Monthly exhibits launch during the First Friday gallery crawls in the North Village Arts District. The gallery staff can also lend its expertise to help you curate your own personal collection of fine art.

It’s fitting that two of Missouri’s most celebrated artists, George Caleb Bingham and Thomas Hart Benton, loom large in the gallery of the State Historical Society of Missouri. You’ll find original paintings by both men, plus works by others with Show-Me State ties, including Fred Geary, John James Audubon and Karl Bodmer. The gallery is currently located on the lower level of Ellis Library on the University of Missouri campus, but is set to move next year to a state-of-the-art, 5,400-square-foot space in the new Center for Missouri Studies on the corner of Sixth and Elm.

It might be the most creative address in town: 106 Orr Street is a former industrial building that was transformed into Orr Street Studios, which features working/exhibition space for local artists. There’s room for nearly two dozen artists in comfortable individual studios. Even the doors are artsy in this imaginative space. Drop by and you’re bound to find artists at work.