There are few things as awe-inspiring as the warm glow of golden hour on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. With gorgeous scenery at every turn, from blue-green waves crashing against white-sand shores to the sway of sea oats in the breeze, it’s no surprise that Orange Beach and Gulf Shores have become hotspots for artists looking to draw inspiration for their work. One of the best places to get steeped in the area’s vibrant arts scene is at the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach on scenic Wolf Bay. Here are eight things to know about the center before planning your visit.
It has deep connections to Orange Beach history.
Up until 2015 when the building was torn down due to structural issues, the Coastal Arts Center was located in Orange Beach’s first hotel. The 1923 boarding-house style hotel featured 11 rooms and was accessible only by water until the 1940s. In 2017, the new 10,00-square-foot Coastal Arts Center building opened in place of the historic building. Inspired by the original hotel, it features many architectural elements salvaged from the demolition, including columns, wood flooring, doors, and windows.
You can see art representing all types of mediums.
Visitors can peruse the center’s 5,000-square-foot gallery to see fine works from local and regional artists including watercolorists, potters, painters, photographers, textile artists, sculptors, and more. Many of the works are inspired by the spirt of the Gulf Coast. Pieces are rotated frequently, so there’s always something new to see.
You can take the art home.
All pieces in the gallery are for sale. The center also runs a gift shop filled with art in a broad price range, so everyone has the opportunity to take a piece of the Gulf Coast home with them.
You can make your own art.
One of the coolest things about the Coastal Arts Center is that it’s not just for viewing art, it’s for making art. The center offers an array of class types from beginner canvas painting for a fun night out with friends to intermediate watercolor painting for those looking to hone their skills. Kids programs and teen workshops are also held regularly.
Glass blowing, glass fusing, and ceramics included.
For a one-of-a-kind art experience, visit the center’s adjoining cottages that house The Hot Shop and Clay Studio. In the Hot Shop, watch live demos from glass artists, then try your hand at the art by reserving a “make your own” glassblowing lesson or a glass fusing class where you can create a suncatcher or jewelry. In the Clay Studio, students can choose between classes for hand building, throwing pottery on a wheel, or glazing pre-made pottery.
The center hosts a yearly arts festival.
Each year on the second weekend of March, the Coastal Center’s grounds come alive for a celebration of visual, performing, musical, and culinary arts. The festival features the works of more than 100 artists in a variety of mediums. Festivalgoers can enjoy the spring weather while taking in live performances on the stage, perusing artist tents, and watching live art demonstrations. The family-friendly event also includes a kids art alley, musical performances, and several food vendors representing the culinary arts.
You can host a wedding or event at the center.
From destination weddings to corporate parties, the center serves as the perfect backdrop for special events. In addition to access to the indoor space, the center’s grounds feature a waterfront stage overlooking Wolf Bay, lavishly landscaped grounds, and idyllic moss-draped live oaks.
It’s free and open to the public.
The center is open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and entry is always free. In addition, the center’s gorgeous grounds are always accessible, providing the perfect setting for a weekend picnic date or quiet afternoon relaxing on the lawn. Many artists bring their easels to sketch or paint the breathtaking views of Wolf Bay. Bonus: The facility and grounds are pet friendly as long as your furry friend is leashed!