Welcome to the
Middle Mississippi River Valley Art Trail
Welcome to the greatriverroad.com art trail. While researching the Great River Road area around St. Louis the editors of greatriverroad.com came across a surprisingly large number of festivals, galleries, museums, shops, and studios that involved the visual or performing arts. So much so that the decision was made to create a new section devoted to the art community of the Middle Mississippi River Valley. Most of the attractions and events on the greatriverroad.com art trail are within a few hours drive from St. Louis making an interesting way to spend an afternoon. The area covered is too large to spend exploring in one day so we suggest that you choose a region to concentrate on.
Ongoing Art Exhibits
The Middle Mississippi River Valley is home to a number of venues that are the home to ongoing exhibits that change periodically. The venues come in a number of different sizes. There are small galleries like the Sikeston Depot Museum in Sikeston, Missouri and the Misselhorn Gallery in Sparta Illinois. Art centers are another venue and include the Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, Illinois, the Quincy Arts Center in Quincy, Illinois, the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, Missouri, and the Bradbury Art Museum in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The metropolitan St. Louis area has the largest assortment of venues including the Saint Louis Art Museum, The St. Louis Artists Guild, the Kemper Art Museum, the Sheldon Art Galleries, Art St. Louis, and the Contemporary Art Museum.
Visual Art Events
Art groups up and down the Middle Mississippi River Valley host a variety of festivals and special events that showcase that great art and artists that call the region home. Events range from monthly one night exhibits, juried events, fairs in small town communities, arts and crafts fairs, festivals that contain an artists component and more. Regionally and Nationally recognized shows include Ste. Genevieve Missouri’s Jour de Fete, St. Charles Missouri’s Festival of the Little Hills and Mosaics, Belleville Illinois’ Art on the Square and Midwest Salute to the Arts and Tennessee’s Reelfoot Arts & Crafts Festival. In the metropolitan St. Louis area visitors will enjoy the biannual Art Fair at Queeny Park, the Art Fair at Laumeier, the St. Louis African Arts Festival, the Webster Arts Fair, and the Saint Louis Art Fair.
Explore the Arts by Region
The Tri-State Area
Western Illinois, Southwestern Iowa & Northeastern Missouri
The Tri-State region of Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri has a robust art scene. In Quincy both the Quincy Art Center and the Oakley Lindsay Center offer programs and exhibitions to meet the needs of the area’s artists. Quincy University’s Gray Gallery hosts a number of exhibitions throughout the year. There are annual art festivals throughout the year, most notably the Q-Fest at the end of June. The Quincy Community Theater is a good example of how the performing arts are supported. In Fort Madison visitors can see monthly exhibitions at the gallery of the Fort Madison Area Arts Association and Art in Central Park is a large festival held in September. In Canton at Culver Stockton University exhibitions are held at the Mabee Art Gallery.
Missouri's Lincoln Hills
The Great River Road north of St. Louis
The art scene is growing along the banks of the Mississippi River north of St. Louis in the historic river towns of Hannibal, Louisiana, and Clarksville. The Clarksville and Louisiana area is becoming a refuge for artists, many who have shops in the downtown districts and Hannibal has a number of studios and galleries as well. The premier art event is the 50 Miles of Art adventure where professional artists and artisans in Hannibal, Louisiana, Clarksville, and surrounding communities open their studios, galleries, and retail spaces to the public. Louisiana features a mural project with over 20 outdoor scenes painted by local artists and the Henry Lay Sculpture Garden of St. Louis University where visitors can see works by nationally and internationally known sculptors.
Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway Area
Madison, Jersey, and Calhoun Counties, Illinois
Hundreds of artists make their home in the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway area. The Jacoby Arts Center in Alton has special exhibits featuring local artists as well as providing classes and workspace. There are private galleries in Alton and don’t forget the drive up the scenic Great River Road to view the 19th century architecture of scenic Elsah and to visit Grafton and its galleries and art shops.
Meeting the Missouri River
St. Charles County, Missouri
The Historic Main Street district in downtown St. Charles features 14 blocks with shops, art galleries, and restaurants and is home to a number of art related events throughout the year. The Festival of the Little Hills in August Activities includes over 300 craft and artisan booths. MOsaics is a fine art festival held in September that is dedicated to making a high-quality arts experience as accessible to as many people as possible. The event invites approximately 125 artists to exhibit and sell their original art work. The Foundry Art Centre is located on the banks of the Missouri River located in a 1940-era building that was formerly part of the American Car and Foundry complex. The Centre features the studios of over twenty selected artists, three galleries for rotating exhibits, and a Grand Hall for the performing arts.
Gateway to the West
St. Louis and St. Louis County, Missouri
Metropolitan Saint Louis is home to a vibrant art scene. You'll find creative expression on display at the Saint Louis Art Museum, on university campuses, and at numerous public museums. First Fridays in Grand Center located in the heart of St. Louis offers free entry into a number of museums and private galleries. a number of annual Art Fairs are held including some that are nationally known such as Art Fair at Laumeier, Saint Louis Art Fair, and The Best of Missouri Market at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
French Colonial Country
Missouri and Illinois south of St. Louis
The area south of St. Louis has its roots from the French settlers who came to this region in the early 18th century. Visitors can view unique French Creole architecture in the towns of Ste. Genevieve and Cahokia. Ste. Genevieve was once home to an art colony during the Depression era and local artists are keeping the tradition alive with annual art events. The region is the home of Roscoe Misselhorn, considered the Norman Rockwell of the Midwest, and galleries in Ste. Genevieve and Sparta showcase his work. The Schmidt Art Center in Belleville at Southwestern Illinois College features rotating exhibits featuring local artists as well as their collection of fine art and also an outdoor sculpture exhibit.
Meeting of the Ohio River
Southeastern Missouri, Southern Illinois, and Western Kentucky
The Meeting of the Ohio River provides its visitors a variety of cultural options. The Arts Council of Southeast Missouri is located in downtown Genevieve and provides a forum for residents and artists of the Southeast Missouri region to explore, experience and share in the diversity and excitement of the arts. The organization also has three galleries. These galleries along with private galleries in the community host a First Friday with the Arts each month. Cape Girardeau is also the home to the Rosemary Berkel and Harry L Crisp II Museum at Southeast Missouri State University and Cape Girardeau Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition which changes annually. Cape Girardeau has a large number of murals along Water Street of the old downtown district that make visiting them an attraction of their own. The old Iron Mountain Railroad Train Depot in Sikeston became a museum and cultural center in 2000.
The Upper Delta Region
Bootheel Missouri, Northeastern Arkansas, and Western Tennessee.
The arts are alive and well in the Upper Delta region of the Middle Mississippi River Valley. The Bradbury Art Museum of Arkansas State University hosts a number of rotating exhibitions as well as the annual Delta National Small Prints Exhibition. An art gallery is operated by the New Madrid Historical Museum in the the Hart-Stepp House in New Madrid, Missouri. Community theater productions are staged in western Tennessee in the Masquerade Theatre in Union City and the Ruffin Theater in Covington. KASU of Arkansas State University presents its "Bluegrass Monday" concert series at the Collins Theatre in Paragould. The Delta Fair in Kennett, Missouri is the site of annual Photography and Art exhibits.
Metropolitan St. Louis Art Museums
New and revitalized institutions, along with world-class architecture and public sculpture can be found throughout the city and county. The Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park is one of the nation's leading comprehensive art museums containing more than 30,000 works of art of exceptional quality from virtually every culture and time period. The Grand Center neighborhood is home to the midtown arts district with five free museums – the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, and the Sheldon Art Galleries - within blocks of each other. The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis contains the largest mosaic collection in the world. Created by 20 different artists, the mosaic artwork covers 83,000 square feet and took over 75 years to complete. The Laumeier Sculpture Park in suburban Kirkwood is a 105-acre open-air museum in Saint Louis County that features over 80 works of contemporary sculpture by internationally acclaimed artists.
Art Museums - Middle Mississippi River Valley
If you’re not in St. Louis art museums can still be found all along the Great River Road in Middle Mississippi River Valley. These museums come in all different sizes and are run by variety of organizations. greatriverroad.com has compiled this guide to aid art lovers easily find what they are looking for. Highlights include the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, Missouri, the Quincy Art Center in Quincy, Illinois, the Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, Illinois, the Schmidt Art Center in Belleville, Illinois, the Misselhorn Art Gallery in Sparta, Illinois, the Rosemary Berkel and Harry L Crisp II Museum in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and the Bradbury Art Museum in Jonesboro, Arkansas.