The Bay area features an exceptionally broad canvas of visual and performance arts offerings for all tastes and skill levels. Here, find 31 unintimidating ways to explore this local scene and get your own creative juices flowing. Now, go get your art on!
How to Artwalk like a Pro
The experts share tips on how to navigate one of the city’s most hopping events.
Downtown insiders have a saying about the second Friday of the month: “See you on the street.” It means, “LODA ArtWalk is tonight.” Between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., Dauphin Street, adjacent roads and Cathedral Square become a block party for artists, roadside musicians, patrons and the curious, all united by love of art and comfortable shoes. Insiders also know that once here, you too are part of the in crowd. But it takes some planning to stride the eight busy blocks. So lace those sneakers and follow me.
During the Friday night hike, the area of Dauphin Street between Washington Avenue and Conception Street closes to vehicular traffic, and is accessible only by foot. But, unless you’re the Lone Ranger, most arrive by car. Not a problem. Here’s a tip: Mobile does not check LODA parking meters after 5 p.m. on Fridays through the weekend.
“Parking is first come, first serve, ” says Joanie Stiff, special events coordinator for the City of Mobile. So arrive an hour early to beat the crowds.
Suzy Beique, of Paint the Town Gallery, adds, “While waiting for the 6 p.m. event to start, grab dinner and relax with family and friends.” Then hit the streets. The hub of ArtWalk is Cathedral Square so try to park nearby. “There are good parking spots on side roads, like St. Francis, ” says Beique. Conti Street beside the Cathedral is also a good site. Buck’s Pizza is nearby with mammoth portions of stromboli and apple pastries waiting. If you’re not careful, ArtWalk can become “ArtWaddle.” Which brings us to the next strategy: food.
The Art of Eating
Here’s a LODA dining secret: You don’t have to search for food; it finds you. Stand still for five minutes, then look down at your hands. Somehow you’re holding a cup of champagne punch and Triscuits, with no recollection of how either got there. “Many spend the evening ‘gallery grazing, ’” says Bryant Whelan, artist resident and partner of Artology Inc. “Many stops offer light snacks and drinks, ” she adds, pouring me a glass of wine for research purposes. Typical offerings include chips and dip, cookies, punch, peanuts and more. And if you want more, more is what you get. Many restaurants and bars feature ArtWalk specials, accompanied by live bands and exhibits. And now, on with the show.
Walking the Streets
At ArtWalk, crowds pop up in an instant but lines seldom do. “If one venue is packed, just walk to the next one and come back later, ” adds Beique. “Foot traffic is very fluid. People come and go as they please.” But three hours pass quickly. Here’s what the pros suggest to maximize your visit.
“From 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., the restaurants are busiest, ” Stiff notes. “But the galleries are just getting started. They’re easier to access, and it’s probably the best time for shopping, since they are less crowded.” She adds that 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. are peak store and artists’ times, and bar crowds swell from 8 p.m. until further notice. Plan accordingly.
As for projected participation rate, the answer is easy: Nobody knows. It can be 200 or 2, 000. “Seasons are not indicative of attendance, ” Whelan says. “I’ve been in the dead of winter when streets are packed.”
What to Look For
Besides the brick-and-mortar shops, sidewalks and Cathedral Square are chock-full of exhibits. Works in all genres and media are available. Tonight’s snapshot sampling includes paintings, sculpture, photography and wooden robots for sale. “I am impressed with the diversity here, ” notes Art Walker Renee Curtin, a Mobile resident and area banker. “There is a lot of quality art and quirky things.”
“We’ve been doing this for 20 years, ” Stiff says. “As an event planner for the City of Mobile, I love seeing Downtown packed with people who are enjoying themselves.”
And enjoy they do. I look forward to next month when once again I take it all in stride. See you on the street.
6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Second Friday. Take in the night filled with food, art, street performers and more 11 months out of the year. (ArtWalk takes a break during Mardi Gras.) The event is sponsored by the City of Mobile. Lower Dauphin Street • ncsmobile.org
Not a natural-born Picasso? Even amateurs can explore a variety of media at these entertaining hands-on studios.
Create original jewelry. At Knot Just Beads on Old Shell Road, patrons select from a variety of baubles to design and assemble one-of-a-kind accessories in a variety of price ranges.
Knot Just Beads • 2605 Old Shell Road. 473-8650.
Paint a masterpiece. Grab your corkscrew and brush. At art party studios, such as Paint and Pals and Paint Party Studios, friends gather to create pre-sketched, paint-by-number-style canvases, while sharing plenty of vino and laughs.
Throw a pot. Act like Demi Moore and experiment in clay. Sign up for a weekly class or intensive workshop to learn to turn mud into beautiful pottery. The Fairhope Museum of History, The Kiln Studio and Gallery in Fairhope and the Centre for the Living Arts in Downtown Mobile offer classes for all levels and adults and children alike.
Cook up a feast. Slip into an apron, sharpen your knives, and try your hand at a fine dining culinary class. Kitchen pros teach useful tips and techniques. And, with a variety of course topic offerings available, from baking 101 to upscale entrees, ethnic to vegetarian, wannabe chefs are sure to leave with an expanded knowledge base – and a full belly.
Grand Hotel • 1 Grand Blvd., Point Clear. 928-9201
Sweet Olive Bakery & Café (inside Windmill Market) • 85 N. Bancroft St., Fairhope. 990-8883
Wind Creek Atmore • 303 Poarch Road. Atmore. 1-866-WIND-360
Plié like a prima ballerina. Local dance-inspired exercise studios, such as the new Barre3 at Picadilly Square and Pure Barre in Legacy Village and Daphne, offer classes made up of unique ballet, yoga and Pilates workout combos. Designed to foster balance, strength and flexibility, these sessions will also have you reminiscing about your childhood dance recitals. Sequined leotards not required.
Tickle the ivories or draw the bow. Wish you’d stuck with those third-grade piano lessons? It’s never too late to finish what you started. This fall, enroll in Broussard’s Academy of Music adult instructional classes (private and group options), which range from piano to guitar, violin to voice.
Broussard’s Academy of Music • 1541 East I-65 Service Road S. • 344-8856
A Festivus for the Rest of Us
From a music lover’s paradise to a foodie’s dream, and everything in between, Bay-area festivals offer creative options for everyone. Some have decades of history. Others are new and growing. And many offer funnel cakes.
Expand your cinematic horizons. While the SoAl Film Festival focuses on productions with a uniquely Southern flair, the Fairhope Film Festival offers some of the top national and international films of the year. Past selections include: “Muscle Shoals, ” “The Spectacular Now” and “Stories We Tell.”
Sing along to hits by Alabama, Joan Jett and the Black Hearts, and Earth Wind & Fire. Or, disco-ver a new favorite from artists, such as Brantley Gilbert and Foster the People. Tip: While chairs are allowed, stick to the designated areas. You don’t want to be “that annoying guy.” bayfest.com
*Want to win tickets to this year's BayFest Music Festival? Grab a pen or Sharpie and doodle anything you want on the blank sketchbook on our September cover. Snap a photo of it and Facebook or Instagram it to us with the tag #MBCoverArtist. One lucky reader will be chosen to win BayFest Music Festival passes AND season tickets to Mobile Symphony Orchestra! Good luck!
Oct. 3 – 5 • Downtown Mobile
NATIONAL SHRIMP FESTIVAL
Feast on crustaceans cooked just about any way you can imagine while shopping at craft vendors. Also, don’t forget to bring your shovels for the Sand Sculpture Contest, which includes cash prizes.
Oct. 9 – 12 • Intersection of U.S. Highway 59 and state Highway 182. 968-6091
Stop and smell the baklava at the celebration that attracts more than 20, 000 people. Lamb gyros hot off the grill, pork roasting on revolving spits and Greek coffee (strong enough to launch the Space Shuttle) will have you yelling “Opa!” Tour the church, take a swing at Greek dancing and shop for souvenirs.
Oct. 16 – 18 • 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 50 S. Ann St. 438-9888
ELBERTA GERMAN SAUSAGE FESTIVAL
Nosh on German-style sausages, sauerkraut, goulash and other fare while scanning more than 200 vendor booths. Little known fact: Elberta’s famous official sausage recipe comes from Alfred Stucki who managed Elberta’s Locker Plant from 1953 until his death in 1973. elbertafire.com/festival
Oct. 25 and March 28 • Elberta Town Park (intersection of Main and State streets)
SARALAND MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL
Check out local bands, art of all genres, and drama and skit presentations at this event that promotes the North Mobile County community and its burgeoning student artists. saralandartscouncil.org
Nov. 1 • 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Saraland High School, 1115 Industrial Parkway, Saraland
FAIRHOPE ARTS & CRAFTS FESTIVAL
At this celebrated Eastern Shore tradition, peruse unique arts, crafts and eats made by artisans from all over the U.S. The fest was started in the ’50s around Mardi Gras festivities and the Azalea Trail to summon visitors across the Bay. annualartssandcraftsfestivalfairhope.com
March 20 – 22 • 10 a.m. – 6p.m. F / Sa 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Su • Downtown Fairhope. 928-6387
FESTIVAL OF FLOWERS
At Providence Hospital Foundation’s annual floral extravaganza, creative interpretations of breathtaking landscape and architectural designs will wow and inspire viewers. Before the big event, kick back with food, friends and live music at Buds and Brews on Friday night. festivalofflowers.com
March 26 – 29 • 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Th – Sa, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Su. • Providence Hospital Campus, 6801 Airport Blvd. 639-2050
Sample the best shortcake this side of Venus at one of the fastest growing festivals on the Gulf Coast. Live bands, games, 12 food booths, an antique tractor show and, of course, strawberries attracted 70, 000 people to last year’s jam-packed event. baldwincounty-strawberryfestival.net
April 11 – 12 • 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Loxley Municipal Park.
SOUTHSOUNDS MUSIC FESTIVAL
If you’re so over packed-out shows, but still need to get your live-music fix, keep an ear out for the lineup at this smaller fest that prides itself on bringing “new Southern music” to Downtown’s funky, intimate venues. Past performers have included St. Paul and the Broken Bones, The Great Peacock, Hurray for the Riff Raff, and Grayson Capps and the Lost Cause Minstrels. southsoundsfest.com
TBA April • Downtown Mobile
Soak up the sun while listening to buzz-worthy national acts, such as The Black Keys, Outkast, The Killers, Jack Johnson and The Foo Fighters. Tip: Head over to the beach early to catch the Thursday night kick-off party featuring rising star bands such as Jamestown Revival, Dumpstaphunk and Go Down Moses, for a fourth of the price of a general admission ticket to the big event. hangoutmusicfest.com
May 15 – 17 • The Hangout, Gulf Shores
DAUPHIN STREET BEER FESTIVAL
Expand your taste buds and sample mugs of various lagers, ales and other hoppy beverages on tap at more than 30 Downtown bars and restaurants. Word to the wise: Plan your route in advance, because participants are required to start their bar crawl wherever they buy their tickets. ncsmobile.org
TBA August • Downtown Mobile
Make a Night of It
Head Downtown early or stay out late. Stop by any of these hot spots before or after a show.
FOR 15 MINUTES OF FAME
While The OK Bike Shop is now known for its tasty take on Tex-Mex, on Friday morning they’ll be famous for the stirring rendition of “Midnight Train to Georgia” that you performed at karaoke on Thursday night. For more experienced artists, check out the weekly open mic nights at The Blind Mule and Veets.
The OK Bike Shop • 11 a.m. – 3 a.m. Daily • 661 Dauphin St. 432-2453
Veets Bar & Grill • 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. M, 4 p.m. – Midnight Tu / W, Noon – Midnight Th, Noon – 2 a.m. F / Sa, 4 p.m. – Midnight Su • 66 S. Royal St. 694-3090
The Blind Mule • 11 a.m. – Noon M, 11 a.m. – 2 a.m. Tu – Th, 11 a.m. – 4 a.m. F, 10 a.m. – 2 a.m. Sa, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Su • 57 N. Clairborne St. 694-6853
While there’s nothing wrong with Bud Light or whiskey and Coke, if you want to broaden your potable horizons, grab a toddy at The Haberdasher, Alchemy Tavern or Firehouse Wine Bar. For old-school, handcrafted cocktails, head to The Haberdasher, top left. If you’re in the mood to listen to up-and-coming indie bands while sipping some eccentric brews, look to Alchemy Tavern. To relax with a glass of pinot or merlot from exotic locales, mosey over to newbie Firehouse Wine Bar.
The Haberdasher • 7 p.m. – 2 a.m. M / Tu, Su; 5 p.m. – 2 a.m. W – Sa • 451 Dauphin St. 287-1976
Alchemy Tavern • 5 p.m. – 2 a.m. M, 5 p.m. – 3 a.m. W – Sa • 7 S. Joachim St. 441-7741
Firehouse Wine Bar • Noon – 11 p.m. Tu – Sa, Noon – 9 p.m. Su • 216 St. Francis St. 421-2022
FOR DINNER AND A SHOW
So, this one might actually take up the whole night, but Mobile Mystery Dinners theater is sure to make for a memorable evening on the town. Enjoy wine and a multicourse meal as a classic whodunit unfolds.
Mobile Mystery Dinners • 865-7398. Reservations required. See website for schedule and locations.
FOR A LATE NIGHT SNACK
If all that gallivanting around town has made you hungry, nosh on some late-night street food. Pop in Mediterranean Sandwich Co. for gyros and risotto to go. And Geaux Boy food truck can often be spotted serving up po’boys and Debris Fries after midnight.
text by Mallory Boykin, Emmett Burnett and Lawren Largue