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Best Texas Roadtrips for Art Seekers

Texas is a huge state, filled with diverse communities of people and places. Many of the bigger cities are beginning to identify themselves as art outposts. Thanks to the arts and design districts in Dallas, the tree-lined museum district in Houston and the stunning Kimbell, Amon Carter and Modern Museum in Fort Worth, Texas is earning a reputation in the outside art world. But with summer in full swing, we thought we'd explore some lesser known art destinations in our great state, perfect for a weekend getaway. 

If you get there by morning, up from San Antone, Amarillo is filled with iconic surprises. Thanks mostly to the deep pockets of eccentric billionaire Stanley Marsh.  You'll find the art collective Ant Farm's Cadillac Ranch made in 1974, in which a line of 10 brightly painted tail-finned Cadillacs are submerged in the dirt, as if by some cataclysmic car wreck. (They are actually inclined at the precise angle of 52 degrees –the same as the sides of the Great Pyramid.) Keep an eye out for Floating Mesa, which bears a painted white stripe near the top to give it the illusion of hovering. Also in Amarillo, you can stop by the original site of the Standard Oil gas station that served as inspiration for one of Ed Ruscha's most famous paintings –now it's an auto repair shop. Want more? Swing through the Amarillo Museum of Art, home to regional art, including a few O'Keeffe's, and, oddly, a swath of Asian art. 

Think you know the ins and outs of Galveston Island? Think again. This coastal town has a habit of reinventing and reimagining itself, probably because they've had to rebuild hurricane after hurricane. After Hurricane Rita, a number of residents hired artists to transform trees killed by the saltwater into unique yard sculptures. Two of the most interesting spaces are the Galveston Artist Residency and the Galveston Arts Center, two spaces focused on infusing contemporary art into the downtown area. Every six to eight weeks, these spaces participate in an art walk, which also includes a handful of beachcomber or vanity galleries. New to the town this summer is the Bryan Museum, a Texas art and history museum built in a historic former orphanage. 

El Paso
You might be surprised to learn that El Paso has a pretty darn good museum of art. You read that right. Like the city itself, the El Paso Museum of Art blends American and Mexican cultures.You'll find American art from the 19th and 20th centuries, alongside Mexican colonial art and retablos from the 1700s and 1800s. Also, keep your eyes peeled for an array of public art, much of which reflects its surroundings, taking on the shapes of plants or desert clouds. 

One of the major draws of the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont is the forest of Felix "Fox" Harris' totem sculptures. Based on the artist's backyard installation, these sculptures made of found or recycled objects are wild things. The museum also features traveling exhibitions, and a permanent collection of folk and contemporary art. 

It probably goes without saying that Marfa is the go-to weekend getaway in Texas. With expansive desert vistas, quirky sights, and a starry night sky, it's certainly one of the easiest places in Texas to like. Minimalist artist Donald Judd certainly thought so, as it's where he spent a great deal of time, creating work and even setting up the Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum. Stay in a teepee at El Cosmico, drive out to take pictures in front of Prada Marfa, and explore the shops and galleries. 

Here's another city with a quality art museum that will surprise you: Abilene! The Grace Museum is one of the most beautiful museums in the state of Texas. A historic 105-year-old building that was once a hotel now plays home to a collection and hosts exhibitions with an emphasis on American artists with Texas connections. The collection includes works by David Bates, Ansel Adams, Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol and more. 

If you're looking for art in Texas, you'll eventually end up in Albany for the Old Jail Art Center. Exactly what the name implies, the center boasts high caliber exhibitions of artists from across Texas and beyond. Plus, the building has an unexpectedness with its history of housing lawbreakers. Time your visit with an exhibition to get the full effect. 

Bonus: Shreveport
This town just a couple hours east of Dallas isn't just somewhere to gamble away your latest paycheck. Shreveport is slowly earning a reputation as a place with a bit of culture. From the largest outdoor mural in the United States to the quirky Moonbot Studios and the exhibitions at the Artspace gallery, the region features an array of artists. Recently, the Shreveport Regional Arts Council unveiled an artist in residence program; its first artist was Houston-based Dennis McNett, and the next will be performance artist Nick Cave. Pretty big gets for NorthWest Louisiana.
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Lauren Smart
Contact: Lauren Smart

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