While Gator-Chomping is an art in itself, Greater Gainesville boasts a wide variety of fine arts and galleries.
Renowned for its intellectual variety, and college football, the area also offers a unique blend of over 80 fine arts organizations and attractions. In 2015, over 2 million residents and visitors participated in cultural and artistic events in Alachua county, according to a report by Americans for the Arts.
Friday and Saturday nights go beyond football and offer a rich blend of culture, food and art.
Matheson History Museum
The Matheson Museum boasts a collection of over 20,000 postcards from every county in the state. The cards bring context to history, and constitute a lavish display.
Matheson House, dated to 1867, provides a glimpse into Florida’s natural history. Tours are offered to the public, at $5 an adult. Admission is free for ages 12 and under.
Initially the private residence of the former Mayor, Major William Reuben Thomas, the Historic Thomas Center found its wings in 1910.
According to Russell Etling, cultural affairs manager for the city of Gainesville, the site served as a community hub long before it became a cultural one. In 1928, Thomas transformed his home into a hotel. And over its 40-year tenure, it hosted a variety of members from the greater community, serving political and local discussion.
The Thomas Center transformed into the cultural hub it is now in 1972. The venue features free galleries and gardens that are open to the public. Thousands of people visit the center each year to revel in the unique architecture and artistic culture it offers.
Throughout the year the center hosts over 400 events, including Jest Fest, weddings and Jewel Box concerts. Jest Fest features modern, first-class comedy for all age levels, as well as food and live music. For concerts, the center generally employs world-renown artists, such as Sam and Eden. Performances are hosted under the glass canopy in the historical Spanish Court.
“It’s like a private concert in your living room,” Etling said.
Ten exhibits are featured in the gallery each year with prominent themes. New in 2017 is “Cross Creek Rising: The Consciousness of Land and Water,” commemorating the 75th anniversary of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ book. Etling said it is themed around the natural environment of North Central Florida. The exhibit celebrates the area’s natural beauty with 90 works of art, including paintings, photography and sculpture. This exhibit is featured through January 9, 2018.
The arts and culture of the Thomas Center breathe life into Greater Gainesville, and exposes the community to the freedom of artistic expression and tradition.Fine Arts for Ocala Arts Festival
Fine Arts for Ocala Arts Festival
Ranked no. 32 of 200 of the Best Arts Festivals in the United States, the FAFO Ocala Arts Festival is an event held each year in the fall. Spanning two days, it features 180 national artists. The festival has free parking and offers a variety of food trucks and vendors. It also has free children’s crafts and activities and live entertainment.
Held in October, the Micanopy Fall Festival showcases a variety of local musicians and craftsmen. It features over 200 pieces of art and live musical performances. Held in a town untouched by time, the festival provides a flavor of arts and tradition.
Newberry Watermelon Festival
The Watermelon Festival took root in the city of Newberry in 1946 and has become a beloved tradition. To celebrate the harvest, event-goers can participate in baking, beauty pageants, seed spitting and watermelon eating. If you feel confident in your watermelon growing ability, you can enter the “Big Melon” contest.
High Springs Pioneer Days Festival
This family-friendly event invites visitors to take a step back in time and enjoy the festivities in High Springs. Held in April, visitors can enjoy a variety of food, rides and live music, as well as “Ole’ Fashioned Shoot-outs.”
Downtown Festival and Arts Show
Held in Gainesville, the Downtown Festival and Arts Show was ranked no. 24 on the Sunshine Arts magazine’s list of the best fine arts festival in the nation. Attractions include paintings, jewelry, sculptures and photography from more than 240 artists across the country.
Cinema Verde International Environmental Film & Arts Festival
Held in February, Cinema Verde is an international film festival that touches down in Gainesville. Its mission is aimed at raising environmental awareness through arts, workshops, events and films, with movies typically shown at the Hippodrome Theatre. Tickets range from $10 to $100.
On the last Friday of every month (except in November and December), Gainesville residents and visitors can take a self-guided tour to enjoy a vast array of visual arts. The free event is presented in downtown Gainesville and also features live music. Businesses and eateries are open, and the event typically lasts from 7-10 p.m.
352 Wall Walks offer visitors a chance to view the unique mural masterpieces featured around Downtown Gainesville. Grab your cell phone, and embark on a free self-guided tour.
Embrace the talent of local artisans by stopping by the Stephen C. O’Connell Center at the University of Florida. Held in December, the festival hosts several hundred local vendors and homemade eateries. Embrace the early Christmas spirit and discover local artists by visiting the Craft Festival.