Art to Explore from Vacationland to the Ocean State

Hi, it’s Michael from over at Misadventures with Michael. One of the things I really love is exploring cool new places on a budget. A lot of times this means spending time in and around the city you live in, so for me, a college student in Maine and a resident of Rhode Island, I’ve learned to find cool places around these areas and a lot of them are art-related. Here I’ve created a guide to different art museums and events to check out that all can cost $5 or less.

Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME


Having recently undergone multimillion dollar renovations, Bowdoin’s art museum has great gallery spaces, seminar classrooms, and hosts several events and beautiful exhibits. This past fall they hosted a Maurice Prendergast exhibit, By the Seawith a huge selection of his paintings focused on the sea and people visiting beaches in New England and, I believe, also places in Europe. The museum is free and open to the public, so it’s easy to make a visit without breaking bank.

First Friday Art Walk, Portland, ME

As the name quite obviously suggests, First Friday takes place on the first Friday of every month in Portland. Galleries, the Maine College of Art (MECA), and Portland Museum of Art (PMA) all open their doors to the public free of charge and invite people in to see their work. MECA showcases student/faculty work and usually a lot at once, so it’s pretty easy to find something up your alley. Some of the galleries have been a little too experimental for me, but there’s such a range of work on display, including that which people sell on the street, so it’s hard to not find something that you like.

Although the art walk takes place all year, it’s definitely better to go when it’s warmer out. Things close down early in Portland at night if you’re not 21, so it’s better to be outside in the sun than avoiding the snow. A lot of activity is centered near the Art Museum on Congress Street, and there are some great restaurants to check out around that area like Nosh, Local Sprouts, and Green Elephant.

Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME

The PMA deserves its own shout out here. The museum is free every Friday evening, so it’s wise to visit the museum at this time (and this is the case every week, not just on First Fridays). The collections here are really extensive and diverse, spanning from classical sculptures to the insides of the McLellan House to massive modern pieces. They had an exhibit of some of Winslow Homer’s work last year which was great (there is often a fee to see the temporary exhibits, though).

South Coast Artists Tour, Tiverton and Little Compton, RI

To travel south a bit, in a similar vein as the First Friday Art Walk, the South Coast Artists Tour is another way to explore what local artists do and how they represent the nature and scenery of Tiverton and Little Compton, RI. My favorite galleries have tended to be those which showcase the beaches and landscapes around Newport County, but the tour is by no means limited to this kind of work.

For two weekends over the summer, one in July and one in August, artists open the doors to their galleries and welcome visitors to see their work and often sell pieces as well. There are a number of galleries in Tiverton’s Four Corners that are within close walking distance of each other (and are next to Provender where you can get a good, light lunch). Several gallery spaces and studios are located within the artists’ homes, but many, like those in the Four Corners, are in more public spaces.

RISD Museum, Providence, RI


Named one of the 1000 Places to see in the U.S. and Canada by Patricia Schultz, the RISD Art Museum packs a punch. With a student ID, admission is only $5, and that gives you access to the huge collections of this museum. When I visited with my sister my time was unfortunately limited, so I didn’t get to see all the museum has to offer. However, it’s cheap and filled with art worth seeing and is also located in College Hill, which is a really nice neighborhood in Providence.

Providence Art Club, Providence, RI

Completely free to the public, the Providence Art Club exhibits artwork from its members and is a short walk away from the RISD Museum. The building itself is gorgeous and is worth exploring for all of its nooks and crannies. I first visited to see a family friend’s artwork as she had recently been accepted as a member of the club, and I was particularly struck by the paintings and portraits that were exhibited.

WaterFire, Providence, RI

The final spot on my list is somewhere I have yet to visit but has been on my list ever since I’ve moved to Rhode Island. WaterFire is a public art show that takes place throughout the summer on the Thames River in Providence. On select Saturday nights, small fires are lit along the river in a beautiful show, and it seems like an incredible way to enjoy being outside in the city.

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