From festivals and galleries to museums, Huntsville's arts scene is as vibrant and colorful as the art it produces.
This Town Has a Lot of Art!
For this very reason, the Arts Council in Huntsville is perhaps one of the hardest-working organizations in the community since 1962. Referred to as a chamber of commerce for the arts, the council works as a network for artists and art organizations. It also acts as a referral agency for anyone pursuing an art career. Not only does the council represent individual artists, arts organizations and supporters of the arts, it also sponsors the Panoply Arts Festival, one of Huntsville’s best-loved community events.
An Abundance of Festivals
The Panoply Arts Festival is a three-day event that draws as many as 90,000 spectators and more than 200 volunteers. It is held the last full weekend of April at Big Spring International Park. In addition to a parade and daily fireworks, the festival features a Global Village that will showcase crafts, music and other art forms from various countries and cultures. In addition to the Panoply Arts Festival, there is the Big Spring Jam. More than 240,000 people gather to jam at this festival, held in downtown Huntsville – and to help out local charities, as well. The three-day event, held at Big Spring International Park the last weekend in September, features more than 100 acts on six stages. Performers have included well-known names such as the Dixie Chicks, Michael W. Smith, Hootie and the Blowfish, Alice Cooper, Jars of Clay, Randy Travis and Trace Adkins.
Butterflies and Blooms
Another cool attraction is Huntsville Botanical Garden, a 112-acre oasis adjacent to Redstone Arsenal and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The garden treats visitors to an impressive display of wildflowers, ferns, herbs and other plant life. The Southeast Tourism Society named the garden its Travel Attraction of the Year in 2004.
Huntsville Botanical Garden is known for its seasonal events, including the Spring Festival of Flowers, a summer program for children, the Scarecrow Trail each fall and the Galaxy of Light, a 1.5-mile drive featuring hundreds of custom-made, holiday light displays. In 2006, the garden will unveil a $3.6 million nature center featuring the nation’s largest open-air butterfly house. A new 2-acre children’s garden will have eight themed areas, including a storybook garden complete with giant toadstools.
A Love of Art
Huntsville’s affinity for the arts is also evident in a number of other organizations, such as the Huntsville Art League. The league hosts special arts events. Every month, a member gets to display their work in a Limelight Exhibit and Reception at the front of the gallery. The league’s biggest event and fundraiser is the Collector’s Draw in late January. Visitors to this fundraiser get to choose pieces that artists have donate based on a drawing. Most visitors leave the fundraiser very satisfied with the artwork they had received.
Located in Big Spring International Park, the Huntsville Museum of Art is another place where the arts abound. The nationally accredited museum has seven galleries and a 2,300-piece permanent collection, and it hosts traveling exhibits that feature the work of nationally acclaimed artists. The Museum Academy at the Huntsville Museum of Art offers classes in everything from drawing to jewelry making. If you’re interested in new works created by the next generation of North Alabama artists, visit the Huntsville Museum of Art. Each spring, the museum celebrates the creative talent of young people with Youth Art Month. The exhibition showcases more than 180 works, including painting, sculpture, photography and mixed media, created by students in kindergarten through grade 12. Youth Art Month is just one of many museum programs designed to foster this community spirit.
The Show Must Go On
Theater groups have come and gone in Huntsville, but Theatre Huntsville has been around, in one form or another, for more than 50 years. Today, the community theatre organization produces six regular season shows from September to August and one season extra in June. The first show staged by the Broadway Theatre League, in 1959, was Odd Man In, featuring Ann Sheridan, a favorite pin-up girl of the 1930s and ’40s and a popular movie and TV actress. The league, the second-oldest in the country, hasn’t let up since. The BTL has 10,000 tickets available for each show, and 5,500 of those go to season ticket holders. The league also sponsors the Humanities Outreach introducing the Students to Theatre (HOST) program, which offers student tickets at a reduced price.
A Peak into the Past
A large portion of Huntsville’s culture is directly tied to its history. An example of this happens to be one of Alabama’s top attractions. Burritt on the Mountain, A Living Museum gives visitors a chance to explore the natural beauty of the region while taking a journey back into the lives of 19th- century Southern farmers. The museum, overlooking the city from atop Monte Sano Mountain, interprets the history of the people and environment of the Southern Cumberland area of Tennessee and Alabama.
Originally the estate of Dr. William Henry Burritt, the site now contains the Burritt Mansion, a collection of 19th Century rural structures, nature trails and picnic facilities. Located in the historic park are several restored log structures that were moved to Burritt to preserve them, arranged to reflect different farmsteads during the 1850 and 1900 time periods. Visitors can watch farm activities demonstrated by interpreters such as planting, harvesting, cooking and woodworking.