Valdosta’s charming downtown—also designated as the City Center Arts District—is home to a palpable creative spirit and artisan vibe that can be found on every block. The picturesque historical architecture is the first clue that Valdosta is committed to culture and creativity. Buildings that were erected during Valdosta’s post-Civil War economic boom through the turn of the 20th Century have been lovingly preserved and restored, providing downtown an artful foundation and streetscape.
The city has spearheaded the commitment to the arts with public art installations along the streets and in pedestrian-only alleyways. Community members have gotten into the act with the opening of art galleries and venues to showcase local artists. Shopkeepers have committed to filling their stores with one-of-a-kind merchandise from the regional artisan community. Plus, the artists themselves have been inspired to share their talents and inspire others through pop-up art events.
Even the dining scene has gotten into the game, with many restaurants filling their walls with local artwork, much of it available for purchase. Some of the restaurants even host their own art classes and artful events. Here are some of the places where you can find handmade, artsy gems, as well as get in touch with your inner artist:
Artists on Ashley features the paintings, drawings and pottery of a group of Valdosta friends and artists. With landscapes and abstracts, acrylics and oils, and ceramic bowls and decorative items, it’s a truly local way to appreciate art. See what inspires these local artists in and around their Southern homes.
Representing a unique collection with “a Southern touch,” Kaleidoscope Gallery & Emporium showcases local and regional artists and artisans who imbue their Southern locale on fine and folk art (think marshes, seascapes and live oaks), portraiture, metalwork, ceramics, woodwork, glass and jewelry. Classes and workshops are also available year-round.
The Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts is the jewel of the community arts scene with six galleries showing permanent and rotating exhibitions, as well as concerts and other live performances. They also offer classes and workshops, including painting, pottery, photography, videography and culinary lessons.
The Dosta Playhouse, an Art Moderne-style landmark, has been restored to its 1941 splendor and serves as an inspirational playhouse and home of Theatre Guild Valdosta. Head here for theatrical performances, musicals and children’s productions.
Just north of the downtown arts scene, find more of the city’s creative spirit at Valdosta State University. The Dedo Maranville Fine Arts Gallery and Valdosta Symphony Orchestra pack the calendar with art exhibits and concerts from autumn through spring. Plus, the Peach State Summer Theatre is a professional stock theater that produces three musicals each summer.
Painting classes are offered daily at The Brush Up for adults, children and families. With step-by-step instruction from a trained art instructor, participants create their own masterpieces in one fun 2-hour sitting. The Brush Up is also the perfect place for a birthday party, bridal shower or corporate event.
Paint your own pottery or figurine or learn how to paint your own canvas at Studio Imagination. Touted as fun art, not fine art, channel your inner artist through instruction or simply spend your time unleashing your own creativity. The resulting souvenir will be one-of-a-kind for sure
At The Draw Arts & Eats, get a taste for art, along with a full menu and cocktails, as you channel your inner artist on Artograph Light Pads. Draw your own stencil creations with gel pens or colored pencils. With washable markers and crayons at the ready, kids love it too.
One of the early leaders of Valdosta’s art scene, Art and Soul, is brimming with eclectic furniture, lighting, art, home design items, nursery goods and jewelry from local and regional artists. From mid-century to farmhouse, their mix is filled with artfully unique finds that will add color and whimsy to your home. And you can even celebrate the art of movement in their yoga studio upstairs.
Also filled with a wide range of home furnishings and décor, FUNK Living leans more toward retro and vintage finds. Known for high-end affordable chic, they are committed to one-of-a-kinds as well as boutique and vintage clothing, customized home accessories, artwork, artisan foods, candles and soaps.
Focusing on classic home décor and gifts, Mockingbird features antiques, eclectic accessories from traditional to modern, decorative finds and walls filled with local art. The shelves are filled with cookbooks (many of them Southern-inspired), barware, entertaining accessories, clothing, jewelry and baby gifts.
Part Southern chic women’s clothing boutique and part rustic home décor, with a little monogramming, children’s clothing and art in the mix—Cottonwood Market & Boutique has a bit of everything. Local artists and artisans fill the shelves with bath products, candles, home accessories, trinkets and artwork. Create your own masterpiece any time at their popular craft bar or stop in for one of their canvas art parties.
Located in the original Schwartz Family Outfitters location, which served Valdosta for more than 60 years, Chez What is still outfitting Valdostans with antiques, one-of-a-kind collectibles and reinvented finds. A true treasure hunt through time-honored pieces, refinished rustic treasures and locally created home décor masterpieces, Chez What also provides custom refinishing and refurbishing.
Valdosta’s neighbor to the north, Hahira, simply oozes oh-so-Southern charm from its blooming azaleas and Southern cooking to its friendly and gracious people. If downtown strolling, café lingering and boutique browsing is your idea of a perfect afternoon, make it a double with visits to downtown Valdosta and Hahira.
Hahira’s crossroads are lined with charming shops selling unique home décor, artisan goods, quilting and sewing notions, gifts and jewelry. Visitors won’t go hungry here, with restaurants featuring everything from Cuban sandwiches and donuts to down-home cooking for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Hahira Square, the new community hub in the middle of downtown, features a re-creation of the original 1891 train depot, complete with an outdoor stage and green space for activities plus future plans for a park, veterans memorial and splash pad. However, Hahira is best known for its annual Honey Bee Festival. A weeklong celebration of arts, crafts, food, entertainment and the longest parade in Southern Georgia, the festival attracts upwards of 35,000 visitors every fall and is the highly-anticipated social event in the area.