An Artful Experience

  • Visit North Central

Folks in Johnny Appleseed Country are proud of their rural side: The abundant farms, orchards and parks underscore the character of the region.

But there’s lots more than pumpkins and hiking trails in Johnny’s backyard!

If you love exploring art galleries and museums, experiencing classical and contemporary art — and everything in between — the cities and towns of North Central Massachusetts are filled with hidden treasures.

One of the newest additions to the region’s cultural tour is theGallery of African Art on High Street in Clinton’s downtown district.

Primarily an educational museum, the Gallery of African Art houses a collection representative of various regions, tribes and traditions of the African continent assembled by art collector Gordon B. Lankton. But like any treasure, this gallery is somewhat hidden away; the entrance is through a portal at the back of the Sunrise Boutique store.

The Gallery’s diverse collection encompasses more than 600 African tribal masks, figures, sculpture and artifacts crafted in stone, wood, clay and bronze, spanning 32 tribes, including Dogon, Baule, and Bamana art.

And there’s more! Not just a static exhibition space, the Gallery hosts drumming classes for children and adults taught by Master Drummer Issa Coulibaly, a dynamic performer originally from Mali, West Africa. African Dance classes, taught by Seydou Coulibaly and hosted by the Gallery, are also being offered.

Zachariah Combs, recently named director of the Gallery, says his goal is to create working partnerships with Massachusetts schools, Clinton businesses and Central Massachusetts community organizations and to conduct both outreach and in-gallery programming that will showcase African art, music and dance.

Step through the portal, into a world of African art that you won’t soon forget!

Russian Icons

While you’re there, be sure to visit the Museum of Russian Icons — the largest collection of Russian icons in North America. The small town of Clinton, Massachusetts may seem an unlikely spot for a collection of this magnitude — but once again, the extensive travel and deep interest of industrialist Gordon Lankton have combined to create a real treasure.

Spanning six centuries, the collection of more than 500 Russian icons and artifacts, one of the largest private collections outside Russia, includes important historical paintings dating from the earliest periods of icon “writing” to the present.

The museum also offers special exhibits, workshops and lectures, and has even hosted concerts related to the collection. Stop by the Russian Tea Room to enjoy a variety of fine teas, coffees and traditional Russian snacks, including Moscow chocolate and imported Russian biscuits.

And So Much More!

An artful trip through the region wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the downtowns of Fitchburg and Leominster! TheFitchburg Art Museum houses extensive collections of works ranging from Egyptian artifacts to American portraits, along with changing exhibitions of contemporary New England Art.

At the nearby Rollstone Studios, you can see the work of local artists. This cooperative studio and gallery at 633 Main Street offers changing exhibitions and classes, too.

Another “must visit” on the local scene is the Leominster Art Center and Gallery on Main Street. The LACG showcases local artists and musicians, and its First Fridays events are not to be missed! Follow the organization facebook to see what’s happening today!