"There are tons of galleries along Newbury Street," says Boston Artists Blog's Lizzie Siegel, who points out the photography-focused Robert Klein Gallery in a city of famous art attractions such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Institute of Contemporary Art and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Anyone can find blockbusters such as these, of course, but it's those under-the-radar galleries and art districts that really connect visitors with intriguing local scenes.
"The Lot F Gallery is Boston's lowbrow art gem – one of their shows converted the gallery into a funky wooden doughnut shop," Siegel continues, adding visitors should also explore the South End's Thayer Street – especially studio buildings at 450 and 460 Harrison Ave. – for "the full SoWa [South of Washington] experience of artisans, entrepreneurs and creative folk."
Or why not try another city? "Philadelphia's Fleisher/Ollman Gallery is a beautiful space and the work is often challenging," says Roberta Fallon, director of the Art Blog, which also runs walking tours of the gallery scene beyond the city's revered Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Adding the University of Pennsylvania's Institute of Contemporary Art – especially for its lively events roster – Fallon also recommends the Chinatown North area's Vox Populi and Space 1026. "Both are as challenging and sophisticated as anything in New York's Lower East Side and Brooklyn," she says, adding late-openings at city galleries on the first Friday of every month are also a great way to meet artsy Philadelphians.
Almost 500 kilometres west, art blogger Alexandra Oliver suggests there's more to Pittsburgh's scene than the well-known Andy Warhol Museum. She points to the Mattress Factory – "full-room installations you experience with your whole body"– and Contemporary Craft, which exhibits "serious contemporary art emerging from craft traditions."
Dig deeper and you'll find additional grassroots gems, she adds. "Revision Space is a small gallery in the hip Lawrenceville neighbourhood. The work is innovative and challenging, yet saleable – you could imagine putting it above your couch." Or try artist Thorsten Brinkmann's "fanciful, disorienting" La Hütte Royal on 1812 Rialto St., which is a house stuffed with found objects.
But for a full immersion, discover the dinner lecture series SIX x ATE. "The talks and menus are crafted around a theme, stimulating both conversation and appetites," Oliver says, who suggests two more grassroots galleries if you're still hungry: Radiant Hall and the Mine Factory.
The eastern United States doesn't have a monopoly on cool art scenes, though. Scratch your chin in contemplation in creative destinations such as Portland, Ore., or Santa Fe, N.M. – or duck below the radar in San Francisco, after perusing the city's de Young and Asian Art Museum.
"111 Minna Gallery has a strong lineup of shows," says Shayna Yasuhara, arts editor at SF Station. "Artists bring their A-game here, so you get the best of the best," she notes, also recommending alternates Hashimoto Contemporary and pop-art focused Spoke Art, with it's annual Wes Anderson tribute show.
She also suggests hitting the sidewalk – a useful tip in any art-studded city. "I recommend just walking around, there are some jaw-dropping murals and quirky nooks to explore. Check out Clarion Alley and along 24th Street between Potrero Avenue and Valencia Street," she says, adding that a visit to 666 O'Farrell St. delivers an ad hoc "gallery" of art hanging on the walls outside.
And when you're ready to scratch your own creative itch? "Every third Thursday of the month, you'll find QuickDrawSF at F8, a monthly drink and draw with rotating artists and varying themes. It's very laid back and there's affordable art, happy-hour drinks – and some really friendly artist folk."
OUR READERS WRITE
I totally loved the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo with it's ethos of connecting art and nature. @catherinemack
Detroit for the great art museum (DIA) and the public art initiatives (Z Garage, the Belt, Grand River Creative Corridor, People Mover art). @KatieHammel
Last year I was in Pasadena and found the Norton Simon Museum and the Huntington Library and Gardens much more pleasant than my previous year's trip to Paris. Fabulous art, and much more at the Huntington, with no crowds. Previously I enjoyed the Getty Villa and the Getty Museum [in] L.A. There are also many more art museums in both cities that I didn't visit, but they get great reviews. Karen Mendell
MIAMI! For the gorgeous, modern Perez contemporary museum and the Wynwood Walls; 20 square blocks of street art, mind-blowing in its quality and scale. And over at the Beach, there's the Bass and Wolfsonian museums with excellent mixed collections. Eric Fitz
Walk around downtown Anchorage, Alaska – there's outdoor art and sculpture everywhere. @janogram
Houston's Museum District. It's a funky area with hotels, cafés, museums and Hermann Park's public art. @GeorgeKristine
The trek from Phoenix to Jerome via Sedona makes a great trip and puts you on the path to some awesome art inspired by a cross section of cultures and eras. Nick D.
Pittsburgh! Home of the fab Warhol Museum. @waheedaharris
San Francisco. I love the creativity – it's barrier-free and usually encompasses various mediums. @LittleCityCharm
The Degas show at MoMa; the Illuminated Manuscripts show at the Getty Centre; and the Roman mosaics show at Getty Villa. I know New York and and Los Angeles are hardly original suggestions, but that Roman mosaic exhibit is totally my bag! @scoutmagazine
Boston for the ICA, MFA and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – plus the university art museums etc in Cambridge. @timofnewbury
New Orleans. There's such rich culture and history in this city. @rthexton
Santa Fe is a personal favourite. Art shopping (Canyon Road), museums (SITE, CCA, Georgia O'Keeffe) and the inspiring people and landscapes. @chibeba
Chicago for the architecture! @elisabetheats
I'd love to plan a wildlife-watching vacation in Australia – where should we go?" Send your tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow me on Twitter: @johnleewriter