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Galax VA: Where Art Is For Everyone

galax fall into art festival
Each autumn, Galax celebrates art with the family-friendly Fall Into Art Festival.

Imagine yourself weaving through the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains to a place where the air pulses with creativity and the landscape hums with an artistic vibe. Welcome to Galax, Virginia, a small city where you’re not just a visitor but an integral thread in the vibrant tapestry of local arts.

In Galax, art is for everyone. It’s a place where art admirers can browse galleries and public art, where artists can become inspired by natural beauty, and where creatives can roll up their sleeves and join a workshop.

Galax, VA, provides a rich cultural experience for residents and visitors alike, offering opportunities to participate in and enjoy the arts. From the hands-on creativity offered at the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts to the public art transforming the cityscape, art in Galax, VA, is a flourishing cultural phenomenon. Opportunities abound to create, appreciate, and engage in the arts.

Whether you’re looking to take classes, perform, or simply enjoy a show, Galax offers a welcoming and vibrant art scene. So, immerse yourself in the exciting world of art in Galax, VA, and experience the satisfaction and accomplishment that come with artistic exploration and creation.

First Impressions: Galax Public Art

galax station fiddle sculpture
Galax is proud of its uniquely decorated 12 fiberglass fiddle sculptures.

Wander downtown, and the pulse of Galax’s public art draws you in. The “Welcome to Galax” signs greet you warmly as you enter town. Main Street is alive with colorful banners that speak of community events, while the stunning mural in front of the CCSA Woodworking Studio and the mosaic at the Grayson Street Stage visually tell the tales of Galax’s heritage. Even the city’s utility boxes are painted with images of galax leaves (yes, Galax is named for the leaves of an abundant mountain shrub).

Spread out around the town, you’ll find something unique to Galax: twelve large bass fiddle sculptures, each six feet tall, that are easily accessible to all. These aren’t just any sculptures; they’re made of fiberglass, and each is uniquely decorated with colorful acrylic paint or mosaic tiles. Strategically placed in spots where they’re easy to see, these fiddles tell stories about Galax’s history and culture (and are fun to look at). So, as you walk through Galax, keep an eye out for these vibrant artworks that combine art, history, and culture to the streets.

Chestnut Creek School of the Arts
The Chestnut Creek School of the Arts is the focal point for art-related activities in Galax.

The Chestnut Creek School of the Arts

At the center of the Galax Historic District at Main and Grayson streets, you’ll find the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts (CCSA). CCSA is the hub for artistic endeavors in Galax. In its first-floor gift shop, you’ll find selections of handcrafted items by local, regional, and national artists: paintings, metalsmithing, fiber, printmaking, woodworking, stained glass, and the list goes on. You won’t find run-of-the-mill, kit-craft items here; all items accepted for consignment must pass a strict jury review. When you take home an item from the CCSA shop, you can be assured that it is an original design, handmade by the artist.

Beyond the gift shop—but in the same building—the second floor boasts an art gallery and exhibit space (there’s an elevator if you prefer to ride). Additionally, the building houses well-equipped studios where the artistically inclined can find the tools, supplies, and mentorship needed to explore their creativity. Art4Life classes and workshops are offered throughout the year for residents and visitors.

Don’t see something on the schedule that you like? Design a class for your group with CCSA’s “Class by Design” offering. Want a paint party? CCSA can do that. How about creating a stained-glass piece? Or a small wooden item? Or watercolors, barn quilts, pottery, baskets, or art journaling—there’s no limit to the possibilities. Advance planning is needed, though. Contact CCSA for details.

Still, the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts has more to discover. Just a block away, southward down Main to Oldtown Street, lie two more of the school’s three campuses.

pottery studio chestnut creek school of the arts
At the CCSA Pottery Studio, you can roll up your sleeves and create something practical and beautiful.

The CCSA Pottery Studio

You’ll find the pottery studio on East Oldtown Street, a half block off Main. Here, under the guidance of an experienced instructor, you can roll up your sleeves and create something practical and beautiful. The cool, earthy touch of clay between your fingers, the whir of the potter’s wheel, and the quiet concentration of artists mastering their craft create a tapestry of sensory experiences.

This environment fosters personal creativity and cultivates a sense of community among participants. As you work side by side, sharing techniques and inspirations, the pottery studio becomes a place of fellowship and artistic collaboration. Creating something practical and beautiful with your hands offers profound satisfaction and a tangible connection to the craft, leaving you with not just a physical artifact but a cherished memory of the creative journey.

Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned potter, the inclusive atmosphere invites you to mold your masterpiece, a tangible memory of your visit. Pottery Studio Members enjoy round-the-clock access to the facilities.

CCSA woodworking studio
CCSA woodworking classes include cabinetry and furniture making, lutherie, turning, carving, sculpting, and more.

The CCSA Woodworking Studio

For a woodworker, stepping into the state-of-the-art woodworking studio on West Oldtown Street is an exhilarating experience. The buzz of machinery and the scent of fresh wood shavings fill the air as you watch artisans transform raw lumber into intricate works of art. Classes include cabinetry and furniture making, lutherie, turning, carving, sculpting, and more. Offerings may be focused on simple projects, skill-building, or more complex projects. Joining this community, you can feel the profound satisfaction of turning a piece of wood into something functional and beautiful, forging a personal connection with every chip and curve your hands shape.

For a small fee, the studio is open on an hourly basis to those who have completed the required safety training.

junior appalachian musicians
Junior Appalachian Musicians perform at the Rex Theater in Galax.

Junior Appalachian Musicians

I’d be remiss if I left our discussion of the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts without mentioning the Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program.

Each week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 to 5:30, young, aspiring musicians gather at CCSA to learn to play a traditional Appalachian string instrument in a group setting. The program emphasizes learning music by ear, a method that connects students to the traditional ways Appalachian music has been taught and shared.

This unique program offers Galax youths ages nine to thirteen a chance to immerse themselves in the musical traditions of the Appalachian region. This engagement isn’t only about learning to play an instrument; it’s about becoming part of a continuing story, a legacy of music that has echoed through the mountains for centuries.

The educational benefits of the program extend beyond musical skills. Participation in JAM fosters confidence, teamwork, resilience, and creativity, preparing students for a variety of future endeavors. Also, the program serves as a vital link between young people and their cultural heritage, strengthening their sense of identity and belonging.

The “JAM kids” perform regularly around Galax. Their level of musicianship is high enough that they have been invited to perform onstage by bluegrass luminaries like Rhonda Vincent, Ricky Skaggs, and Roni Stoneman. Performances and events bring together families, friends, and neighbors, reinforcing communal ties and shared cultural identity. This support network uplifts the students and enhances the community’s connection to its history.

CCSA Empty bowls initiative logo
Galax’s community spirit shines through CCSA initiatives.

Chestnut Creek School of the Arts Community Initiatives

Outside the studios, Galax’s community spirit shines through CCSA initiatives. Volunteers might help with the Empty Bowls project to help feed the hungry or make a fused glass piece for someone who has lost a child. Or, make Gypsy Flowers at the Woodworking Studio, or join a Knots and Needles group to make blankets for the homeless, hospice, or newborns, or perhaps totes for foster children. Those participating feel a deep connection to the town as they help craft items for local causes.

Galax City Gallery Fine Art Cooperative
The City Gallery Fine Art Cooperative offers a robust showcase of local talent.

City Gallery Artist Cooperative

Located right on Main Street in the Historic District, City Gallery Fine Art offers a robust showcase of local talent. This cooperative gallery features an array of artists from southwestern Virginia and northwestern North Carolina, including painters, wood carvers, jewelers, and sculptors. For art enthusiasts, visiting the City Gallery is a delightful journey through regional creativity, offering the joy of viewing and the opportunity to acquire unique artistic keepsakes. Each piece in the gallery embodies the spirit and culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains, making them not just souvenirs but personal treasures that carry the essence of this rich artistic community.

Arts & Crafts Community Events

As seasons change, Galax celebrates its artistic community with various events. Here are two of the most popular arts & crafts events:

CCSA Fall Into Art Festival
At the Fall Into Art street festival, visitors will find art activities, community service art projects, games, entertainment, and vendors.

Fall into Art Festival

Picture yourself meandering along the streets of Galax, taking in the sights and sounds of the Fall into Art Festival. The festival is a perfect introduction to autumn, where the air is crisp, and the streets are lined with artwork. At this popular street festival, visitors will find dozens of arts & crafts vendors offering handcrafted items, raffles, free art activities, community service art projects, games, all-day entertainment, and food vendors. Fall into Art is a guaranteed delight for all ages!

stories of the stitch quilts
The Stories of the Stitch Quilt Show showcases a variety of disciplines within the world of traditional fiber arts.

Stories of the Stitch Quilt Show

Sponsored by the Art Council of the Twin Counties, the Stories of the Stitch Quilt Show at the Matthews Living History Farm Museum showcases a variety of disciplines within the world of traditional fiber arts.

Picture this: colorful quilts waving like flags across the fields, each a personal labor of love by local quilters. Each quilt tells a story and has a history. Quilters bring the best of both: quilts and stories. As live music wafts through the air, the sounds of crafter’s demonstrations and children playing add to the flavor of the gathering.

The best quilts win prizes, and some of them are for sale. The show isn’t just about quilts, though. The Farm is lined with vendors selling various items related to fiber arts: yarn, tools, fabric, and so on.

And what’s a festival without some good tunes and food? They’ve got that covered, too. Best of all, it’s free to get in. So, why not come down, see some fabulous quilts, and maybe learn a thing or two from the stories that are told?

Rex Theater Galax
Live performances by the Arts Council of the Twin Counties have become cornerstones of local cultural life.

Performing Arts

The Arts Council of the Twin Counties (ACTC) leads the way in Galax performing arts. Storytelling, live theater, radio plays, and online performance videos combine to bring a dynamic blend of performing arts to Galax. Iconic plays like “On Golden Pond,” “Our Town,” and “Arsenic & Old Lace” were not just performances but events that gathered the community, providing both entertainment and a shared cultural experience. These productions, offered both live and online, have become cornerstones of local cultural life, showcasing the talent within the community and drawing audience members from all walks of life.

Beyond the stage, the Council’s commitment to education shines brightly. Through partnerships with organizations like the Missoula Children’s Theatre, the Council offers robust programs in children’s theatre, nurturing young talent and fostering a lifelong appreciation for the arts. These initiatives are not merely extracurricular activities but essential components of personal and educational development, offering young participants skills in teamwork, creativity, and expression.

The impact of the Arts Council extends beyond the immediate joy and engagement of the arts; it is woven into the fabric of community life, enhancing Galax’s social, educational, and economic vitality.

Art is Mountain Made in Galax, VA

In Galax, every experience is an invitation to immerse yourself fully and leave with more than just memories—go with a piece of this community’s heart and soul. Here, art isn’t just observed; it’s lived. So, as you consider your next destination, think of Galax, where you’re not just passing through—you’re part of the canvas.

Wayne Jordan is a Galax-based writer and storyteller. His Scots-Irish ancestors settled in the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1760, and he has deep roots there. The author of four books, Wayne is a retired Senior Editor for WorthPoint Corporation, a long-time columnist for Kovels Antique Trader Magazine, and a contributor to regional newspapers and travel publications. He blogs at BlueRidgeTales.com.

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