Arts and Culture

Atlanta: The Cultural Capital of the South


Fast Facts

  • Atlanta boasts more than 50 visual art galleries and more than 30 playhouses and theatres.
  • The metro Atlanta region has more than 1,700 cultural non-profit organizations, generating more than half a billion dollars in economic activity.
  • Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood features the largest concentration of arts facilities and organizations in the Southeast, with 25 different arts and cultural venues, more than 30 permanent performing arts groups, and 22 various entertainment facilities.
  • Atlanta’s residing symphony, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, has won 17 Grammys, more than any other U.S. symphony.
  • Atlanta has four Smithsonian affiliates: High Museum of Art, Georgia Aquarium, Museum of Design Atlanta and David J. Sencer CDC Museum.

Atlanta’s Artistic Rebirth

Although Atlanta’s arts and culture past is marked with its fair share of trials and tribulations, it has become one of the most vibrant in the U.S. The investment in the arts was catapulted by the loss of 122 members of the Atlanta Arts Association in 1962 when their plane crashed on takeoff at Orly Airport in Paris. As the city grieved, residents came together and used the loss as a catalyst for the arts.

This effort led to the creation of Atlanta Arts Alliance and Memorial Arts Center, now known as Woodruff Arts Center. This rebirth put Atlanta on the road to becoming the cultural capital of the Southeast and one of America’s great cities. Woodruff Arts Center, the country's third-largest arts campus – comprised of High Museum of Art, Alliance Theater and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra – draws more than one million visitors annually.

Art Without Borders

Atlanta’s arts scene spreads well beyond the city’s world-class venues. Over the past decade, a new wave of visual art installations and street murals have rolled in, adorning parks, walls, tunnels and walkways with color and jumpstarting Atlanta’s independent artist scene. Musicians play live at outdoor festivals and neighborhood farmer’s markets. Performance artists, such as those from Glo Atlanta, can be spotted on any given day practicing at Goat Farm Arts Center or performing on the grassy lawns of Piedmont Park.

Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail is a scenic three-mile pathway speckled with permanent and rotating visual art installations from locally-and-nationally-acclaimed artists. Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods are home to vivid murals commissioned by Living Walls and other independent associations. In the fall, spring and summertime, events like Atlanta Dogwood Festival, Inman Park Festival and Yellow Daisy Festival showcase the city’s local talent. OuterSpace Project is a week-long public art event aimed at improving urban beautification and promoting creativity. The week ends with “The Big Bang” and showcases live art installations, musical performances and a gallery exhibition. Murals created for OuterSpace Project can be spotted among various buildings around the city.

A City Steeped in Culture

Not only does Atlanta boast a colorful arts scene, but the city’s roots also dig deep into its cultural past. With historic events including Civil War battles, the birth of the civil rights movement and the Centennial Olympic Games, Atlanta is rich with historical stories and figures.

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site gives insight into the first steps toward civil equality and includes King’s birth home, Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Civil Rights Walk of Fame. A trip to Center for Civil and Human Rights can provide a broader sense of the civil rights movement and features the re-creation of a lunch counter sit-it and shows the progression of the movement on a global scale. APEX Museum offers visitors a way to experience African-American history and culture in a personal way through permanent and changing exhibits in the heart of Atlanta’s historic Sweet Auburn district.

Atlanta’s evolution through history, including its role as a hotbed of the American Civil War, can be experienced by taking a tour through Atlanta History Center’s 22 acres of gardens, trails and the two historic homes that sit on site – Swan House and Smith Family Farm. A few miles south, the Margaret Mitchell House showcases the apartment where the Pulitzer Prize-winning author wrote her novel Gone with the Wind. 

In addition to the many historical events that took place in Atlanta, the city has a presidential past and is home to Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum and Library. The museum houses a replica of the Oval Office, a desk made for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and mementos from President Carter’s childhood.