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 also has more than 1,700 cultural non-profit organizations.
  • 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 catapulted in 1962 by the loss of 122 members of the Atlanta Arts Association when their plane crashed on takeoff at Orly Airport in Paris. The group was heading home following a month-long art tour of Europe. As the city grieved, residents came together and used the loss as a catalyst for investment in the arts.

This effort led to the creation of Atlanta Arts Alliance and Memorial Arts Center, which we now know 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 cultural cities. Woodruff Arts Center, the country's third-largest arts campus, is 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 two-mile pathway speckled with permanent and rotating visual art installations from locally- and nationally-acclaimed artists. Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods are also 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.

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. 

Atlanta’s evolution through history, including its role as a hotbed of the 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 away, 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.