The 10 Best Art Spaces In Columbia, South Carolina

Photo of Graziano Scaldaferri
27 October 2016

With two art museums, a number of small independent galleries, and some quirky non-traditional art spaces, Columbia is a fantastic location for lovers of contemporary art who enjoy new local talent. Here are ten of the city’s must-visit art museums and galleries showcasing local and international talent.

© Akhenaton06/WikiCommons

Columbia Museum of Art

The Columbia Museum of Art is arguably the most important art institution in all of South Carolina. The museum was founded in 1950 but relocated to its current premises – a large former department store that has been transformed into a spacious, airy venue perfectly in line with modern museums – in 1998. A total of 25 galleries offer an impressive range of artistic styles,different in both period and geographical origins. The multiple collections include works by the masters of Italian Renaissance and Baroque – of which Sandro Botticelli’s Nativity is a major highlight – exemplary items of American fine decorative arts spanning several centuries and an exotic, growing collection of Asian art and antiquities.

South Carolina State Museum

Museum, Theater
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South Carolina State Museum
The South Carolina State Museum has an attached planetarium that shows off what lays beyond the sky. | © South Carolina State Museum
The South Carolina State Museum is the state’s largest and most comprehensive. While the museum is not exclusively an art museum and possesses collections of items relating to natural history, science and cultural history, it also has an extensive collection of South Carolina art that gives a unique insight into the state’s history and culture. The museum’s permanent art collections span genres such as traditional portraiture, decorative arts and contemporary art, while regular changing exhibits are held in its Lipscomb gallery. Visitors to the South Carolina State Museum can also check out its planetarium, observatory and 4D theater.

City Art

Columbia’s City Art is three galleries in one. The main first ­floor gallery showcases regular exhibitions of art from local and regional artists and is over 2,800 square feet in area, its combination of hardwood floor, turn of the century brick walls and exposed wood beams and pillars giving the gallery a charming and inviting feel. The second ­level gallery is reserved for showing the works of the represented artists and are on permanent exhibition for visitors to view. Finally, the small works gallery is home to many smaller paintings, sculpture, pottery and photographs that are perfect for any budding art collector.

City Art, 1224 Lincoln St, Columbia, SC, USA, +1 803 252 3613


The Congaree Vista is a vibrant area in Columbia near the banks of the Congaree River which was revamped over the last few decades and is now bustling with many kind of shops and eateries. Of these, Nonnah’s is quite a popular spot among Columbia’s residents for its good coffee and a great variety of scrumptious desserts, although the discerning art lover will immediately notice that Nonnah’s walls are covered with exquisite paintings and the good news is that they are for sale as well. Nonnah’s regularly presents paintings by a rotating selection of local artists, giving its customers yet another good reason to visit the venue besides its delicious cakes.

Nonnah’s 930 Gervais St Columbia, SC, USA, +1 803 779 9599

Courtesy Nonnah’s

701 Center for Contemporary Art

There’s a strong hold that defends art and artists in Columbia, and it’s called 701 Center for Contemporary Art. The mission of this non­ profit centre is to promote an appreciation of contemporary visual arts in every possible way. In a large 2,500 square foot gallery, exhibitions of local and regional artists are held periodically but the centre also provides guided tours of artists’studios based within the Greater Columbia area. Additionally, the 701 Center runs an artist­ in- residence programme which provides 1,200 square feet of space for artists to live and work in and also oversees many educational activities aimed at both adults and children who want to nurture their passion for the arts.

701 Centre for Contemporary Art, 701 Whaley St Columbia, SC, USA, +1 803 779 4571

If Art Gallery

Art Gallery
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Dutch collector Wim Roefs came to the US to study journalism, although he had started collecting art while still living in his homeland and after he settled in Columbia, he rekindled his passion and began collecting across South Carolina. One thing led to another, and after a couple of shows that he hosted in his own house, Roefs eventually decided to take the next step and opened his own gallery – If Art Gallery– in 2006. The gallery now represents more than 30 cutting ­edge contemporary artists, who mostly work in the mediums of painting and sculpture.

Frame of Mind

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Mark your calendars – every first Thursday of the month Columbia’s Main Street comes alive with a wealth of art shows organised by several different galleries located in the area. Curiously enough, the event – aptly called First Thursday on Main – was started over five years ago by an eye wear shop, Frame of Mind. In an attempt to diversify their business, Frame of Mind’s owners started hosting monthly exhibitions of local artists and many other businesses liked the idea and followed their example, creating a regular event that now attracts up to 2,000 people every month. Frame of Mind has exhibited over 70 artists working with media as diverse as paintings, sculpture,photography, performance art and even tattoos.

Tapp’s Art Center

With 32 studios offered to local and regional artists to work and experiment with their practice, the Tapp’s Art Center in Columbia is a veritable art incubator – a pulsing hub where the newest ideas meet and grow off each other. In addition studios, the huge venue includes an exhibition space with 300 linear feet of walls that is regularly refilled with fresh artworks, making Tapp’s Art Center a must­ visit destination to learn more about contemporary art in South Carolina. Located on Main Street, the centre participates in the First Thursdays on Main series of events and exhibits new works of art every month.

Tapp’s Art Center, 1644 Main St, Columbia, SC, USA, +1 803 988 0013

Goodall Gallery

Although operating under the art programme of Columbia College’s Division of Arts and Communications Studies, the Goodall Gallery is actually housed in the Spears Centre for the Arts,and has been since opening in 1977. The gallery hosts regular exhibitions of contemporary art by talented artists, ranging from local to international, aimed at not only the college’s art students, but also the general public at large.

Goodall Gallery, Spears Centre for the Arts, 1301 Columbia College Drive, Columbia, SC, USA,+1 803 786 3810

Grapes and Gallery

Wine Bar, Pub Grub
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Grapes and Gallery is not a traditional art gallery and there are no exhibitions or artworks, neither on view nor for sale. Artworks here are in progress, as this is a studio where anyone who desires to paint – even those who might have never painted before in their lives – are invited to take a seat and let their creativity flow. You can do so on your own, or participate in one of the frequent sessions held by professional art teachers. The gallery’s real unique ingredient, however, is a wine bar with a selection of international varieties with visitors encouraged to have a glass before taking it to the canvas to help creative energies flow.

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