Pensacola Magazine

Creative Coast: Regional Museums Worth the Drive

Do you love art? Are you looking for a weekend getaway or planning your next road trip? Consider visiting one of the many art museums within a 200-mile radius of Pensacola. Whether you are heading north through Alabama, west to Mississippi or southeast along the Gulf Coast, several museums offer interactive, engaging and inspiring experiences through art. From underwater exhibits to works from contemporary and regional artists, the Gulf Coast offers an array of thought-provoking and creative exhibitions for various art enthusiasts.

Walter Anderson Museum of Art

Located in Ocean Springs, MS and designed by architect Edward Pickard, the Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA) is a must-see attraction in historic Ocean Springs along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. WAMA is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the work of artist-philosopher Walter Anderson (1903-1965). Anderson’s Art ranges from paintings and drawings to murals and writings depicting (or another word) coastal plants, animals and landscapes. Anderson sought to make sense of the world through his coastal lens, engaging themes from transcendentalism and environmental history to foodways and Depression-era labor. WAMA seeks to inspire discovery, imagination, and community-building through guided or selfguided tours that weave through Anderson’s mythic story, empowering individuals into moments of self-discovery and contemplation. Outside the museum doors, visitors venture through Art in the Open, a reinterpretation of Anderson’s block print designs by sculptor Zachary Harris. Harris bridges the space between the museum and landscape by transforming Anderson’s prints into large, sculpted pieces, encouraging visitors to cultivate new perspectives about life by promoting a unique perspective on the interconnectivity of Art and the world it encompasses. Learn about the WAMA at

Mobile Museum of Art

Located in Mobile, AL and founded in 1963, the Mobile Museum of Art houses more than 64,000 artworks comprising paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, works on paper and crafts designed to educate, engage and enrich. The museum maintains a schedule of permanent collections and rotating exhibitions by both nationally and internationally recognized artists. Only a portion of the 64,000-piece collection is exhibited at any given time, ensuring a unique experience with each visit. Currently on display is Art in Focus (July 2023 to present), with six art galleries showcasing the works of notable and lesser-known artists such as Walter Cade III, Betty Sue Matthews, Joe Price and more. Visitors will also find a selection of Western European eighteenth and nineteenth-century works in European Art: In Pursuit of Beauty, which exposes patrons to the warmth of its brilliantly composed, romantic subject matter. Visitors can look forward to Spotlight: American South Consortium, from March to August 2024, showcasing new and innovative stories that expand understanding of social and historical frameworks through the art of functional objects. For information, visit

The Underwater Museum of Art

Located in the Gulf waters off Walton County Florida, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA), in partnership with the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA), joined two of South Walton, Florida’s most beloved attractions—the arts and the Gulf of Mexico—to form The Underwater Museum of Art (UMA). This underwater, permanent sculpture exhibit also acts as an artificial reef and serves as a source of biological replenishment and protection for the existing marine habitat, encouraging the expansion of fishery populations. The exhibit also provides enhanced creative, cultural, economic and educational opportunities for the benefit, education and enjoyment of South Walton residents, students and visitors. UMA is one of nine near shore reefs located within one nautical mile of shore, 60 feet below the surface, on a one-acre patch of seabed off Grayton Beach State Park. SWARA’s artificial reef system incorporates a fish/dive reef site, best reached by boat and GPS, and the more accessible snorkel reefs, best reached by kayak, paddleboard or other flotation device. Learn more online at

Alabama Contemporary Art Center

Located in the heart of downtown Mobile, Alabama’s historic district on Cathedral Square, the Alabama Contemporary Art Center (ACAC) supports cultural production by providing a space free of cultural or political bias, where individuals can find and create meaning. The ‘free space’ concept encourages conversations that shape identity and seed growth. ACAC advocates for human dignity and diversity as it reinvents what a contemporary arts organization can be. ACAC marshals global talent to engage all sectors of the Mobile community in ideas, issues, and interests that matter and function as a public forum, convener and cultural broker by forming strategic alliances with like-minded cultural, social, educational and civic institutions. Exhibitions and programs investigate themes and topics relevant to the Gulf Coast while creating a national model for constructive community-building through the arts. Currently, the art center hosts Jenny Day’s raucous use of materials in a sculptural fete of controlled chaos in A Feast to Remember, which runs through early March 2024. Visit for complete museum details.

Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art

Located in Biloxi, MS, the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art showcases an innovative collection of works by George E. Ohr—the self-proclaimed “Mad Potter of Biloxi.” The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum is a bold and intriguing set of self-sufficient structures designed by the award-winning architect Frank Gehry to house and promote the unique legacy of George E. Ohr and exemplify the creative works of Mississippi’s diverse cultural heritage along the Gulf Coast. Exhibits such as City Within a City: African American Culture in Biloxi and I am the Potter Who Was: George Edgar Ohr serve to educate through compelling exhibitions relevant to the local community, the region and the nation with a strong focus on ceramic arts. Visitors can look forward to the Frank Gehry and Robert Tannen: Art, Architecture and Ideas beginning March 1, 2024. The exhibition features sculptures and artwork of Robert Tannen alongside Frank Gehry’s ceramics works, connecting Gehry to the history of clay and craft within his architectural practice. Visit for details.