In a smaller rural state like Alabama, sustaining interest in the arts is sometimes difficult. And, for those who would house the fine arts, it is difficult enough to creatively fund and operate a museum. But there is a place in the state that does not get nearly enough recognition for its longstanding ability to do so, and to do so in a way that showcases multiple, diverse collections across various media: The Birmingham Museum of Art.
The Birmingham Museum of Art, one of the finest regional museums in the United States, houses a diverse collection of more than 27,000 paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, and decorative arts dating from ancient to modern times. The collection presents a rich panorama of cultures, featuring the Museum’s extensive holdings of Asian, European, American, African, Pre-Columbian, and Native American art.
The BMA was founded in the post-War boom of 1951, and has seen four major additions and one major renovation over the last 60 years. Housed in its three-story Oscar Wells Memorial Building on old 8th Avenue North, the 150,000 square-foot facility boasts the largest collection of Asian art in the Southeast, numerous German ironworks and Wedgewood pieces, and a 30,000 square-foot outdoor statuary garden.
In addition to its diverse, eclectic permanent collections, over the years the BMA has seen its share of showcase collections too: from Armand Hammer, to relics from Pompeii, to the Renaissance masters, to ancient Chinese art from the early Imperial period, and the always-popular Egyptian showcases from antiquity.
While it is not a large museum by any stretch, the BMA is a fascinating one — and the particular emphasis on the city’s steel history is a nice touch. Rarely crowded, the BMA is centrally located in Birmingham’s cultural district at 2000 Rev. Abram Woods Drive. And though the hours are a bit hard to memorize, admission is free.
The next time you’re puttering around the Magic City looking for a few hours of quiet contemplation, want to have a fun outing with the kids, want to expand your horizons, (or simply impress your date), it’s hard to pass up this true gem of the Yellowhammer State.
First Fridays: open until 9pm
Closed Mondays and Major Holidays
General Admission is free
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