The Art Scene in Santa Monica: Museums, Galleries, and Street Art

The Art Scene in Santa Monica: Museums, Galleries, and Street Art

  • Winston Cenac
  • 10/11/23

Santa Monica has long been celebrated as a coastal haven for those seeking the perfect blend of art, culture, and luxury. Beyond its famed beaches and iconic pier, the city is a vibrant canvas where creativity thrives. Santa Monica's rich art scene is a cultural tapestry that influences this seaside oasis. From renowned museums and traditional studios to eclectic galleries and captivating street art, artistic treasures await you around every corner.

Santa Monica Art Museum

A blank canvas for artists and creatives, the Santa Monica Art Museum was designed to be an interactive, innovative, and evolving art destination. When the museum opened, regional artists were invited to the blank space to define and shape the future of California's art scene. The museum serves as both a traditional art museum and an artist museum — they provide the space and resources for artists to bring their work to life, with a mission to better serve artists and collectors, starting with the monumental "What is an art museum?" exhibit. Public hours are limited, but private appointments can be scheduled upon request.

California Heritage Museum

Located one block from the beach and central to multiple galleries and boutiques, the California Heritage Museum is more than just a museum. Built in the late 19th century by famous architect Sumner P. Hunt, the building is an official city landmark. After serving as a private residence, the property became a rooming house. The building was moved to preserve its heritage and save it from commercial development, and this extraordinary move is documented in a photography exhibit within the museum. The mission of the California Heritage Museum is to promote both the diversity and the rich history of California's heritage through a variety of exhibits, publications, lectures, and community events.

Public Art

With more than 170 street art murals within an 8-square-mile radius, Santa Monica is full of beauty and creativity. Many of the murals were completed by the nonprofit Beautify Earth, with a mission to transform walls into beautiful art, while others are a vision of local business improvement programs, as well as private groups and individuals. Residents and visitors can delight in spotting art in parking lots or on the sides of businesses throughout the city through a self-guided tour.

Bergamot Station Arts Center

Another renowned arts center with a unique past, Bergamot Station Arts Center is internationally recognized for its commitment to furthering equity and inclusivity in art and community access to the arts. With an interesting history as a railroad station, warehouse building, and manufacturing factory, the property was eventually purchased by the city and reimagined into an arts and culture hub for Santa Monica after years of sitting abandoned. Offering free public arts and cultural experiences, Bergamot Station features fine arts, video art, music, live performances, theater, and more within this unique art collective.

18th Street Arts Center

Founded in 1988, the 18th Street Arts Center is Southern California's longest-running and largest artist residency center. It is also considered one of the top residency programs in the country, hosting 60 or more national and international artists each year. Rooted in social justice and activism, 18th Street continues to support the area's most diverse artists. There are two campuses to enjoy exhibits which are located at 18th Street and the Santa Monica Airport. The center offers three distinct programs:

Residency Program

This program is designed to foster intercultural collaboration and welcomes long-term residencies, organizational residencies, and visiting international artist residencies.

Public Events and Exhibitions

There is a focus on public engagement and showcasing the art-making process.

Community Engagement Program

This program seeks to challenge the ideas we have of "expertise" and provide art-making opportunities for various practices.

Craig Krull Gallery

Founded with the goal of focusing on the underrepresented photography community around Los Angeles, the Craig Krull Gallery first opened in 1991. As interest in photography exploded in the 1990s and intersected with other visual arts, the gallery continued to grow. Although the gallery is no longer exclusive to photography, it remains dedicated to LA artists. From portrait art and ceramics to textiles, Craik Krull Gallery aims to provide a culturally diverse educational platform that expands art scenes and showcases local talent.

Creating your own art

One of the best ways to enjoy and learn more about art techniques is to surround yourself with other artists. Santa Monica offers a variety of places for you to jump in and get creative.


At PAINT: LAB, you can drop into the open studio for uninstructed paint sessions or painting classes. All materials are provided, canvases can be purchased, and you can use the studio space for the day. The staff is comprised of experienced artists and painters who also offer workshops. Classes and workshops are an excellent way to learn a new medium or brush up on your techniques in a low-pressure environment. The staff aims to provide a creative and fun environment for artists of all ages.

Still Life Studio

If you want to try your hand at ceramics or work on your skills, Still Life Studio offers a variety of classes and guest artist workshops. Learn the process of making pottery on a wheel or explore freeform hand-building. Kids’ classes and private events are also available, making this an excellent choice for anyone to explore their creative side.

The performing arts

Lest we forget that the performing arts are inextricably intertwined with the visual arts, you can find a variety of venues for musicals, concerts, and performances throughout Santa Monica.
  • Santa Monica Pier - A cultural icon itself, the pier regularly hosts outdoor concerts, reenactments, and other productions.

  • 3rd Street Promenade - A local favorite for dining and shopping, you'll also catch regular, quality street performers and musicians.

  • Broad Stage - Located on the campus of Santa Monica City College, this state-of-the-art venue hosts music, dance, theater, and more.

  • Santa Monica Playhouse - Established in 1960, an award-winning theater that has showcased more than 600 classic, contemporary, and original productions.

Explore the beauty of Santa Monica real estate

Whether you are a lifelong resident or relocating to Santa Monica, there are endless opportunities to enjoy stunning sandy beaches, outdoor recreation, or the vibrant art scene. When it's time to find the best Santa Monica real estate, you can count on Winston Cenac with Bulldog Realtors, where clients are treated with respect, and your real estate journey is treated with a firm and tenacious approach. To learn more about the benefits of living in Santa Monica or to begin searching for your dream home, reach out today.

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