The coastal city of Florence is in the middle of an art renaissance.
“You get the sense here that there’s a real revitalization of the art scene going on,” says Harlen Springer, a member of the City of Florence’s Public Art Committee and the Florence Regional Arts Alliance. “In the last three years there has been an influx of arts-related business.”
During the next six months, a smorgasboard of art projects are on deck: an outdoor sculpture gallery, murals, and public art on the city steps leading up to the Siuslaw River Bridge.
In fact, Springer says, the Florence city slogan is now “Experience Florence: Where every day is a celebration of the arts.”
Get warmed up for a day of artsy sightseeing with a cup of joe at Old Town Coffee Company (in, of course, Old Town Florence), also an art gallery featuring the work of local artists. Or get cozy down the street, sitting next to the fireplace at Siuslaw River Coffee Roasters with its unrivaled views of the Siuslaw River Bridge. Try to spot its four Art Deco obelisks from the Roasters’ deck.
While in Old Town, check in at long-standing art venue, the Backstreet Gallery. In September, Springer says, Florence galleries started offering “art passports.”
“People will walk from gallery to gallery and get a stamp,” he explains. “If they visit all the galleries they will be eligible for a prize,” which could be a piece of local art. If you’re in town for the second Saturday of the month, try out the gallery crawl.
Just two blocks north of the Backstreet Gallery is the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum, which Springer says is a must-see for its treasures including mastodon teeth. Visit the museum’s Native American Room to see examples of native arts and crafts, including basketry, clothing, and antique photographs.
Head out of Old Town and go on a scavenger hunt for the painted sculptures of “Dancing with Sea Lions”—fiberglass replicas, not live animals—a recently completed citywide art project created by more than 20 artists to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Florence Events Center. There are 16 sea lions sprinkled around Florence, and four more up and down the coast. Visit dancingwithsealions.com to download a map.
All this arting builds up an appetite. Grab lunch at Florence’s favorite food cart, BoxLunch, with its Cubano Panini––a mouthwatering tower of slow-roasted pork shoulder, ham, swiss, and pickles on focaccia. Nearby is the indie movie house City Lights Cinema, which Springer says often screens art documentaries.
Follow the trail of painted sea lion sculptures back to Old Town, where you can find two more—“Green-Eyed Sue” outside of Siuslaw News and “It’s A Wild Thing” on the Port of Siuslaw Boardwalk, where you can also explore the craft-oriented Florence Oregon Boardwalk Market, open Saturdays and Sundays until 5 pm.
After a day of cultural exploring, settle in for a gourmet meal and a glass of Sineann wine or a pint of craft beer at the lovely, snug Waterfront Depot along the river. The classic cassoulet or the linguini and clams make for a perfect autumn meal.
Retire to a nearby room in the Old Town Inn or the historic Edwin K Bed and Breakfast. Or nestle into one of the 101 campsites at the Port of Siuslaw Campground—you’ll be surrounded by the scenery that has long inspired Florence’s artists community.
“We want Florence to be a place where art is an integral part of community,” says Springer.