Readers Recommend the Best Places to Experience Art in California

Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek

“The Bedford Gallery, part of the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, is a distinctive community resource whose mission is to provide exhibitions and educational programs that engage the diverse Contra Costa region. Four curated exhibitions are presented yearly, showcasing local and international artists working in a variety of media. Recent presentations have included three centuries of Afro-American art, comic-book superheroes, contemporary inflatable art and quilts depicting refugees escaping natural and man-made disasters. Programs include docent-led tours of the town’s public art, as well as workshops, lectures and gallery tours.” — Jo Elliff, Lafayette

Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History

“The Museum of Art and History (MAH) is groundbreaking, having changed under the leadership of Nina Simon from a near-relic to an exceedingly vibrant, not-to-be-missed center of Santa Cruz County culture. It’s an anchor of Free Friday, the monthly event where shops and galleries also display art. It also offers community-oriented happenings, innovative light and sound events, and talks and celebrations too numerous to list. The museum even has exhibits that any community member can enter.

A near-impossible-to-envision transformation of the surrounding area has also occurred, so that Abbott Square is now the most popular place to hang out, eat and hear amazing bands on weekends for free. If you want to be part of the Santa Cruz dance-in-a-group-joy, here it is.” — Elizabeth Good, Aptos

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

“Reasonable entry fee and recently, beautifully remodeled. A good balance of many genres of art, both ancient and modern, and many community events.” — Susan Shields, Santa Barbara

Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach

During the summer months, Laguna Beach is the place to be. With cool breezes off the nearby ocean, you can walk, shop and imbibe on Forest Avenue to your heart’s content before your evening at the festival. Or you can take a picnic to the festival grounds. The festival is open every day, and music is performed nightly. And the festival has added a free trolley service from peripheral parking lots that will drop you off at the festival grounds and several other places in Laguna Beach, and take you back to your car. A great way to enjoy the summer!” — Sherri Martin, Laguna Beach

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