6 underrated Atlanta art museums you don't want to miss



Whether you're an Atlanta local or a traveler just passing through, chances are good there's something you'll love at one of the city's museums. Want to check out some European or African or American art? Head to the High Museum of Art. Want to take some time to learn about the American Civil Rights movement? Check out the Center for Civil and Human Rights. Need to entertain somebody under the age of 10? Don't hesitate to hit up the Children's Museum of Atlanta.

The city's most popular museums have something to offer just about everybody. But museum goers have a lot more choices than the High, especially if you're up for admiring some art. Atlanta is peppered with an array of lesser-known art museums, which often get overlooked. But these under-the-radar attractions are definitely worth the price of admission. (Perhaps even more so than some of the most popular museums, where you'll have to battle the crowds to get up close and personal with a piece of art, or just to get that perfect Instagram shot.)

Whether you're obsessed with art or find yourself yawning your way through most galleries, you'll definitely find something you love at one of these underrated Atlanta-area art museums. We promise that even the most stubborn art skeptic in your friend group will definitely find something to admire. Even if they only pause long enough to capture a video to share on Snapchat.

Atlanta Contemporary

Atlanta Contemporary
TheContemporary via Wikimedia Commons

Some people love contemporary art, and others just don't understand what to make of it. But you're much more likely to fall into the former camp than the latter if you make a trip to Atlanta Contemporary. This museum is a major force in contemporary art. It not only presents between 6 and 12 new exhibitions each year, but also commissions new works by artists who haven't had major exhibitions in the southeast. The exhibitions on display change with the season, but you can always expect to see something incredible from local, national, and international artists. Plus, admission is always free. So why not stop in and expand your worldview, or at least spice up your Instagram feed?

Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia

Another great spot to check out some contemporary art is the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA), which collects work by artists living and working in the state of Georgia. The permanent collection is comprised of more than 1,000 pieces of art, and grows every year. The museum offers about 15 different exhibitions each year. So while what's on display is continually changing, you'll see works from the mid-1940s to the present. You can check out art in all kinds of media, from paintings to sculptures to digital works, and in all styles from folk art to minimalism.

Millennium Gate Museum

Millennium Gate Museum
TabithaClark via Wikimedia Commons

Want to be impressed by the art and the architecture at your museum of choice? The Millennium Gate Museum is Instagram-able from both inside and outside, since it's located under a classically styled monumental arch. The museum is a great place to learn about Georgia's history, but also showcases world-class art. Some recent headline-grabbing exhibitions have included a collection of paintings by Winston Churchill, an exhibition of work by Chinese master artist I-Hsiung Ju, and a presentation of American Impressionist paintings.

Museum of Design Atlanta

Maybe you're not into art, per se, but still want to try to be more cultured. We've got your back. Head to the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA). The museum defines design as the "convergence of creativity and functionality," and that's exactly what you'll see on display. MODA is the south's only design museum, and is a Smithsonian affiliate. The museums' exhibitions are continually changing, but MODA has offered exhibitions on everything from skateboard art to typography to sustainable structures to Italian motorcycle design. Another MODA offering you don't want to miss? The occasional LEGO + Local Brew nights, where, you guessed it, you get to build with LEGOs and drink local beer. What's not to love?

Michael C. Carlos Museum

Michael C. Carlos Museum
Daniel Mayer via Wikimedia Commons

If you thought you needed to head to the Met in Manhattan to see some ancient Greek or Roman art, think again. You don't even need to leave the perimeter! Head to Emory University's Michael C. Carlos Museum. It's one of the south's best destinations for ancient art and artifacts -- perfect if you want to pretend that you're in The Mummy. In fact, the oldest Egyptian mummy in the Americas is a centerpiece in the museum's collection of Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern art. Its collection of Greek and Roman art spans four millennia. And you can also check out art from the ancient Americas, Africa, and Asia.

SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film

Emory isn't the only Atlanta-area university that has an art museum worth visiting. The Atlanta campus of SCAD (the Savannah College of Art and Design) has its own contemporary art museum, fittingly called the SCAD Museum of Art. But it also has SCAD FASH, which is dedicated to fashion and film. SCAD FASH is located on the SCAD campus, and is the perfect place to get up close and personal with some pretty impressive garments ranging from ceremonial to casual. The museum has almost 10,000 square feet of exhibition space, and it puts all of that room to good use with an impressive variety of exhibitions, films, installations, and performances.

Jess Bolluyt is a writer based in Atlanta. She spends her weekends exploring (and photographing) the city and other towns in Georgia.