With Yosemite National Park and the history-rich Sierra foothills serving as muse, Yosemite Mariposa County has become a vibrant hub for the arts. Inspired artists of all stripes are naturally drawn here, resulting in a thriving creative arts scene that encompasses a range of mediums from galleries and studios to performing arts.
Take in a show, peruse an art gallery, listen to a symphony, and tap your toes to a folk quartet – it’s all in play in Yosemite Mariposa County. Made in Mariposa works of art make wonderful gifts to share with friends and family back home (so much better than a cheap souvenir made somewhere far away). No matter how you frame it, adding arts and culture to your Yosemite frolic is always a great option.
Picture This: Visual Arts in Yosemite
There is no artist more closely affiliated with Yosemite than photographer Ansel Adams, and there is no other showcase of his talents more comprehensive than the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Valley. Open in the very same building that was once Best’s Studio (est. 1902), the gallery stands on the Register of Historic California Businesses and is where the iconic lensman once lived and worked. Today, visitors can view a priceless cache of Adams originals that trace the arc of the artist’s mastery — everything from his earliest prints to his world-renowned Western vistas.
Since 1985, the non-profit Yosemite Renaissance organization has championed artistic expressions of the soaring grandeur synonymous with the Yosemite region. Its signature touring show displays a diverse collection of selected works includes plein air, watercolor, oil and acrylic landscapes, pottery, photography, sculpture, mixed media, and more.
The Sierra Artists Gallery in Mariposa is a showplace for local creators. Established in 1969 and today Mariposa’s longest-running gallery, the artist-led cooperative displays paintings, photography, jewelry, and other pieces for sale. Local artists staff the store, an expansive space with walls lined with marvelous works of visual art. Twice a year, the gallery stages popular shows: the Elizabeth Specht Memorial Miniature Show happens in March, and the Gold Rush Show every October.
To get the true taste of Mariposa’s creativity, Casto Oaks Fine Wine & Art is the place to sample award-winning wines and see rotating exhibitions of local artists. Cabernets with oils and acrylics; jammy Zins with handmade jewelry; watercolors and photography with Mourvèdre: discover this tasty blend at the corner of Highway 140 and Fifth Street in downtown Mariposa.
Also in downtown Mariposa (quite the arts hub!), the Yosemite Climbing Association Museum and Gallery offers a cache of amazing gear, memorabilia and hard-rock art. With some 10,000 artifacts and photos both historic and contemporary from such renowned climbing photographers as Tom Frost, Bob Swift and Glen Denny, the gallery walls are covered with the wild spirit of rock climbing in Yosemite. There’s even a concrete art replica of Yosemite Valley out back!
For a tour of the Yosemite Sierra art scene, check out the annual Sierra Art Trails Open Studio Tour. The event covers two autumn weekends in Mariposa and Madera counties as artists open the doors to their homes, studios, galleries, and businesses to give art enthusiasts a chance to see the creative process and buy directly from the artists. Painting, photography, jewelry, ceramics, glass, fiber arts, woodcarving, plein-air – all are on display.
A Natural Stage: Performing Arts
Maybe the prime example of Mariposa’s outsized art scene is that this town of some 1,500 residents boasts its own orchestra! The Mariposa Yosemite Symphony Orchestra presents programs of classical composers at a rotating variety of indoor and under-the-stars stages conducted by its founder and local legend Les Marsden. And music is also in the air every Labor Day weekend at the Mariposa County Fair, held at the county fairgrounds in Mariposa. Visual art too, in the exhibit halls.
The Grove House in historic downtown Mariposa is a rock ‘n rustic music venue serving food, cold craft beer, local wine, and tasty live music grooves on its main stage featuring singer/songwriters and bands from far and near. Also in town, the Hideout is a great place for drinks, local music and chill atmosphere. Grab a local libation and head out back to the down-home outdoor stage where the fiddles, banjos, guitars, and cellos do play.
Every Friday and Saturday night during the summer, the Mariposa Arts Council presents its popular outdoor Music on the Green summer concert series. Showtimes are 7pm and admission is free. Folk, rock, reggae, bluegrass, jazz, country, and world music artists grace the stage at Mariposa’s downtown Arts Park. Bring a folding chair or blanket and kick back.
Performing arts cover every corner of the region including Northwest Mariposa County. The Coulter Café presents Summer Saturday Patio Shows on Main Street in Coulterville, a small town with a big bohemian vibe. The outdoor shows start at 5 pm and the kitchen stays open until 7:30. They’re a fine way to close out your perfect Yosemite Park day.
Feel the Flow: Vacation with the Arts
The universal language of art can spark an idea or emotion, and by appreciating works of art we slow down, gain focus, and become fully in the moment. In other words, art is conducive to reaching that elusive state of pure vacation flow! Include the arts in your next Yosemite Mariposa County vacation, and you’ll feel that flow, sure as if you’re standing within mist-tance of a pounding Yosemite waterfall.