5 best little art museums out West

Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver. Sure, there are great museums in big cities west of the Mississippi. But if you take a road trip this summer, don’t overlook these little gems of art museums:

  • Nicolaysen Art Museum, Casper, WY: Located is in a historic building downtown, the museum features exhibitions of works by top regional and national artists, ranging from traditional to edgy. Locals refer to it as “The Nic.” Paintings by California-based artist Jorge Santos (whose painting Flight Instructor is at right) are on view through August 22.
  • National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson Hole, WY: This scenic mountain town attracts skiers in winter and hikers in summer. But the western-flavored retreat is also home to a museum that displays a treasure trove of fine wildlife art by masters such as Bob Kuhn and Robert Bateman.
  • Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA: Perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the museum offers superb presentations spotlighting Golden State artists. Exhibitions range from excellent early and contemporary plein-air painting to pop culture phenomena like surf art.
  • Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA: Located equal distances from San Diego and Los Angeles, this desert art oasis has a sophisticated, international flavor with works by Henry Moore, Louise Bourgeois, Georgia O’Keeffe and Ed Ruscha. Check out the eye-popping Dale Chihuly chandelier.
  • Desert Caballeros Western Museum, Wickenberg, AZ: Tucked away in a small town between Phoenix and Sedona, Desert Caballeros is dedicated to preserving the West. On my visit, the museum was showcasing an incredible cache of Navajo rugs. The museum also hosts Cowgirl Up!, an annual show billed as the place to see “the best western women artists all in one place at one time.”
—Bonnie Gangelhoff

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