The communities of Orange County are no strangers to the arts scene and it's just a short ride from Chapel Hill to Hillsborough with Carrboro in between. With indoor and outdoor galleries scattered about there's no best one way to experience the plethora of artists in O.C. so we thought we would get you started with a self-guided tour...

Heading north in Orange County from Chapel Hill, no matter the route, the drive is picturesque.  In a short matter of time, you’ll find yourself in historic downtown Hillsborough. With boutique shops and exceptional eateries, it’s also home to five arts and crafts galleries all within a three block radius.

Hillsborough has long embraced the arts community with the Hillsborough Arts Council as the main driver for recruiting artists, volunteers and developing & supporting the arts locally – for more than 30 years now. In addition to their full time advocacy for the arts they run a small gallery and gift shop with an impressive selection of local artisan works. If contemporary fine arts is your thing, head towards North Churton Street to the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts.

Hillsborough Gallery of Arts, Mercentile Center

When walking down Churton Street, you can’t help but notice the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts particularly in the evening when they are open late during Last Fridays.  Located in the historic Mercantile Center, a 1920’s building with old wood floors and a warm and elegant setting, it is the perfect backdrop for the works of the 22 artists and crafters that own and operate the gallery. Hillsborough is immersed in the arts; even the former Mayor of Hillsborough has his own gallery, Thomas Stevens Gallery. If time permits, visit The Sky Gallery and Margaret Lane Gallery.

Now head back towards Chapel Hill to Carrboro.

One of the most unique galleries is in the back yard of husband and wife team, metal sculptor Mike Roig and author-artist Clay Carmichael in Carrboro. Many of Mike’s sculptures and can be seen from the main street which happens to be Main Street. Other sculptures are located in private collections and semi-permanent national exhibitions. Mike and Clay open their back yard during the Orange County Artists Guild Open Studio Tour held each November. His work can also be seen in the Art in the Garden Annual Sculpture Exhibition which, by the way, is held in the private garden of Mark and Tinka.

Mike Roig Sculptures at home in Carrboro

Also located in Carrboro is the ArtsCenter. Founded in 1974, exhibits are rotated monthly in their Nicholson Gallery and Corridor Gallery throughout the year. They also host an array of performing artists, art classes, camps and films and are a main participant on the 2nd Friday Artwalk.

Just next door and around the corner of the ArtsCenter, you won’t find two better places for pottery and artisan gifts than the North Carolina Crafts Gallery and Womancraft Gifts. North Carolina Crafts Gallery is a two-story independently owned retail gallery that features handcrafted works exclusively by North Carolina artists and craftsmen. Womancraft gifts was founded by a handful of local women over 40 years ago, has grown to 34 members since and albeit the name still refers to women crafters features the artisanal works of men as well.

North Carolina Collection Gallery

And now, back to Chapel Hill to meet FRANK.

Who is FRANK? FRANK Gallery is the result of a partnership between the Town of Chapel Hill and a group of local artists. It’s a collective and non-profit – Franklin Street Arts Collective – that support the local arts community through exhibits, events, programs and outreach. FRANK is a fine arts gallery representing the best of the local artists. Now that you know who FRANK is we need to tell you they outgrew their home on Franklin Street and enjoy a much larger space at University Place.

The lounge room at FRANK Gallery

And if you are visiting during late September through early December you are in for a delightful experience...Head South on 15-501 from University Place to Mason Farm Rd. The scenery and native landscapes of The North Carolina Botanical Garden creates a stunning stage for art in media ranging from steel to ceramic to glass. Each year, the Garden hosts a show of local artists, around 30, that showcase their pieces, around 50, magnificently curated throughout the garden.

North Carolina Botanical Garden Plants

(Photo credits: header Hillsborough Arts Council Art Gallery & Gift Shop - Karin Neuvirth; FRANK Gallery Lounge - FRANK Gallery; all others - CHOCVB)