Arts & Culture in Essex, MA

In the walkable Essex River Cultural District and throughout the Town of Essex, Massachusetts, see artist  creations in their studios and in Essex shops. Arts and cultural programs take place throughout the year and you can learn to sketch and paint in an art class. Scroll down for suggestions and check out our Day Tripper Guides to make any day an adventure in Essex!

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1.  Several Essex artists and artisans welcome visitors and host special exhibits: Contact Chris Williams Sculpture studio and visit the sculpture grounds to see incredible bent, shaped and welded metal works of art: life-size horses, dragons, octopus and jellyfish (combined with glass) that appear to be caught in a moment of stillness. In the heart of the Essex River Cultural District, make an appointment to visit the jewelry gallery of N. Larson Jewelry Designs where heirloom gold and  gemstones are transformed into new custom jewelry designs. And stop in Wheelworks Pottery to meet the potter, Jim Trudeau who is often at work on the potter’s wheel creating platters, serving bowls, mugs, bird feeders and other functional pieces.

Historic Essex Walking Tour in Essex, MA

2.  Step back in time to connect past and present day Essex on the self-guided Historic Essex Walking Tour. A brochure and map to guide you is available at many of the 14 interpretive signs. The tour spans a one-mile stretch along Main Street, with a short extension on Martin Street to the  unique Victorian Shingle Style architecture of Essex Town Hall built in 1893. Find a Paul Revere bell, cast in 1797; learn about the grave robberies of 1818 and gain insight into how Essex became ”America’s Antique Capital.”  Scan the QR code on each sign for additional stories, photos and audio related to that historic site.

Essex Shipbuilding Museum and Cogswell’s Grant in Essex, MA

3.  Two museums in Essex, Massachusetts have extraordinary stories to tell. Through photographs, videos, hands-on exhibits and the hull of an 83-foot transitional fishing schooner that launched from this site in 1927, Essex Shipbuilding Museum describes how our small town built close to 4,000 wooden vessels over 350 years and was recognized worldwide as a major producer of the American fishing schooner. Further down river, Historic New England’s Cogswell’s Grant folk art museum houses a renowned collection of American folk art in a 1728 farmhouse. Painted furniture, redware, hooked rugs, weathervanes, and decoys are displayed throughout the home in which it was assembled.

Jazz Brunch at C.K. Pearl in Essex, MA
Photo: Jazz Brunch at C.K. Pearl

4.  Catch live jazz, accompanied by a savory Sunday brunch at C.K. Pearl usually on the first and third Sunday of every month. Live music events also take place at Riversbend (in season) and Woodman’s. Check each venue’s website for details on upcoming live performances.

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