Art and Inspiration in the Panhandle

Across the Panhandle Plains, art galleries and installations sprinkle the landscape, each one offering another inspiring view to take in. If you’re in the town of Canyon, stop by the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum to see the Frank Reaugh Gallery. There, you’ll find calm, pastoral works by the namesake Western artist known as the Dean of Texas Artists. His pastels and paintings highlight the stark beauty of the Southwest and illustrate why he rose to such prominence in the early 1900s. Their Texas Gallery is also worth a look-see; it is devoted to Texas art and features works by luminaries such as Elisabet Ney, Robert and Julian Onderdonk and many more.

When in Lubbock, head to the Texas Tech Public Art Collection. This collection has been designated one of the top 10 in the university system, featuring an assemblage of more than 100 pieces by leading artists. Then, for an entirely different sort of art in Lubbock, visit the Tornado Gallery, an interactive art space focusing on plasma sculptures by Tony Greer and work by other local artists. The sculptures feature xenon tube pieces among other neon objects and glass art.

The Old Jail Art Center, a world-class museum in Albany, has a mission of being the primary cultural resource for the region. The center owns more than 2,000 pieces of art, including modern drawings, prints and paintings by the likes of John Marin, Thomas Hart Benton, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Pablo Picasso, so they’re well on their way.

Abilene is an art town as well, with at least eight galleries and museums, including The Grace Museum. Located within a handsome former railroad hotel, The Grace Museum is a phenomenal place to see art exhibitions featuring historic and contemporary American art and artists with Texas connections. And living up to its official title as the Storybook Capital of Texas, Abilene is also home to a collection of outdoor sculptures, including giant bronzes representing Dr. Seuss characters.

A few hours away in Graham, on the Old Post Office Museum & Art Center lawn, you’ll see a mesmerizing copper spiral kinetic piece by Lake Buchanan artist Ralph Moresco. A few feet away sits a large sculpture of a cowboy by his campfire, created by metal artist Joe Barrington from nearby Throckmorton.

Inside the Old Post Office Museum & Art Center, you’ll see one of the famous Works Progress Administration (WPA) paintings that decorated post offices across the nation during the Great Depression. Completed in 1939 by artists hired as part the government’s relief program, “The Old Fields of Graham” features bold scenes of workers against a backdrop of industrial-era factory equipment. These post office murals can be found all around the Panhandle Plains, and if you check out Anson or Eastland, you might spy more. 

As you tour the plains, look for little Easter eggs like “The Old Fields of Graham,” wacky sculptures dotting the horizon and museums to pop into. Art is a part of what makes the panhandle so beautiful; it shows the hand of a people dedicated to putting their inspired stamp on things.