Downtown Chapel Hill

Downtown Blog

An Open Confession of Love for the Ackland Art Museum

The Ackland Art Museum isn’t a hidden little secret, just tucked away waiting to be discovered.The Ackland is a brilliant beacon of what art is and will always be in this town. It is awe inspiring, unique, and it belongs to us all.  The Ackland Museum has set a rich cultural arts standard for Chapel Hill and has blazed the successful path for the FRANK Gallery and Kidzu Children’s Museum downtown; as well as become a leader in arts education for children.  

The Ackland Museum defies the typical definition of a museum by providing art for our ears, eyes, hands, and souls.  Pick out any event on the museum’s calendar – there truly is something for everyone. You’ll find gala fundraising events, family-friendly scavenger hunts (Family Day),  invitations for your inner-artist to come out and create new works (Drawing in the Galleries), film forums & screenings, yoga (Yoga in the Galleries) lectures (Art Over Lunch), music performances (Music in the Galleries), and more.

But there is one reason alone that I’m most smitten with the Ackland. The Ackland is my Narnia – I step off the brick sidewalk, through those thick, heavy doors -- and into an artist’s world where time flows on a vast continuum; there is no one definition of art; and cultures and religions blend into each other effortlessly. The depth of the Ackland’s exhibits are incredibly powerful for such a tiny space.

I will never be an artist but the Ackland has exposed me to works of art created by truly talented people that make me yearn to be one.  I take a notebook with me when I go – and borrow a pencil from the front desk --no ball point pens allowed in the gallery! Inevitably something or someone piques my interest and I look it up later to learn more. I haven’t missed an exhibition at the Ackland in five years and I have never left without walking by and silently thanking Mr. Ackland himself - who is buried in the museum – for bringing Narnia to me.

I urge you to go and see the current exhibit “Carolina Collects”. It is a compilation of works of art from Carolina alumni that covers 150 years of contemporary and modern art.  This exhibit is a pivotal and defining moment in my art-loving life. It will be the only time that I will stand in one spot and view art from Picasso, Gaugin, Monet, Calder, Renoir, Rousseau, Matisse, Lichtenstein, Wegman, Pissaro, and Warhol …all just by turning my head.

Oh Ackland, I’m so in love with you.

And did I mention it’s free? Of course, some of the events and programs do cost money – but Ackland members get a discount (a good reason to join!). With the addition of the Ackland Museum Store on the corner of Columbia and Franklin streets this little corner of downtown Chapel Hill has set itself up as an arts destination not just for people in the community but for visitors from around the world. Aren’t we lucky to have it in our own backyard?

Visit But really -- go visit the museum!