The arts, gardens and museums of Mobile provide cultural enrichment to Mobilians. The performing arts are active in Mobile with the Mobile Opera, Mobile Symphony, Mobile Ballet, and the Playhouse in the Park. The temperate climate provides an excellent environment for gardens, such as the Mobile Botanical Garden and Bellingrath Gardens & Home. The city has many museums including the Mobile Museum of Art, the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, the Mobile Carnival Museum, the Battleship USS Alabama and the Museum of Mobile.
On the second Friday of each month, galleries, studios, shops, and businesses in the Cathedral Square Arts District in Mobile stay open until 9 PM for the Lower Dauphin Street (LODA) Artwalk, celebrating the arts and community. Area restaurants join in with culinary specials only available during Artwalk. Many galleries will feature live music, hors devours and wine. Fairhope, Alabama, has a similar function, First Friday Artwalk from 6 - 8 PM.
The Mobile Ballet Company, directed by Winthrop Corey, a faculty member at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York, began in 1987 and has featured full-length productions of Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, and Swan Lake as well as two original ballets, Dracula and A Streetcar Named Desire. The company welcomes guest artists from New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and other world-renown companies to dance in the principal roles. The Mobile Ballet Company offers educational dance programs, beginning at 3 years of age.
Having been founded as the "Mobile Opera Guild" in 1945, the Mobile Opera is part of the Downtown Mobile Art District and shares rehearsal, administrative and performance space with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra. Featured artists such as Christine Weidinger, Michael Devlin, Anthony Laciura, Barry McCauley, Hal France and Sylvia McNair have made appearances with major opera companies including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, and the San Francisco Opera. In addition to mainstage productions, programs of opera excerpts are presented in schools and community venues throughout the region.
With roots going back to 1970, the Mobile Symphony Orchestra incorporates performance and education into its mission. The Orchestra shares its music director Scott Speck with the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra. Performances have included Yo-yo Ma, Chee-Yun, Benjamin Grosvenor, Jens Lindemann, as well as YouTube sensation and "The Sing Off" 2011 winner Pentatonix. While performances are principally at the Saenger Theater in Downtown Mobile, the youth and adult educational programs extend into the Mobile area community, culminating in the Mobile Symphony Youth Orchestra.
The Gardens and Parks
Bellingrath Gardens and Home is a 65-acre arboretum sponsored by the Bellingrath Estate, located in the midst of the gardens. The magnificent spring bloom of the azaleas highlights the official flower of the City of Mobile, the summer features the award-winning rose garden, and the cool-weather camelias close out the year. The Holiday in Lights draws special attention from late November through early January.
Bienville and Cathedral Squares
Bienville Square, a historic city park in the center of downtown Mobile, Alabama, had its beginnings as a public park in 1824 when the United States Congress passed an act that transferred a large plot of land to the city of Mobile and specified that the property be forever used as a city park. Bienville Square was named for Mobile’s founder, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville. It takes up the entire block bordered by the streets of Dauphin, Saint Joseph, Saint Francis, and North Conception.
Cathedral Square, the site of the Campo Santo, an 18th century Catholic cemetery adjacent to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, lies between North Claiborne, Dauphin, North Jackson, and Conti Streets. It is the epicenter of the Cathedral Square Art District and the Lower Dauphin Street Art Walk.
Langan Park, the largest of the parks operated by the City of Mobile, is a 720-acre park in the Springhill neighborhood. Opened in 1957, the park features lakes, tennis courts, children’s playgrounds and picnic areas. It is also home to the Azalea City Golf Course, the Mobile Botanical Gardens, the Mobile Museum of Art, and Playhouse in the Park.
Mobile Botanical Gardens
Adjoining Langan Park, the Mobile Botanical Gardens encompass 100 acres of gardens, woodland trails, and a longleaf pine restoration. Established in 1974 by a dedicated group of horticulturists, the Gardens strive to educate people about and provide a means to preserve the natural aspects of the local environment.
Battleship Park, a maritime museum, includes vessels from World War II up to today in one of America’s finest military parks. Visitors walk the decks of the USS Alabama, tour the engine room and go below to the eight floors of the substructure. A World War II submarine, combat aircraft, army tanks, a Vietnam River Patrol Boat, and a plane like the one flown by the Tuskegee Airmen make it a exciting place to learn history.
Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center
The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center is a non-profit, science center promoting learning of science through inquiry-based educational and entertaining activities. Located in downtown Mobile, Alabama, the mission of the Exploreum is "to promote science literacy among the people of South Alabama and the Gulf Coast Region. The Exploreum strives to make life better for future generations. Focus areas include science, math and technology education; quality family experiences; workforce development for hard-to-fill positions; and economic development for downtown Mobile." The Exploreum features include exhibits, IMAX films, demonstrations, workshops and teacher professional development. Patrons can attend demonstrations or workshops in the ChemLab, BioLab or new ExploreTEC lab and see a film in the J.L. Bedsole IMAX Theater
Mobile Museum of Art
The seeds for the Mobile Museum of Art began in 1957 and bore fruit with the opening of the original museum in Langan Park in 1964. The permanent collection consists of an outstanding assemblage of American, European, African and Asian art including paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings and decorative art. Highlights of the collection include 19th century American landscapes, realist paintings from the WPA era, contemporary international studio glass, turned wood and ceramics. Special exhibits are part of the Highsmith art group and MMoa offers art classes and lectures as well as film and performance exhibits.
(Photo Credits: Header - Bellingrath Gardens, Wikimedia; Upper Left - LODA Artwalk, Dr. Samuel McQuiston, USA Radiology; Mid Right - Holiday lights at Bellingrath Gardens, Missy Arsenberg-Curtis, RT, USA Medical Center; Mid Left - Ketchum Fountain in Bienville Square, Wikimedia; Lower Right- Mobile Museum of Art, Dr. Samuel McQuiston, USA Radiology; Footer - Gulf Shores, AL, Holly Thornton, RT USA Medical Center)