Mastering Augusta

Augusta’s Riverwalk, from the back door of The Morris Museum. (Photo/Tom Poland)

Drive southwest 95.5 miles to the city famous for the Masters and you’ll discover it has other attractions. The city that’s known for the renowned James Brown has the Morris Museum of Art, which overlooks Augusta’s Riverwalk, a beautiful place to walk along the Savannah River.

If you like the South, you’ll like the Morris Museum of Art, located on the Riverwalk in downtown Augusta, Ga. It’s the first museum dedicated to the art and artists of the American South. Its collection includes close to 5,000 paintings, works on paper, photographs and sculptures dating from the late-eighteenth century to today. Each year the museum hosts eight to 10 temporary special exhibitions. Good things are always going on.

“The Morris,” as it’s called, also houses the Center for the Study of Southern Art, a reference and research library that includes archives pertaining to artists working in the South. The museum’s permanent collection houses art in nine categories: Antebellum Portraiture, Civil War, Genre, Still Life, Impressionism in the South, Landscape Painting, Early to Mid-20th Century Art, Late 20th-Century/Contemporary Art and Self-Taught Artists.

I was there on a beautiful spring afternoon. Outside, a large canvas was being covered with paint. Kayakers paddled down river as folks strolled along Riverwalk’s red brick walkway and its green iron railings. Once a river capable of raging, the Savannah today purls peacefully toward the Atlantic, glad to be shed of the three dams that tame her. Nearby a wedding party was underway, and proud family members snapped photos of the memorable day.

Riverwalk evolved from the need to protect an early 1900s Augusta from flooding. In 1908, the city built a levee, but even it was no use against one of the mighty Savannah River’s more severe floods. It kept on raining and the levee proved to be too low. In 1936, the Army Corps of Engineers came to the rescue, building a taller levee. For over 50 years this levee protected downtown Augusta, but it was a detriment to commerce and served as a psychological barrier between the people and the river. Industry moved out but left a pristine shoreline. When the mall era of the 1970s arrived, downtown suffered a mass exodus as merchants began leaving downtown.

In the early 1980s a renaissance began along that pristine shoreline. Visionaries transformed Augusta’s Riverfront into a thriving business and tourist center with a focus on establishing a cultural corridor. Today you can enjoy fine art, performances, and a stunning walk along the Savannah River. Across from the museum is the Marriott should you want to tarry in the home of the Masters.

Sundays at the Morris are always free and a complimentary tour begins at 3 p.m. Check the Morris’s calendar and put this day trip on your calendar: many good things are planned and when you go; listen closely along Riverwalk: you just may hear the ghost of James Brown singing across the river in nearby Beech Island.

If You Go …

The Morris Museum

1 Tenth Street

Augusta, Ga. 30901

706-724-7501

Tuesday–Saturday:

10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Sunday: noon–5 p.m.
Closed Mondays and major holidays

 Adults $5

Youth 13–17, $3

Children 12 & under, Free

Student with ID, $3

Military with ID, $3

Senior, 65 & older, $3

www.themorris.org

Riverwalk

Augusta, Ga. 30901

706-821-1754

www.augustaga.gov/292/Riverwalk

Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at www.tompoland.net. Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected]