: Pentacle Theatre

Experience Salem’s Sizzling Art Scene

Celebrate your creative side at these artsy hot spots and outdoor events.
June 3, 2024

In the mood for life-size art sculptures, incredible live theater, awe-inspiring ballet or a sidesplitting comedy show? You’re in the right place. Salem’s art scene is as diverse as it is thrilling. In addition to the world-class museums and buzzy First Friday events held around town each month, check out these theaters, galleries, walking tours and festivals.

Elsinore Theatre (Photo by Ron Cooper)

Be Transported by a Live Play, Comedy or Concert

Salem’s Pentacle Theatre is worth a standing ovation. Every seat is a good seat at this cozy theater, and everyone from the actors and directors to the set designers are local volunteers and top-notch talent. Pentacle has been producing published plays and musicals by regional and nationally known artists since 1954, and 2024 marks its 70th anniversary. Check out the lineup and grab a ticket online.

Once called the “living room of the Salem community,” the Elsinore Theatre is a wondrously restored former 1926 vaudeville venue located in the heart of downtown. This 1,290-seat theater has stained-glass windows, sweeping balconies, a Wurlitzer organ (the largest theater organ in the Pacific Northwest) and acoustics that you can feel. Nab tickets and then catch a Broadway show, some standup comedy or a mesmerizing ballet performance. 

Or kick back and take in some live music at the downtown Taproot Lounge and Café. Located in a landmark 1800s building lined with local artwork, Taproot welcomes minors until 9 p.m., at which time it transitions into a bar regularly featuring local and touring musicians on its intimate lounge stage. The free show, gourmet pub food and handcrafted cocktails make for a mighty fine evening for music lovers. 

Hallie Ford Museum of Art (Photo by Erick Durano)

Get Inspired by Salem’s Brow-Raising Visual Arts

Lace up and experience Salem’s impressive public-art collection at your own pace with an easy self-guided walking tour of the sculptures, paintings, wood marquetry and other works by Oregon artists on display throughout town. The online map points out the pieces you’ll encounter at every turn and provides detailed information about the artists who created them. 

An outstanding collection of Native American baskets is just one of thousands of reasons you’ll want to visit Willamette University’s Hallie Ford Museum of Art. As Oregon’s third-largest fine-arts museum, you can peruse over 9,000 works, ranging from abstract drawings by contemporary Pacific Northwest and Oceanic artists to African regalia pieces and ancient Egyptian textiles. Check the website for special exhibits and admission prices.

Modern-art fans will want to pop into downtown’s Salem on the Edge. Owned and curated by Salem artist Melanie Weston, the gallery represents 25 Oregon artists and celebrates contemporary art in all its innovative mediums. The gallery’s bright, 1,700-square-foot space leaves plenty of room for oohing and aahing at the regularly rotating exhibits.

World Beat Festival

Enjoy Some Family Time at These Artsy Outdoor Events

Take a trip around the world right in Salem’s Riverfront Park. The World Beat Festival, typically held in late June, is an annual celebration of global cultures and an opportunity to see traditional dance and music, enjoy international food, and watch a dragon-boat race along the Willamette River. Kick things off Friday night with live music and a fire show at the Riverfront Park amphitheater. The main events start Saturday morning with the Children’s Parade, and they run through Sunday evening. Pack a blanket for the grassy area and make a weekend of it. Visit the website for tickets (kids 14 and under are free). 

Dive into a weekend of creativity, fun and people-watching at the 75th annual Salem Art Fair and Festival in September in Bush’s Pasture Park. This event is one of the largest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest and draws artists from all around the country. With inspiring live music and performances, hands-on activities for the kids, and pop-up shops with artists selling everything from handmade jewelry to one-of-a-kind sculptures and ceramics, your entire crew will have a blast. See the website for ticket prices, and note that kids 12 and under are free.

About The

Michelle Kehm
Michelle Kehm is a writer and author whose work has appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, AFAR, Vogue, Glamour and the NewYorker.com. She’s a native Portlander and is loving rediscovering the Pacific Northwest after a long spell of living in New York City.

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