An Art Museum That Can Go Wherever the Railroads Run

It started in 1971 in Michigan; now, Artrain is on a three-year nationwide tour, bringing an exhibition from the Smithsonian to 100 towns

The Artrain in 2006
The Artrain in 2006 Wikimedia Commons

Artrain, an art-museum-on-rails consisting of five silver-painted cars, brings exhibitions to towns and cities throughout the country. Earlier this year, Artrain started a three-year tour, carrying a collection of prints commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution. "Art in Celebration!" includes works by Georgia O'Keeffe, Sam Gilliam, Dale Chihuly and other well-known artists.

Smithsonian magazine caught up with Artrain during its stop in Edenton, North Carolina, a small town that hugs the northwest corner of the huge Albemarle Sound. The logistics of arranging such a traveling show are daunting, but the hundreds of schoolchildren and adults who viewed the exhibition made the effort worthwhile. It was the first visit to an art museum for many of the youngsters, whose most common reaction as they descended the metal steps of the studio car was, "Let's go through again!"

Get the latest Travel & Culture stories in your inbox.