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‘See the West without leaving the South’ at this Georgia museum
By Tom Adkinson

CARTERSVILLE, Ga. – This small town in the Appalachian foothills north of Atlanta has a trove of art depicting the American West that you wouldn’t expect to find outside of Texas, Oklahoma or Wyoming.

Larger-than-life sculptures greet you at the Booth Western Art Museum even before you enter its galleries; image by Tom Adkinson.

“See the West without leaving the South” is a slogan of the Booth Western Art Museum, which identifies itself the world’s largest permanent exhibition space for Western art.

It devotes more space to western landscapes, Native Americans, explorers and cowboys than better-known institutions such as the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth and the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyo.

americn west art
Large-scale scenes of the American West are easily displayed in the Booth’s spacious galleries; image by Tom Adkinson
booth western art museum
The Booth Western Art Museum has a dozen galleries for its permanent collection and three more for temporary exhibitions; image by Tom Adkinson.

Prepare to enjoy the majesty and history of the West – along with a respite from traffic – just by taking a short detour off I-75 between Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn.

The museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, uses its 124,000 square feet – plus an expansive outdoor sculpture garden – to display paintings, bronzes, photography and artifacts created by more than 200 artists from the early 1800s until today. While iconic artists such as Frederic Remington and C.M. Russell are represented, contemporary artists are in the spotlight, too.

fur traders
Sculptor Bill Nebeker won a gold medal from the Cowboy Artists of America for this depiction of Ojibwa trappers; image by Tom Adkinson

High-ceilinged galleries have space to display heroic-sized landscapes that capture the grandeur of the West along with more intimate pieces One example is a bronze sculpture of two Ojibwa fur trappers paddling a pelt-laden canoe.

  native american mother and child
“Indian Mother and Child” by Harry Jackson is a painted sculpture based on Jackson’s sculpture of Sacagawea of Lewis and Clark expedition fame; image by Tom Adkinson.

Much attention goes to Native Americans – sculptures that depict their stoic faces, landscapes that illustrate how they were united with the land and portraits that show inner strength, such as one of a mother and child.

The Booth, named not for its benefactor but for a friend and mentor of the behind-the-scenes museum founder, has a dozen permanent galleries and three that are devoted to 10 to 12 temporary exhibitions every year.

One of those temporary exhibitions is “Andy Warhol and the West,” which runs from Aug. 25-Dec. 31. Most people don’t associate Warhol with Western subjects, but his last major project was his “Cowboys and Indians” portfolio, which included 14 Western subjects such as Geronimo, John Wayne and George Custer. The exhibition then will move to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City and finally to the Tacoma Art Museum in Washington.

Absorbing the variety of the Booth can be a multi-hour experience, and a good way to get oriented is with a daily docent tour at 1:30 p.m.

Beyond the Western art, the Booth also features the Millar Presidential Gallery, which has a portrait and an original signed document from all 45 U.S. presidents, and a special area for children called the Sagebrush Ranch, where little buckaroos and buckarettes can learn while playing.

If you have extra time, the Booth’s benefactor also created the Tellus Science Museum and is building the Savoy Automobile Museum, which is to open in late 2020.

Trip-planning resources:, and

(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s new book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available at

Published April 26, 2019

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