If you’re a lover of art, history, and the serenity of nature, Georgia’s Paradise Gardens is a destination that should be on your must-visit list, and this handy travel guide from Southern Living is a great resource to help you out. Nestled in the small town of Summerville in northwest Georgia, this four-acre property holds the legacy of Howard Finster, a Baptist preacher and local repairman turned prolific self-taught artist.
Paradise Gardens is the former residence of Howard Finster and the embodiment of his life’s work. The property showcases an array of structures, including his work shed, the World Folk Art Church, and the Mirror House, adorned with sculptures, paintings, and an assortment of found objects. The garden is a mesmerizing display of creativity, where concrete paths painted with messages wind around the property, leading visitors to various small buildings and Finster’s notable pieces. The walkways guide you through a unique journey, unveiling a rusted Cadillac covered with portraits, a tower of corroded bicycle parts hosting overgrown vines and small birds, and a small house adorned with a sparkling mirrored mosaic inside and out. Among the highlights is The World’s Folk Art Church, a twelve-sided building designed by Finster himself to resemble a wedding cake.
Located in Summerville, Paradise Gardens is easily accessible, open to the public year-round from Tuesday to Sunday between 11:00 AM and 5:00 PM EST, regardless of the weather. Detailed instructions on how to get there are available on the Paradise Garden website, ensuring a seamless journey to this artistic haven. If you’re captivated by the charm of Paradise Gardens and wish to extend your visit, three Airbnb rental properties on-site provide cozy accommodation options.
Howard Finster’s journey from a Baptist preacher and local repairman to a renowned self-taught artist is as fascinating as the art he created. Born in Valley Head, Alabama, in 1916, Finster’s creative spark ignited in the 1940s when he established the Plant Farm Museum, a roadside attraction honoring inventors with self-constructed models of buildings and sculptures. The turning point came in 1976 when, while painting a repaired bicycle, Finster claimed to have a divine vision instructing him to “Paint sacred art.” Despite initial doubts about his artistic abilities, he dedicated the rest of his life to creating art that conveyed his deep faith through Bible verses and biblical imagery. His extensive body of work, including thousands of paintings and sculptures, laid the foundation for Paradise Gardens.
In the 1980s, Finster gained widespread recognition, attracting attention from the likes of the Georgia rock band REM,who collaborated on an album cover and filmed a music video at Paradise Gardens. The iconic Talking Headsfollowed suit with their album “Little Creatures.” Today, Finster’s legacy lives on, and his work continues to be celebrated in galleries worldwide.
Immerse Yourself in Georgia’s Paradise Gardens
Beyond the enchanting art, Paradise Gardens offers visitors a chance to connect with nature and revel in the tranquility of its surroundings. The self-guided tour allows you to explore at your own pace, providing a unique and personal experience. The wear and tear of time and weather on the structures and art only add to the authenticity of the journey, making it a truly immersive adventure. Whether you’re strolling through the concrete paths, admiring the diverse artworks, or simply taking in the serene atmosphere, Georgia’s Paradise Gardens promises an unforgettable escape into the world of folk art and creativity.
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