Fine wine, gourmet food, and the beauties of nature — what else is needed to savor the complete Sonoma Wine Country lifestyle? Why, art, music, and culture, of course.
It all comes together in the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art in the city of Sonoma (pop. 10,648) on the eastern edge of Sonoma County.
"We have a world-class museum in Sonoma that's often been called the gem of Sonoma," said former SVMA executive director Kate Eilertsen. "We offer world-class exhibitions you won't see anywhere else."
This nonprofit, member-supported arts organization Is located on the expansive Broadway boulevard just a short stroll south of the historic Sonoma Plaza. The museum's 8,000-square-foot space hosts musical concerts, gallery talks, art classes, fund-raising galas, and anywhere from four to eight fine arts exhibitions each year.
Since its founding in 1999, the SVMA has welcomed more than 130,000 visitors to 70-plus exhibitions featuring local, regional, national, and international artists. This has included everything from ceramics by Pablo Picasso to student work from local art classes; furniture masterworks from the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco to work by emerging Northern California artists; and etchings by Francisco Goya to sustainable Swedish fashions.
Past shows also included sculpture by Rodin, Latin American master works, Native American art from the California Academy of Science, and "creatures of myth and magic" by contemporary and folk artists. Typically, the works displayed come from private collections and artists' studios, or are borrowed from museums, galleries, and other sources.
Guest curators plan and assemble the shows, which can feature just about any type of media — painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, ceramics, architecture, industrial design, graphic design, printmaking, film, video, textiles, and crafts.
In addition to supporting art programs in local schools, the museum serves as a venue for the Sonoma International Film Festival each spring and creates a community "altar" each fall in the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos).
Clearly, the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art is living up to its mission to be "a magnet of creative energy and cultural inspiration."
And all this is accomplished in the heart of the beautiful Sonoma Valley wine region. Nearby, the Sonoma Plaza offers lush green lawns and shady trees surrounding a picture-perfect City Hall — built in 1908 and designed with four identical sides so no merchant felt slighted by an inferior view.
The plaza is ringed by an eclectic mix of shops, art galleries, restaurants, hotels, and wine tasting rooms, just waiting to be explored — a perfect locale to savor all that the Sonoma Wine Country lifestyle has to offer.
Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, 551 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-939-7862; open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday during exhibitions (closes briefly between exhibitions, for installation); admission is $5 per person or $8 for families, and free on Wednesdays.
Written by Sonoma Insider Patricia Lynn Henley.