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Stroll from Art Gallery to Art Gallery in Healdsburg

Erickson Fine Arts Gallery is one of some two dozen galleries within walking distance of Healdsburg Plaza. Max Kalkman Photography

Art lovers take note: There are few places with quite as many galleries per capita as there are in the Sonoma Wine Country town of Healdsburg.

With a population of about 11,000 people, Healdsburg boasts some two dozen art galleries on or near the lush green lawns and shady trees of its central downtown plaza.

Take a leisurely stroll, and you can view work by internationally renowned and local artists, photographers, jewelry makers, and artisans. And if you take that stroll from 5 to 8 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month from May to December, in addition to viewing art you can enjoy wine, food, and music as part of the Second Saturdays Artwalk.

It's a perfect Sonoma Wine Country combination — indulging in tastes of all kinds, from culture to wine and food, in a lovely small-town setting.

The multiple-gallery art walk is organized by Bob Johnson, of Bob Johnson Art Gallery — an upstairs suite of four gallery spaces, a design studio, and a private art library in the 1885 Gobbi building (314 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-529-3755). In furnished and decorated rooms, Johnson presents a cross-section of representational art, as well as a variety of his illustration work, from wine cartoons to fine art renderings.

Johnson is the unofficial greeter and cheerleader for the local galleries and art walk. "They volunteered me to be director, so I'm kind of the ersatz director of the group," he said with a grin. They've created a directory and map of the participating galleries, and Johnson makes sure everyone has copies on hand to give to visitors.

"Every gallery has a boxful," he said. "I always give my guests one and encourage them to visit the other galleries."

The newest and largest gallery in the area is 222 Paul Mahder Gallery (222 Healdsburg Ave., 707-473-9150), housed in a 1940s-era Quonset hut. With more than 8,500 square feet of gallery space and 30-foot high ceilings arching overhead, this gallery presents works both small and large by national and international artists in a museum-like setting.

And the oldest gallery on the art walk is the Erickson Fine Art Gallery (see photo on the left; 324 Healdsburg Ave., 707-431-7073), which opened in San Francisco in 1983, and moved to Healdsburg in 1997. This gallery showcases contemporary paintings, sculpture, and mixed media works by local and internationally known artists in three stories of light-filled rooms. There's a sculpture garden and mobiles hang from the two-story ceilings, with kinetic works by Jerome Kirk displayed throughout the gallery.

With a location in St. Helena in the Napa Valley as well as the one in Healdsburg, the red brick walls of the Christopher Hill Gallery (326 Healdsburg Ave., 707-395-4646) display a range of abstract, impressionist, realist, expressionist, and surrealist art by world-renowned and regionally important artists from Europe, Asia, Latin America, and North America.

And Aerena Galleries & Gardens (115 Plaza St., 707-603-8783) brings the "life aesthetic" of its locations in Napa Valley's Yountville and St. Helena to the Healdsburg Plaza with contemporary art, sculpture, and furnishings in 3,700 square feet of gallery space.

The Harris Gallery (320 Healdsburg Ave., 707-547-7923 or 707-480-8291) highlights work by a father and son team, Marc (M.C.) Harris and A3L3XZAND3R Harris. The father's neo-cubist inventions and richly colored modernist landscapes are widely collected, while the classically trained son is known for his impressionist landscapes, cloud formations, and elegant figure works.

Other sites to visit include:

  • Alexis Greenberg Photography (347 Healdsburg Avenue, Suite F, 301-233-9807) specializes in fine art landscapes, portraits, and private events.
  • Andy Katz Photography (322 Healdsburg Ave., 707-280-5555) features work by this renowned photographer who has published 12 breathtaking coffee table books.
  • Barndiva Gallery + Bar (237 Center St., 707-431-7404) collects singular pieces of fine art, photography, sculpture, textiles, glass, and furniture.
  • Bourne Photo Studio + Gallery (14 Healdsburg Ave., 707-486-9420) is located several blocks south of the plaza. It offers commercial photography in a clean and bold style, with an emphasis on architecture and interiors for the publishing, hospitality, and design/build industries.
  • Bradford Brenner (101A Plaza St., 707-324-9022) is an internationally collected painter who opens his studio and displays his work.
  • Capture Fine Art Gallery (105 Plaza St., 707-431-7030) represents internationally renowned artists as well as regional emerging photographers. The gallery also features Shona sculptures from Zimbabwe, Africa, plus a unique palm wood furniture line from Fiji.
  • Christie Marks Fine Art Gallery (322 Healdsburg Ave., 2nd floor, 707-695-1011) stages solo and small group exhibitions by local and international artists who are challenging the conventions of creative expression.
  • Cynthia Berg Polsan Fine Art Studio and Gallery (311 Center St., Unit D-1 upstairs, 310-570-7421) presents this artist's fine art sculpture.
  • The Dovetail Collection (407 Healdsburg Ave., one block north of the plaza, 707-431-0111) features fine wood furniture and handcrafts from West Coast master craftsmen and artisans.
  • Hammerfriar (132 Mill St., Suite 101, 707-473-9600) displays contemporary conceptual art, offering fresh voices by Bay Area artists in insightful and thoughtfully composed exhibitions.
  • The Hand Fan Museum (327-A Healdsburg Ave., 707-431-2500) is the only museum in the United States devoted entirely to hand fans with a permanent collection and rotating exhibits.
  • Hawley Tasting Room & Gallery (36 North St., 707-473-9500) features bold Sonoma County landscapes by Dana Hawley, and established and collected artist since 1980. The gallery also serves as a tasting room for Hawley wines, with wine-stave furniture and chandeliers by Austin Hawley.
  • Healdsburg Center for the Arts (130 Plaza St., 707-431-1970) is a community nonprofit presenting about eight shows a year, including an annual members show, and a Young Artists show displaying work by local students.
  • J. Howell Fine Art (105C Plaza St., upstairs, 707-431-2684) exhibits original paintings and works on paper by contemporary California artists.
  • Jessica Felix Designs (456 Moore Lane, behind City Hall, by appointment, 707-332-8433) creates "spirited art" jewelry with images from cultures worldwide in sterling silver and gold.
  • Lulo Gallery (303 Center St., 707-433-7533) has a goal of featuring compelling work from the worlds of jewelry, art, and design, presented in a modern space, with rotating shows and constant new work. (Lulo does not participate in the Second Saturdays Artwalk). 
  • Randolph Johnson Gallery (105C Plaza St., 707-756-5006) presents oil-on-linen landscapes, seascapes, portraits, and still lifes by fine artist Randolph Johnson.
  • Stephanie Lawrence Gallery (105 Plaza St., 510-604-3903 or 707-857-1880) presents the artist's mixed media paintings reflecting the urban landscape.
  • The Upstairs Art Gallery(306 Center St., 707-431-4214)displays original paintings, collage, photography, fine arts prints, jewelry, fused glass, raku pottery, turned-wood vessels, bird carvings, and textiles created by Sonoma County artists; the gallery is located in a mezzanine that looks out over the Levin & Co. bookstore.

Of course, art galleries are just one of the many things to enjoy as you stroll through downtown Healdsburg. Once named one of America's Most Beautiful Town Squares by Travel + Leisure magazine, the historic plaza hosts a variety of concerts, fairs, festivals, and other events throughout the year. And in addition to many galleries, the surrounding area offers an eclectic mix of boutiques, antique stores, gift shops, restaurants, delis, and spas.

If all that browsing and perusing of art works up an appetite, there are plenty of options. The celebrated Barndiva Restaurant (see photo), which specializes in farm-to-table modern country dining, serves brunch, lunch, and dinner, Wednesday to Sunday. Or sample small plates at Bravas Bar De Tapas or get coffee and a treat at the Downtown Bakery & Creamery. Take a quick drive out of town to pick up a delicious sandwich or salad from the Jimtown Store. For even more options, look through the listing of Healdsburg restaurants to see what strikes your fancy.

If you want more time to explore the area, overnight options include Madrona Manor Wine Country Inn & Restaurant, which offers posh lodgings and inventive cuisine using locally sourced ingredients, and the casual, comfortable Irish Rose Inn, a bed and breakfast in a wonderful 1912 Craftsman home amid flowering gardens.

Written by Sonoma Insider Patricia Lynn Henley.