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Walking to Art in Sonoma County

A delightful sculpture garden is tucked next to the History Museum of Sonoma County, near the new Art Museum of Sonoma County.

Stroll through fascinating neighborhoods, view a wide variety of artwork, sip a little wine, nibble on an appetizer, and perhaps enjoy a bit of music during one of Sonoma County's multitude of art walks.

Whether it's a monthly or annual event, and organized by gallery owners or the artists themselves, an art walk let's you explore the local creative scene on foot, in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Here's  a quick list of the art walks that let you walk from place to place, enjoying Sonoma County's bounty in the form of art, wine, food, and music.

First Friday Art Walk, Guerneville
Local art and artisans take center stage in one of the liveliest monthly events in the Russian River town of Guerneville from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. the first Friday of each month, year round. Art galleries, tasting rooms, and local merchants stay open for this monthly happening, which also frequently includes special receptions with local artists and rotating exhibits, as well as street performers and musicians. Start the evening by picking up a guide/map to the night's events at the Sonoma Nesting Company (16151 Main St., Guerneville, 707-869-3434). Visitors are encouraged to dress creatively and be part of the show.

First Friday Art Walk, Santa Rosa
There's growing momentum for the coordinated First Friday art openings and open studios events throughout downtown Santa Rosa. The best way to get started the first Friday of each month is to pick up details about participating sites at either Corrick's (637 4th St, Santa Rosa 707-546-2424) or SOFA, the colorful block of storefronts at the corner where South A Street meets Sebastopol  Avenue, more officially known as the South A Street Art District. Offering refreshments and live music, First Friday is held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., although some locations are open until 8 p.m.

Second Saturday Art Walk, Healdsburg
More than 20 art galleries are within walking distance of Healdsburg's historic downtown Plaza, and they provide a map and directory so you can stroll from place to place any day of the week. However, the best time to check out Healdsburg's art scene is 5 to 8 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month from May to December, when you can enjoy wine, food, and music as well as art. And it's not just art — there's an interesting array of shops, boutiques, and restaurants surrounding the Plaza.

Second Saturday Art Walk, Petaluma
The number of participating galleries can vary from five to six or more, but there's always a wide range of artwork represented — traditional,  experimental, performance, decorative, and more — at Petaluma's Second Saturday Art Walk from 5 to 8 p.m. from March to November. Ice House Gallery and the Petaluma Arts Center are clustered near D and Lakeville streets, while the other galleries are located a few blocks away in the eclectic mix of architectural styles that gives a sense of a bygone era to downtown Petaluma. Each site hosts its own reception, typically with appetizers and wine.

Salmon Creek Art Walk, Bodega Bay
Walk from studio to studio in the often overlooked coastal community of Salmon Creek Village, with about 100 homes tucked between Highway 1 and the beach just a mile north of Bodega Bay. Typically 14 to 18 resident and guest artists participate in these twice-yearly open studio events (held in May and November), with a wide variety of artwork presented in a gorgeous and rustic seaside setting. 

Of course, art walks aren't the only way to walk from artwork to artwork in Sonoma County. Permanent outdoor sculpture gardens are plentiful. Here's a quick list.

Art Museum of Sonoma County: The Sonoma County Museum is now two facilities, the History Museum of Sonoma County in the old post office and in the next-door building the new Art Museum of Sonoma County. A door in the back of the history museum leads to a delightful outdoor sculpture garden designed by landscape architect Frederic Warnecke, featuring work by California artists. Admission is $10, which includes both museums and the sculpture garden. 511 B St., Santa Rosa, 707-579-1500

Cornerstone Sonoma: Explore an ever-changing series of gallery-style walk-through gardens, both plant-oriented and architectural/sculptural. 23570 Highway 121, Sonoma, 707-933-3010

Florence Avenue: This three-block-long neighborhood in Sebastopol is dotted with colorful, whimsical, and oversized sculptures made from recycled materials by husband and wife team Patrick Amiot and Brigitte Laurent. Florence Avenue, Sebastopol

Luther Burbank Center for the Arts: Open to the public in June 2015, the outdoor sculpture garden between the Luther Burbank Center and the new Sutter Hospital campus presents monumental outdoor art by contemporary regional artists in a landscaped natural setting, with the displays changing every two years. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa, 707-546-3600

Paradise Ridge Winery: For two decades the Byck family has displayed outdoor sculpture at its Paradise Ridge Winery in a stunning natural setting in the historic Fountaingrove neighborhood in northwest Santa Rosa. 4545 Thomas Lake Harris Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-528-9463

Sculpture Trail: You'll find more than 35 outdoor sculptures in the northern Sonoma County towns of Cloverdale and Geyserville, along Highway 101 (see photo at right). The displays are changed each May. Download trail maps at 101sculpturetrail.com

Written by Sonoma Insider Patricia Lynn Henley.