While driving along Highway 101 at the northern end of Sonoma County, watch for unique and colorful shapes in a large meadow off the eastern edge of the freeway.
The art-full meadow is one of the more prominent sites along the Sculpture Trail in the towns of Geyserville and Cloverdale. For a look at a wide variety of sculptures — and a chance to explore these delightful communities — take the Geyserville Highway 128 exit (to reach the meadow), or the Citrus Fair Drive exit in Cloverdale.
"I'm always thrilled when I drive by and see people stopping, getting out of their cars, and walking around and taking pictures," said Victoria Heiges, who manages the sculptures on the Geyserville end of the trail, including those in the meadow.
Sponsored by the Cloverdale Arts Alliance, the Geyserville Community Foundation, and the Geyserville Chamber of Commerce, one of the goals of the Sculpture Trail is to make art accessible to all.
"People feel they need to go to art history class to understand art," said Heiges. "No. Just come out and enjoy it. Your opinion is just as valuable as an art critic's. I'm hoping this program kind of demystifies art."
At the more than 35 outdoor sculptures along the Sculpture Trail, it's possible to walk around the artwork, studying it from different angles — and in a few cases you can walk on, under, or through the piece.
"It's a unique experience," said Joyce Mann, who manages the Cloverdale end of the trail. "The sculptures are all different, and have been created by professional sculptors."
The meadow off Highway 101 is just one point along the trail. It's possible to stroll, cycle, or drive from artwork to artwork in both towns. A few of the pieces — such as Boback Emad's "Shadows of Eternity" and William Wareham's "Without a Shout," both in Cloverdale — are on permanent display. Most of the others are replaced each May, although some of the larger pieces might remain in place longer.
The call for entries each January says the sculptures must be "maintenance free, able to withstand heat, sun, wind, sprinklers, rain, children, and crowds." That about sums it up. A selection committee reviews all entries and picks which sculptures will be displayed starting in May each year, as well as which current pieces might stay for another year.
Trail maps are located in boxes in the meadow and in several sites in Geyserville and Cloverdale; they're also available at the chamber of commerce offices in both towns, and at various local businesses; or you can download the maps online.
The sculptures are concentrated in Geyserville and Cloverdale. You can zip quickly between the two towns on Highway 101 (it's about nine miles), or take the scenic route, driving or cycling along Asti Road, past vineyards, wineries, and open meadows.
Plan to spend time in both towns. Founded in the mid-1800s, Geyserville (pop. 862) offers wine tasting, contemporary restaurants, and vintage-chic stores in a setting of Wild West storefronts and wooden boardwalks.
In the middle of the one-block downtown you'll find Geyserville Mud Cafe, where locals meet over coffee to exchange the latest news. Or shop for authentic cowboy hat or boots at Bosworth and Sons General Mercantile.
Named one of "America's Coolest Small Towns," Cloverdale (pop. 8,618) mixes celebrated Zinfandel wines with rambling Victorian buildings, a dynamic arts community, and a family-friendly atmosphere, creating a unique blend of rustic charm and laid-back sophistication. Its compact downtown area features a variety of intriguing stores, galleries, restaurants, and tasting rooms, as well as the Cloverdale History Center and Gould-Shaw House Museum, and the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center.
Written by Sonoma Insider Patricia Lynn Henley.