Take a relaxing stroll through sunlight and shade in the fenced sculpture garden on the campus of the Museums of Sonoma County in downtown Santa Rosa. Here, natural, industrial, and just plain whimsical art "grows" in delightful profusion.
Previously known as the Sonoma County Museum when it offered both history and art exhibits under a single roof, there are now two separate museums on one campus, know collectively as the Museums of Sonoma County.
Housed in the historic 1910 post office building in downtown Santa Rosa, the History Museum of Sonoma County (425 7th St., Santa Rosa, 707-579-1500) displays the regional history of the North San Francisco Bay Area, with extensive collections documenting the region’s rich land and history. Immediately to the east in a renovated warehouse, the Art Museum of Sonoma County presents national and international exhibitions of modern contemporary art; its collection features artists who have lived and worked in Northern California.
Created by landscape architect and museum board member Frederic Warnecke, the sculpture garden subtly echoes elements of the Sonoma County landscape — grass, bushes, rolling hills, towering redwoods — as a setting for about a dozen large-scale pieces by California artists.
Opened in the summer of 2011, the sculpture garden lies to the west of the history museum. To reach the sculptures, walk through the history museum, out a back door, and down a short set of concrete steps.
You'll find sculptures nestled at the feet of giant redwood trees, and a crushed rock path leading to a wide range of artwork. (Those with mobility issues can ask at the front desk to have a ground-level gate opened for easier access; there's an outdoor lift to get inside the museum, which has a long flight of front steps.)
From Mario Uribe's steel-and-cactus "Peace Tree" to Bruce Johnson's 16-foot-tall "Sequoia" featuring old-growth redwood, copper, and slate, this is art you can walk around, and through. Benches are scattered here and there, for those who want to sit and contemplate.
Visiting the sculpture garden costs $10 for adults; $7 students/seniors; and children 12 and under are free. This fee includes admission to both the history and art museums. Laminated maps identifying the pieces in the sculpture garden are available on loan from the front desk of the history museum.
The sculpture garden is a small artistic oasis in downtown Santa Rosa, which is filled with vibrant life. Across the street from the museums you'll find the Santa Rosa Plaza shopping center, and Courthouse Square at the corner of Santa Rosa Avenue and Fourth Street is just a few blocks away.
Stroll down Fourth Street, where you'll find shops, galleries, coffee houses, outdoor cafes, and delis. Less than a mile away (in opposite directions) explore the historic Railroad Square and the landmark Luther Burbank Home & Gardens.
For more ways to discover Sonoma County's artistic side, read Explore the South A Street Art District in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County Boasts Largest Artist Community, and Walking to Art in Sonoma County.
Written by Sonoma Insider Patricia Lynn Henley.