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 lets 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).
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. A few of the venues may change from month to month, but the best way to get started 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, 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. Start at Riverfront Art Gallery and find out which galleries are participating that month.
Salmon Creek Art Walk, Bodega Bay
Walk from studio to studio in the often overlooked coastal community of Salmon Creek Village, where about 100 homes are tucked between Highway 1 and the beach just a mile north of Bodega Bay. Typically 10 to 12 resident and guest artists participate in this annual open studio event each November, with a wide variety of artwork presented in a gorgeous and rustic seaside setting.
There's not currently an official artwalk in downtown Healdsburg, but with some two dozen art galleries within walking distance of the central plaza, you can easily create your own artistic itinerary. For details, read Stroll From Art Gallery to Art Gallery in Healdsburg.
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.
Museums of Sonoma County: The Sonoma County Museum is now two facilities on one campus, the History Museum of Sonoma County in the old post office and the Art Museum of Sonoma County next door in a renovated wharehouse. 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. 425 Seventh 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
Sculpture Trail: You'll find more than 30 outdoor sculptures in the northern Sonoma County towns of Cloverdale and Geyserville, along Highway 101. The displays are changed each May. For more details, read Following the Sculpture Trail in Northern Sonoma County.
Written by Sonoma Insider Patricia Lynn Henley.