Wine may be the craft Napa Valley is known for, but it’s far from the area’s only art form.
There’s more things to do in Napa Valley than just hit vineyard after vineyard. In fact, Downtown Napa has seen quite a renaissance in the last five years, going from a collection of sleepy strip malls to a bustling city along the banks of the Napa River packed with celebrity chef–led restaurants, shops, bars, and a public market. One of the most obvious and eye-catching institutions, however, has been the Napa Art Walk, which first took up residence along a mile-and-a-half stretch of the riverfront in 2009. A biannual rotation of 10 to 15 colorful modern sculptures, the project is a result of a partnership between the City of Napa and the Arts Council of Napa and showcases high-quality sculpture from artists across the western US. And just because you may have seen it once before doesn’t mean you’ve seen it all: Every other year, a new theme is selected, and a whole new collection of artists and their work become part of the latest iteration of the urban outdoor museum. So what is there to see for the 2017–19 exhibition? Ten new sculptures – from artists from California, Oregon, New Mexico, and Washington – that interpret this years’ theme: Shifting Perspectives.
“Squirrel” by Colin Selig
Selig is a Walnut Creek, California-based artist who uses reclaimed propane tanks to create his sculptures and whimsical benches. His featured eco-friendly sculpture, “Squirrel,” questions peoples’ perspectives on what constitutes trash and why – as the shapes of the squirrel are exactly as the tanks were when Selig found them. To create his piece, he simply cleaned them, cut them, welded them together, and painted them green, making his sculpture 99 percent repurposed.
“Strength Together” by Gabe Babcock
Working with Oregon City’s Native Fish Society and local tribes like the Y-e-Slah Clan, Babcock’s pieces often focus on the protection of the Pacific Northwest wild salmon. This particular piece by the Corvallis, Oregon, artist was inspired by salmon migration and intends to communicate tension – such as the tension between natural river runs and rampant urbanization – by forcing the viewer to wonder if the cedar beams are keeping the stone aloft…or if it is the other way around. It’s meant illustrate how all living things rely on one another and losing any piece could throw everything out of balance.
“Wisdom of Decay” by James Burns
Burns is no stranger to the Art Walk. The Santa Fe–based artist won the “People’s Choice Award” for the 2015–2017 exhibition for his “Guermo en Inverno,”a steel and wood sculpture of a bull in mid-trot. This time, while his installation is made of reclaimed lumber and hand-worn metals much like his previous piece, he has forgone familiar animal shapes that make up so much of his work to create something abstract. The result is a giant circle – consisting of aged wood made to look new and new metal made to look old – that represents the cyclical nature of life.
Take a Walk
Pick up a walking-tour guide at the Napa Valley Welcome Center or download the audio tour on Otocast by looking up “Napa Art Walk.” You can then select sculptures you’d like to hear more about, including personal messages from the artists themselves.