Beyond its incredible wine offerings, Napa Valley also boasts a number of world-class art museums. Visitors can stop by di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art to see Viola Frey’s largest work or visit the Napa Valley Museum Yountville to take in iconic Picassos. However, you don’t need to pay an entrance fee to marvel at exceptional art. Thanks to the Napa Valley Art Walk and the city’s commitment to public exhibitions, visitors can see museum-worthy pieces while strolling the city streets.
Founded in 2009, the Art Walk welcomes a new exhibition of jury-selected sculptures every two years. July 2019 marks the beginning of a new season, the program’s sixth cycle. This season's theme is "Sense of Place," with the stated purpose to “motivate the individual and the masses to take ownership of their stories, to empower communities, and to spark understanding in our collective experience in shared space.”
“We encourage the public to look at both the art and the placement," says Meredith Nevard, Napa’s Public Art Coordinator. "It lets us ponder ideas, inspires us, and makes us feel larger than life. It humbles us and it makes us grow.”
The walk is best enjoyed by stopping first at the Napa Valley Welcome Center, where you’ll find a complimentary map. Download the self-guided audio tour from AutoCast for background on the artists and their inspiration. The 2019-21 exhibition features pieces including “!” by Jann Nunn, a larger-than-life exclamation point in front of Napa’s City Hall, and “Reconstruite” by Danette Landry, a gilded tower made from bronze and steel plate found at Main Street and Creek Bridge.
Visitors are invited to vote on their favorite piece as part of the People’s Choice Award competition, or simply to enjoy the exhibition as a whole. The tour starts at City Hall, continues on Main Street, and finishes at Oxbow Public Market. Nevard recommends enjoying the tour at a leisurely pace, stopping in the rooftop bar at The Archer Hotel for an afternoon cocktail or cooling off with an ice cream cone at a downtown sweetshop like Las Palmas Express.
Napa’s public art offerings extend beyond the rotating exhibitions as well. The Public Art Collection comprises 17 permanent pieces found all around the city, and a number of privately owned murals and installations can be found in the Rail Arts District. Nevard says, “Having public art in the community allows us to experience new ideas. It’s so important to Napa.”