Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Neighborhood Gallery of Sorts

A few years ago, Patrick Amiot, a French-Canadian who lives in Sebastopol with his wife, Brigitte, and two daughters, came across an old rowboat at a flea market, bought it and transformed it into a sculpture: a giddy fisherman holding his catch.Amiot displayed it out on his front lawn and found it soon drew a lot of people who couldn't help but smile when they saw the whimsical sulpture on Florence Avenue. It was the start of an outdoor art gallery in Sebastopol, which has undergone a relatively recent transition from agricultural town to a leftist mecca, a kind of Berkeley for Sonoma County. Today, many of Amiot's neighbors on Florence -- and friends all over Sebastopol -- have placed Amiot's sculptures, made from objects he's found on scavenger hunts, in their front yards.
Some of the residents selected the pieces and bought them, but others are simply displaying them (if there's one that you fancy, you can ask the artist about making a purchase or having one custom designed). You can't help but grin as you stroll through the pretty neighborhood of old Victorians just a few blocks from downtown. In one yard, there's a skeleton riding a motorcyle. A few steps away there's a farmer with a chicken on his tractor and, across the street, blondes in a red convertible. Amiot's house (top) is the funkiest, with a scattering of sculptures and an old fire alarm box with free guides to his works in front.
To get to Florence from downtown, begin at the corner of Main and Bodega and head west on Bodega, turn right on Florence and walk the few blocks. One of the houses is the George A. Strout House (at 253 Florence), a 1903 Queen Anne Victorian on the National Registry of Historic Places. Continue on Florence until Healdsburg Avenue turn left to make a loop back downtown.

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