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Voigt Foundation creates gallery of world-class outdoor art in Sonoma County

'Grazing Horse,' by Bryan Tedrick, installed in Healdsburg.

JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat
Published: Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 10:59 p.m.

In downtown Cloverdale, a steel sculpture entitled “Shadows of Eternity” stands 20 feet high, commanding the attention of all who pass by.

At the south end of Geyserville, “Run Home,” a bright pink, 26-foot-tall, painted-steel stick figure with a cubed head, seems poised to leap into the sky.

Along the Foss Creek Pathway near downtown Healdsburg, the landscape is dotted with a long string of sculptures including a redwood and salvaged-metal figure of a horse, which has become a local favorite.

The connection between these three works of art, and many others across Sonoma County, is not visible, but these are not random acts of artistic creation.

Sculptor Boback Emad's “Shadows of Eternity” in Cloverdale, Max Heiges' “Run Home” in Geyserville, and Bryan Tedrick's “Grazing Horse” in Healdsburg all were placed by the Voigt Family Sculpture Foundation.

“When we started, we had a goal of placing two pieces of sculpture a year,” said Judy Voigt, who started the foundation in 2005 with her husband, Al, who died in 2011. “We are now 25 years ahead of schedule. We have sculptures from Petaluma to Cloverdale.”

The foundation works with each community to find the right sculpture for the right site. One of the Geyserville-based foundation's most vocal fans is Mike McGuire, a former Healdsburg City Council member, now on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

“Our neighborhoods have become galleries for world-class outdoor sculptures that all of us can enjoy,” McGuire said. “In many parts of the state, or across the country, folks would have to spend big bucks to see the type of art that is on display in almost every community in Sonoma County.”

Al Voigt had founded a series of successful technology companies, and he and his wife used stock from the sale of one of them to start and fund the foundation. The Voigts wanted to share their love of sculpture and make the art accessible to everyone.

One measure of the foundation's success is the way the sculptures have become part of daily life for those who live and work nearby, Judy Voigt said.

At the Healdsburg Montessori School, not far from the Foss Creek Pathway, students ages 3 through 6 look forward to walking among the sculptures.

“The kids always comment on the 'Grazing Horse.' That's a highlight,” said Sarah Hildreth, owner, director and teacher at the school. “We have taken some specific 30-minute walks so the children can go and talk about what they see.”

For Judy Voigt, the public response to the foundation's long-term loans of sculpture to the community has been both a delight and a bit of a surprise.

“We didn't know how people were going to react to this when we first started, and we partnered with the city of Healdsburg,” Judy Voigt remembered. “What happened in town is that people started changing the ways they went through town so they could go by the sculptures every day. You could see moms with strollers and people walking dogs. Sometimes, you'd see people stop and look at a sculpture and talk about it a bit.”

Voigt credits much of what the foundation has accomplished to it curator, Debra Lehane, particularly for her rapport with the sculptors, and to consultant Ray Holley, who works with each city to secure sites for the artwork.

“We allow cities to have a public art program at low or no cost,” Holley said. “People stop us to compliment us, and tell us how much they appreciate it. Sometimes, some one will say, 'I don't like that big red thing,' and we say, 'That's fine. We want you to have a reaction.'”

For more information on the Voigt Family Sculpture Foundation, including a complete list of the sculptures and their sites, visit http://www.voigtfoundation.com.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. See his ARTS blog at http://arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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