Gateway to the Texas Wine Country. That’s what some people are beginning to call the charming area around THE SCULPTURE RANCH, from the beautiful carpet of flowers that greets you when pull in to Johnson City, to our front gate just off Flat Creek Road, and on down Highway 290 to Hye and beyond.


Just an hour from both Austin and San Antonio by car, our little corner of the Hill Country is one of the most accessible places to visit for beautiful scenery, a growing wine and beer industry, and, of course, ART.


There is so much to do around here, I’d have to write a book to fit everything in, so let’s just begin with One Perfect Day. 


Say you are setting off from Austin or San Antonio at 9am.  You will arrive in Johnson City, the first town on the Texas wine trail, in about an hour.  Drive THROUGH Johnson City (wait for it, JCTX neighbors, we’re coming back to you).  Just 15 minutes down 290, WILLIAM CHRIS VINEYARDS opens at 10am.  Who cares if it’s still morning? We’re talking about ONE perfect day.  Have some wine!


Thirst slaked, head across the road to the HYE MARKET, housed in one of the Hill Country’s best-preserved old post office/general stores.  It is most definitely a unique, colorful little place you don’t want to miss, with their own kitchen garden and terrific sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, and other delicious fare.  Pick up a picnic lunch and another bottle of wine (trust me, you will already have bought several at WILLIAM CHRIS, but hey—you can never have too much wine.  It keeps, if you can resist drinking it right away).  HYE MARKET also has beer and soft drinks, so you are all set.


Turn back in the direction of Johnson City.   On your right, just before you get into town, you will see a life-sized silver bull sculpted by local artist Bettye Hamblen-Turner, along with several other large iron and steel sculptures. That’s Flat Creek Road.  Turn right and take a stunning 5.3-mile country drive, through the hills and past the grazing cattle, deer and antelope, to THE SCULPTURE RANCH.   Visit our 14,000-square-foot indoor gallery and walk, bike or drive our 2 miles of trails.  Here you can spread your picnic out on one of our tables under the trees in the presence of nearly 100 monumental outdoor sculptures, any of which you can take home and enjoy on your own property. No worries—if you can’t fit a sculpture you love into your car, we deliver!  In many cases, as with our beautiful kinetic pieces by Scott Sustek, the artist will personally install them on your property. 


By now it will be around 2pm.  Head back down Flat Creek Road, make a right back onto 290, and in moments you will be in Johnson City.  Browse—and buy—at the shops.  We particularly like TEXCETERA for top-quality local crafts.  Stop by ECHO for incredible finds in the vintage furniture and objet d’art department.  URBAN RANCH and RUSTIK BY CHOICE, plus several fun antique, vintage and salvage shops, will satisfy your retail therapy jones.  If you need a pick-me-up, have coffee at BLACK SPUR EMPORIUM (my favorite is the iced cold brew, but Grumpy Barrista Mark Macola has lots of options when it comes to fine coffee).


Now you are ready to peruse some more fine art. A. SMITH GALLERY has a continually-evolving line-up of the best in photography, while LEE CASBEER should be your destination for figurative painting and art restoration.  Several other art dealers are opening up on the main square as well, so you’ll have more reasons than just visiting THE SCULPTURE RANCH to make a return trip to our neighborhood.


Next stop: TASTE WINE + ART, where you can sip another glass of wine while you take in their collection of local art and jewelry.  Continue your wine-tasting adventure at HAHNE VINEYARDS TASTING ROOM, where owner Gary Hahne is busy perfecting his German ancestors’ history of Texas wine-making.


By now you will be hungry again, right?  Right next door to Hahne is PECAN STREET BREWERY.  Patti and Tim and their team make great wood-fired pizza, along with a full menu of tavern favorites, their own micro-brewed beer, and a full list of Texas wines by the glass or bottle. Plus, they have a dance hall, with music most weekend nights.  Or, you can walk the short distance back to Main Street for dinner at the EAST MAIN GRILL.  If fine dining is your preference, the new menu at BRYAN’S 290 has been getting rave reviews. 


So now you’ve had ONE PERFECT DAY at the Gateway to the Texas Wine Country.  You’ll want to come back, of course, maybe even with your family, so I’ll save my recommendations for a longer stay for another post.


All of us here at THE SCULPTURE RANCH are eager to meet you and make sure you have a world-class experience.  This Spring our gate is open Thursday through Sunday from 12-6, but if the weekend doesn’t work for you and you want to play hooky from the city, call us!  We are also open by appointment. 


As Lyle Lovett says, even if you’re not from the Texas Hill Country, “We want you anyway!” Come on out and see us! 

Thoughts On A Rainy Day...

“The changing wisdom of successive generations discards ideas, questions facts, demolishes theories. But the artist appeals to that part of our being which is not dependent on wisdom; to that in us which is a gift and not an acquisition—and, therefore, more permanently enduring. He speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation—and to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear, which binds men to each other, which binds together all humanity—the dead to the living and the living to the unborn."

~Joseph Conrad


Please join us as we celebrate the re-opening of The Sculpture Ranch: an enduring testament to the wonders of Art and Nature; a place to nurture the mind and engage the senses; a mission to support the genius of our artists and their capacity to bring the gifts of joy, hope, and mystery into the world.


We look forward to welcoming you Thursdays through Sundays from 12-6, with a special reception this Saturday March 12, beginning at 3:00 p.m.  And, of course, by appointment as always. 

Welcome Back To Our Spring 2016 Season!

Some years ago, in a previous version of my life in Chicago, I got to know a wonderful man. His name was Dean. Coincidentally, the day I met him, Dean Martin was playing on the stereo (we still had “stereos” back then.) “Do you like Dino?,” I asked.  “My parents named me for him, actually,” was his reply.  That felt to me like an auspicious beginning.

He was a quiet man, but during the time we spent together I learned a little about his life.  He had briefly been a member of a famous 1960s blues band.  His brother was the front man.  One day his brother died, as bluesmen sometimes suddenly do, and there was Dean, grieving for his brother and unsure what do to with the rest of his life.

He turned to art.  Painting, sculpting a little.  And then he began installing his art around his home, then friends’ homes, and eventually, he became one of the most valued installers at the Chicago Art Institute.  I met him because he still worked on the side, installing art in the homes of friends, and friends of friends. He came to my house to help me hang all the art I had collected over a decade in an old house.  Now I was in a new house.  I was grieving, but I was also starting over. 

I loved to watch Dean work.  The way he walked through the rooms, just quietly looking.  First at the pictures and sculptures, leaned haphazardly against the walls, or set about on tables.  Then at the walls themselves.  The play of light.  The empty spaces, large and small.  The relationships between the colors, compositions, angles and curves.  The way you might be surprised by turning a corner and seeing something beautiful.  Where you might stand just to let yourself become completely enveloped in something.  It was like meditation.  Like seeing the harmony that could come out of what felt like a chaotic jumble of works collected over a number of years, not necessarily having any relationship with each other except something happening in the mind of the person who saw them, fell in love with them, brought them home and wanted to live with them forever … or at least, for however long “forever” is in the life of one person, one couple, one family.  I asked him how he related to all these works of art, some of which he might not necessarily like, himself, and how he figured out what their relationship was to one another.  “Dance with the one that brung ya,” was all he said. I was eager … to learn, to be “right” about Art.  To have my sense of taste validated.  He dispelled all my ideas about certitude with that one sentence. And ironically, opened up a new way for me to experience art with more receptivity and vision than I ever had before. 

I did not quite realize how much I had learned from Dean when we began thinking about the placement of sculptures in our gallery here at The Sculpture Ranch.

Some of you may already know that our founders, the Beninis, moved the last of their paintings to their new home in Marble Falls this Winter.  Admirers of Benini will be glad to know his sculptures are still here, housed in a special section of the gallery, and around the Ranch.  When the last truck pulled out, with the work of Benini’s life in its bed, it was a moment not unlike the day I met Dean.  Some sadness at the passing of an era.  But also, a new beginning.  Fresh, alive with possibilities.

And then there was that daunting assemblage of all we have here.  So many beautiful works of art.  So many hours of inspiration and toil on the part of the artists, all set about on tables, or standing in the middle of the floor.  The first time I looked at it all, taken apart and standing around looking a little bit scared and out of place, I felt a little overwhelmed (or was that me? Maybe they were fine and I was the one who was scared and out of place?).

Then we got to work.  Pete and Jen were still charging hard at painting the gallery.  The big space looked fresh, awesome … and empty.

Then Tara and Greg and I took a deep breath, and with a lot of help from Pete, whose great ideas and sheer physical determination never cease to impress us, helped us move everything into place.

It is a new beginning for The Sculpture Ranch.

We will open our gate again, quietly, on Friday March 4th. Regular hours will resume—Thursdays through Sundays, from 12-6.  And, as always, by appointment.  Just call ahead and we will be delighted to greet you. 

On Saturday March 12 we will have an opening reception.  Please join us.  Bring your families, bring your friends, bring your love of art and your desire to be renewed, as we have been, by this incredible journey.

Let’s fill ourselves again with joy, inspiration, and the promise of change.  I think Dean would nod and say, “Yeah, that’s the way you do it.”

We look forward to seeing you.