Sonoma Valley, California is home to many notable private art collections, some of which are now open to the public. One of the most ambitious belongs to Nancy and Steven Oliver, a construction company magnate who turned a former sheep ranch into an art complex that called Oliver Ranch. Oliver Ranch is a remarkable place.
The Olivers commissioned artists like Bill Fontana and Bruce Nauman to create installations specifically for the 100-acre ranch. Nauman’s project, for example, is a quarter-mile-long concrete staircase that traverses grassy meadows and leads to the stone house.
“I tell them: you just dream, we’ll figure out how to do it,” said Steven Oliver, who has a fleet of bulldozers and cranes at his disposal. To install a 245-ton Richard Serra sculpture, he transported a crane from Arizona because California didn’t have one large enough to handle the job. He also reinforced three bridges en route.
Located in the heart of Sonoma County, California, Oliver Ranch is home to remarkable site-specific installations. For example, Ann Hamilton’s tower is where commissioned dance, poetry, theatre, and music performances take place. The picturesque property was originally bought by the Olivers [who explain with a smile] to graze a few extra sheep from the their daughter’s “4-H project gone bad.” The ranch’s evolution from exiled sheep quarters to world-renowned sculpture ranch was gradual and organic, a natural convergence of the Oliver Family’s longstanding passion for art and deep connection to the land.
Guest House: A pair of artists’ studios designed by architect Jim Jennings for the rolling hills of Oliver Ranch. The project was one of two recipients of a 2005 honor award for excellence in architecture from the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Oliver Ranch is open to organizations that support the visual arts [not individual visitors]. Visits need to be scheduled in advance: weekends from April through May, and from September through October and by appointment — its worth the journey! The Ranch encourages citizens who are curious about the ranch to support their local arts organizations. Non-profit organizations can benefit from a donated tour or a tower performance at the Oliver Ranch. Performing arts organizations or an individual performance artist can create a new site-specific art or performance.