Ruth Bancroft Garden features Sculpture in the Garden

It was a warm summer evening featuring a gorgeous garden, beautiful sculptures, jazz, wine, and delicious New Orleans style Cajun food. This was the scene at the “sold out” 3rd annual Art & Jazz Sunset Social following the 20th Annual Sculpture Show benefit for the Ruth Bancroft Garden held July 11th on their Walnut Creek grounds.

Over 350 patrons were able to experience a memorable event for which the proceeds went to a great cause.  The world famous Ruth Bancroft Garden supported exclusively by private funding is the home to hundreds of cactus and rare plants from throughout the world.  Guests at this party were able to stroll through the Garden and view not only the plants but also sculptures from some of the region’s most recognized artists.

While sipping wine, munching on Jambalaya with chicken, bay shrimp, hot andouille sausage, along with red velvet cupcakes, those in attendance could listen to the stylistic jazz tunes of Dogbone in tranquil surroundings that make the Ruth Bancroft Garden one of the crown jewels of the Mt. Diablo region.

What made this experience especially gratifying is that the sculptures were strategically placed in order to fit in and complement the plant groupings. They were paired in an aesthetic way by the Garden’s Phoebe Berke, event coordinator, and docent Milton Schueler.  The sculpture show was juried and judged by local members of the art world Deborah Lehane, Chandra Cerrito, and Carrie Lederer.

Among the many distinguished works were The Eroded Sphere by David Mudgett, Eileen Fitz-Faulkner’s King Flamingo, and bronze busts by Danielle Fafchamps.

Different types of materials were used in these works of art, ranging from ceramic cats and dogs by Leslie Safarick to Kim Webster’s glass sculptures, using glass with LEDs inside that glow in the evening skies. Also in evidence were a selection of pieces by Joe Bologna, Sally Shapiro’s bronze figures, and Jane Woolverton’s fabrications using red and black oxides in her clay compositions.

Subject matter in the art varied from rabbits and frogs by Jeanette Morrow to the nude figures by Joanna Kidd and Lucy Beazley, to the 40 rocks in a trough by Lisa Jettone symbolizing the 40 endangered plants at Pt. Loma, to name a few.  There was more variety and use of materials by the artists than could be captured in a brief sunset walk in the Garden.

In a win-win situation, the works of arts that were exhibited were all for sale.  Prices for these pieces ranged from around $100.00 to almost $50,000.00.   The artists, many of whom were present at this event, generously donated 35 percent of the proceeds from the sale of their sculptures to benefit the Garden.

The Friday evening Sunset Social netted over $7,500 from the sale of art, admission fees, food, and wine sales.  According to Executive director Gretchen Bartzen  “Even more important than raising money, it was wonderful to bring so many people in to see the Ruth Bancroft Garden.  We hope those individuals will come back and visit us again.” The Garden displays new charms in every season,” she added.

There is one more Sunset Social planned this summer, an evening of Bluegrass, on Friday, August 15. “This event has sold out in the past, and we hope it will again!” noted Bartzen.

Over 40 volunteers worked at the Sunset Social Friday. Bartzen said that with a Garden budget of $500,000 per year which includes only three full-time employees, “We depend so much on volunteers to help with all of our events. Volunteers also work weekly in the Garden, Nursery, and office helping us provide the best experience possible for those coming to view the Garden and purchase our plants.”

The Ruth Bancroft Garden was started over 40 years ago by Ruth Bancroft who is still living in a nearby house at the age of 105.   Long before preserving water usage became a priority in California she was way ahead of the curve as drought tolerant plants have always been the centerpiece of the Garden.

The Gardens is open Tuesday through Sunday.  It is supported almost exclusively by memberships, admissions, plant sales, individual contributions and fund raisers, headed by their Members and Friends Dinner Auction in the fall.

The Bancroft Garden is located on 1552 Bancroft Road in Walnut Creek. Information can be obtained by calling 925-944-9352 or by going on line to


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