A curious collection of colorful objects catch the eye of passers by on Old Town Eureka’s Second Street. This installation houses the “Wooden Sculpture Garden” of local folk artist, Romano Gabriel.
Born in Italy in the late 1800s, Gabriel emigrated to the United States and shortly after served in World War I. Gabriel then settled in Eureka, working for many years as a carpenter and a gardener, all the while building a multi-faceted menagerie in his own front yard. The “garden” of wooden characters, flora & fauna soon became a local attraction. After Gabriel’s death in 1977, the Vellutini family, dedicated locals, and the Eureka Heritage Society worked to preserve and display Gabriel’s art in a permanent installation in Old Town Eureka. Visitors can view Gabriel’s work today in much the same way they might have 50 years ago, when the sculpture garden stood in front of his suburban home – from the sidewalk.
Photographs of Gabriel’s collection have been exhibited at museums across the world, and included in magazines and books about naïve and folk art. The Wooden Sculpture Garden earned an esteemed designation from California Arts Council.