Everyone has done it. Passed many roadside attractions doing 65 miles per hour not even noticing the enchanting place to stop and explore.
Stastny Gardens and Art Gallery is one of these roadside gems. Basically it’s three attractions in one, a wonderful garden with many different types of trees, shrubs and flowers, an art gallery with featured local artists and a showcase of unique hand-carved stone pots for plants, fountains and firepots.
Located outside of McMinnville on highway 18, the three acres of gardens are the perfect place to stop and stretch your legs, especially if you have been trapped in weekend traffic on the way to the coast. The looping paths are very flat and fine for people with mobility issues, and there is a picturesque waterfall and pond on one end of the property that makes the stop worth it on its own. During the summer the blooming flowers also make the area a lovely place to take a stroll and get the kinks out of your joints from a long journey in the car.
If greenery and the unique shapes of trees and shrubs isn’t your thing, the walkways around the area are adorned with interesting and unique stone pots, made by Cristi Mason-Rivera and her husband Joe Rivera. The couple purchased the garden in 2007, after apprenticing with George Stastny, the original owner of the property and creator of the stone pots.
“We were the only two people to apprentice with him,” Mason-Rivera said. “When he wanted to retire, we purchased the property and continued on doing what he did, but adding our own touch.”
Each pot is its own piece of art, and they don’t use molds or forms to put in the designs, which have a wide range of patterns and designs. My favorite was one of Mason-Rivera's first own personal designs, it’s a 3-foot stone pot with what looks like blades of grass carved coming up from the bottom.
If that wasn’t enough to make the stop worthwhile, the couple has added a small gallery of local artists, and Mason-Rivera says she looks for new artists that haven’t shown in galleries before.
“I mostly want to keep it very local and interesting,” she said. “We are always looking for new artists and have some really amazing pieces.”
The gallery features about 30 different artists and has items ranging from wood carvings to paintings and even simple postcards.
“I wanted to have a range for people, so you don’t have to buy something that is thousands of dollars when you visit, we have art and unique gifts ranging anywhere from $15 to $5000,” she said.
The day I visited, of course it was winding and stormy, and like any garden or outdoor attraction, each season provides a different viewing experience. The wet weather provided accents on the concrete pots that the garden is known for and created some pretty cool highlights to already interesting pieces.
The couple also carries garden art, including planters, fountains and other stone sculptures for outdoor areas, including lanterns and ceramic pottery.
“It’s amazing how many people drive by but never stop,” Mason-Rivera said. “That’s the one thing we are always working on, is getting people to swing in and enjoy the garden and gallery.”
When people do stop, they can spend anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour at the garden – many people go through the gallery, or look at the unique pots around the gallery building and don’t take the time to wander through the garden.
About Stastny Gardens and Art Gallery (from www.stastnygardensandart.com) : Stastny Stone Pots and Gallery is the story of two artists. Joe and Cristi create concrete pots, fountains, concrete fire pits (firepots), stone sculptures, mosaic sculptures and many other landscape and architectural stone & concrete sculptures that will last for generations to come.
What to bring: If you are going to spend time in the garden area, dress for the weather. I visited in late September and there was a storm blowing in. While not terribly cold, there was quite a bit of rain and the gardens aren’t covered. Photos are welcome in the garden area, so if you want to catch some images of some interesting-shaped trees and shrubs, this is the right place.
Tip: Don’t miss out on the garden or the gallery. Both are worth taking the time to really look around and enjoy. The gallery does have a small back room area that some people could miss. Back there I found some interesting outdoor lanterns that I am going to go back and pick up for my back porch.
Season: The garden and gallery is open year-round.
Getting there: The garden and gallery are located at 20901 Caleb Payne Road, McMinnville, OR 97128 right off highway 18 about four miles outside of McMinnville toward the Oregon Coast.
By Patrick Johnson