Heavy Metal

Sacramento Artist Opens House and Garden for Urban Home Tour

By Cathryn Rakich
September 2018

Gerald Walburg is a gentle, unassuming man with an extremely large perspective on life. His multiple homes, backyard art studios and sophisticated gardens are proof. But nothing conveys this man’s vast talent for great endeavors more than his art—his really big art. Examples include the 40-foot-tall corten steel “Indo Arch,” installed in 1980 outside of Macy’s on the K Street Mall, and a striking bronze sculpture at the entrance of the Crocker Art Museum.

While art lovers can access Walburg’s public creations at any time, the community now has the opportunity to view his private collection during this year’s Urban Renaissance Home Tour on Sunday, Sept. 23. Sponsored by Friends of East Sacramento, the event raises funds to support the McKinley Rose Garden.

Behind an expansive wall of cinder blocks, adorned with a charming array of rusty metal cutouts (an art piece unto itself), sits Walburg’s three homes, side by side on one large parcel of land in East Sacramento. Also on the property are two art studios, one with a separate rental unit upstairs. Walburg purchased the main house, which he shares with his wife, Deborah, 38 years ago, and completely renovated the home. Ten years later, he bought the house next door and turned it into a guest house and gallery for other artists to showcase their work. When the third house in the lineup came up for sale two years ago, Walburg grabbed that one too and went to work creating a modern, three-story, living and work space he meticulously designed himself. When finished, he and Deborah plan to move two doors down to the new residence.

In addition to the 800-square-foot guest house/gallery, tour attendees will be able to wander the gardens, also methodically designed by Walburg and filled with his larger-than-life metal art sculptures. Most of pieces are bronze and steel, cast and fabricated either in the warehouse-like studio on his property or at Sac State where he was an art professor for 35 years. Walburg, now retired, points to one of the smaller artworks. “This little piece is the oldest in the yard—it goes back to 1970.”

Everything in the garden was either planted or carefully chosen by Walburg. Fast-growing bamboo, deciduous ginkgo and redbud trees, and elegant Japanese maples fill the landscape. A flowering wisteria drapes over an arbor and creeping fig vines decorate the path. The Colorado spruce came from the now-closed Capital Nursery and a magnolia tulip tree with black flowers was acquired at Green Acres. There is a Japanese black pine, a blood orange and a ruby-red grapefruit that is more than 30 years old. Deborah oversees the vegetable garden, which includes tomatoes and peppers. “I used to do a lot of landscaping, but now I have a young man who is one-third my age,” says Walburg.

For the guest house/gallery, Walburg chose rosewood for the floors, sustainable bamboo for the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and slate for the countertops. His propensity for all things contemporary goes back to his childhood. “At a very early age, I was always interested in modern,” he shares. Walburg’s smaller art pieces, such as an assortment of glazed ceramics, can be found throughout the home.

Also important to Walburg: music and wine. Both of his studios are wired for sound. The artist’s preference? “Straight-ahead jazz or classical jazz,” he says. And Walburg has been making wine for more than 30 years. His bare bottles are stored according to the varietal. “I purposely never designed or use a label,” declares Walburg. “I think a lot of bad wine is sold by fancy labels. My attitude is: It’s not what’s on the bottle, its what’s in the bottle.”

Five East Sacramento homes will be featured on the Urban Renaissance Home Tour, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23. To purchase tickets, visit sacurbanhometour.com, East Sac Hardware at 48th Street and Folsom Boulevard or #Panache at 5379 H St. Presale tickets at the stores are cash and check only. On tour day, tickets are available at 1229 45th Street and will include credit card sales. The tour runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information or to volunteer as a docent, email friendsofeastsac@aol.com.

To recommend a house or garden for Home Insight, contact Cathryn Rakich at crakich@surewest.net.

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