Hand-crafted Mosaic Stairway Opens in the Bayview

July 1, 2014
Contact: Mindy Linetzky, (415) 554-4829

Supervisor Malia Cohen, San Francisco Public Works and the San Francisco Arts Commission
host ribbon-cutting to celebrate “Flights of Fancy” – a community-supported public art installation


San Francisco, CA – San Francisco Public Works and the San Francisco Arts Commission will gather Wednesday with Supervisor Malia Cohen, Bayview residents, youth from the Willie Mays Boys & Girls Club and young adults from the San Francisco Conservation Corps to dedicate the newly completed Arelious Walker Stairway.

What: Ribbon-cutting ceremony for colorful Arelious Walker Stairway
When: Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Where: Innes Avenue & Arelious Walker Drive

Named in honor of Dr. Arelious Walker, a local pastor and champion of the Bayview community, the staircase connects Innes Avenue and Northridge Road. It was completely rebuilt by Public Works to provide safer access for residents to Innes Avenue, as well as the India Basin Shoreline Park and Heron’s Head Park. San Francisco artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher, known for their mosaic staircases in the Golden Gate Heights neighborhood, were commissioned by the Arts Commission to embellish the stairway with a mosaic mural -- a project that offered Bayview youth a chance to roll up their sleeves and help create work on the art.

“The 87-step staircase literally bridges the gap between public housing and open and green space at India Basin Park. It also brings a beautiful element to the neighborhood,” said District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen. “This collaborative project has brought young residents and artists together to bring inspiration and a meaningful change to the Bayview, just as Dr. Arelious Walker has for the last 40 years.”

When it came to the Arelious Walker Staircase rebuild, Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru had a vision: “There are nicely done stairways in other parts of the City. I wanted something equally beautiful for the Bayview. The Arelious Walker Staircase is now more than just a path connecting one area to another, it’s a magical place -- one in which the whole neighborhood can take pride.”

Public Works approached the Arts Commission to manage the public art project, titled “Flights of Fancy.” Barr and Crutcher were selected through a competitive process. “Colette Crutcher and Aileen Barr are great mosaic artists, but it’s their work with the community to involve them in their process in a deep and significant way that makes them really exceptional,” said San Francisco Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny.

Crutcher and Barr designed and fabricated the decorative tiles, with input from the community, and contributions from youth and adults at tile-making workshops held at the Willie Mays Boys & Girls Club. The design is based on decorative patterns drawn from various cultures, including Adinkra cloth from Ghana, Native American painted pottery, woven pattern from Central America and Middle Eastern tile patterns.

“During our tile-making workshops, we made a variety of stamps based on Adinkra cloth patterns. The Adinkra symbols represent popular proverbs and maxims and were used to record historical events,” the artists said. “The children and adults who attended the workshops created small tiles using these stamps as decoration and, once fired and glazed, the tiles were incorporated into the design. We hope in this way to foster a sense of ownership of the artwork in the community.”

Once the tiled sections were completed, Public Works worked with young adults in the San Francisco Conservation Corps (SFCC) to install them. Public Works professional tile layers conducted a training workshop and guided the SFCC workers through the process, teaching them construction and tile-setting skills. The SFCC also cleared and cleaned the hillside surrounding the stairs and planted wildflowers and other native plants to beautify the area.

About San Francisco Public Works: The 24/7 City agency cleans and resurfaces streets; plants and nurtures City-maintained street trees; designs, constructs and maintains City-owned facilities; inspects streets and sidewalks; builds curb ramps; eradicates graffiti; partners with neighborhoods; trains people for jobs; greens the right of way; and educates our communities. For more information, see www.sfdpw.org.

The San Francisco Arts Commission is the City agency that champions the arts as essential to daily life by investing in a vibrant arts community, enlivening the urban environment and shaping innovative cultural policy. Our programs include: Civic Art Collection, Civic Design Review, Community Investments, Public Art, SFAC Galleries and Street Artist Licensing. To learn more, visit www.sfartscommission.org.

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