When I first heard that there were these super-cool, mosaic steps in San Francisco’s Sunset District, I was a bit skeptical. I mean, what’s so “wow” about mosaics? A few stairs decorated with colored glass – big deal.
Well, the 16th Avenue Tiled steps (actually located on Moraga Street) ARE something special. Leading up to the wind-swept Grandview Park, the staircase contains 163 steps, stretching 90 feet high, with over 2,000 unique tiles and over 75,000 glass fragments. It may just be the world’s largest mosaic staircase.
Viewed from a distance, the steps just hit you with a giant swath of color. It’s like Dorothy’s yellow-brick road, only bluish, with sweeping swirls and celestial objects. When you zoom in closer, however, you notice all manner of aquatic images: fish and whales and dolphins and sea anemones. As you move higher, floral elements enter the pattern, along with numerous donor names.
Not being an artist (or an engineer) myself, I wonder, how you even create such an artwork. I imagine this huge warehouse the size of an aircraft hangar, with each panel laid out from one end of the room to the other. Atop a high platform stands the artist (dressed like Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dali), gesticulating wildly like a symphony conductor. “Move that tile down an inch! More sea lions over there! Blue, blue, more blue!”
Great art inspires me. Not because it’s heaven. I’m just so impressed when someone has a vision of what a piece could look like…they work on it day by day…add…refine…start over…and somehow wrench their vision into reality over time. As someone who has run a marathon myself, I have wild admiration for people who get up every day and do the work, knowing the project won’t come to fruition for many months/years. Long-term attention spans are rare in our modern, fast-twitch, social media-driven world. The creators of the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps clearly had both creativity, focus and stamina. To that I say: Wow!