Early last year I was reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, a hugely popular book to help readers unlock their creativity. Readers are encouraged to go on an artist’s date every week which means you are supposed to go do something fun by yourself for an hour or a whole day if you so choose. You can go for a walk, go to a movie or a museum, or go on a road trip to a nearby town you’ve never been to. The goal of this artist’s date is to take time for yourself and to get your imagination flowing.
After my hiking trip to Italy, I was a lot less afraid to challenge myself physically and so for my artist’s date one week I decided to drive to the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps in San Francisco for a workout. My other reason for visiting the steps is that it’s one of many hidden gems in San Francisco. One would think that an urban city would only have skyscrapers and busy streets, but here in San Francisco there are so many ways to get outdoors and get some peace and quiet.
The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps are located in the residential streets of the Sunset District. The project to create the sea-to-stars themed mosaic was started in 2003 by two neighborhood residents as a way to unite their community and beautify the environment. Two artists, Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher, were hired to craft the mosaic panels on each of the 163 steps and residents in the neighborhood sponsored tiles featuring animals, fish, and shells. Workshops were also held for the community so that they could learn how to make the tiles and contribute to the project.
163 steps doesn’t seem like a lot when you compare it to the number of steps needed to climb the Duomo in Florence or St. Paul’s in London but when you try to go up those stairs pretty fast and with no break all in the name of exercise it is a guarantee you will lose your breath and gasp for water. At least for me. I guess I’m not in the best shape of my life but at least I made it all the way to the top which a lot of people wish they could do. It got my heart pumping and warmed my body up, thankfully, because it was so cold! The whipping cold wind was what made it really bad.
After getting to the top of the tiled steps, I kept walking up another flight of stairs to a small park. Not only was it freezing but the fog, a normal occurrence in the Sunset District, was out in full force. I didn’t have much of a view of the city from up top but the mist and the fog made everything look very mystical or whimsical. I saw it as a good photo opportunity but if you are new to town and want to see a view, then I suggest checking the weather for clear skies before hiking up all those stairs.
Even though I’ve lived in San Francisco my entire life, there are still so many spots in this city that I have yet to explore and that are perfect for photo walks. Even if you can’t get out of town or out of the country, I urge you to explore your hometown, if only for a couple hours, because you might end up doing something you’ve never done before. It can give you a jolt of energy and also help you refocus on projects, for all you Artist’s Way enthusiasts.
And if you really need motivation, give yourself a reward like I did. If I’m going to climb 163 steps and then some, then I’m definitely getting a donut. Very close to the tiled steps is Twisted Donuts, one of the top donut shops in the city. I treated myself to one of the maple pecan donuts and I would gladly climb those steps again for another.
Do you ever explore your hometown? What’s your hidden gem?