It always warms the heart to hear stories about neighbourhoods and communities coming together and working to improve the place in which they live. Such stories demonstrate the power of teamwork and working for a common goal, and how such projects can change the lives of everyone involved.
One such project took place in the Golden Gate Heights area of San Francisco. In January 2003, residents began work on an ambitious plan to transform a 163-step stone staircase into a beautiful work of art. Led by local residents Jessie Audette and Alice Xavier, the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project saw over 300 of their neighbours took part in the process of making colourful mosaic tiles to be placed on each riser of the staircase. Artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher were chosen to head the creative element of the project, given their experience of working with community groups in the past.
Permits had to be sought from the City before any work on the actual staircase could begin, as it was officially City property and had been since its construction in 1926. There was also a huge fundraising drive as the project leaders attempted to gain grants from charitable and arts foundations, as well as sponsorship from local businesses and individuals.
Permission for the makeover was officially granted by City authorities in San Francisco in the summer of 2004, meaning work could begin in earnest once the necessary amount of funding was raised. The target was finally reached during the spring of 2005, and construction began during the summer.
A professional tile company joined the team as tile-setters, while another company was able to offer anti-skid tread tiles at a reduced price, as the finished staircase started to take shape.
In just a few weeks, a bleak old stone staircase was transformed into a beautiful work of art, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the community. But that wasn’t the end of the project. In the years that followed, work continued on the surrounding area with plants added alongside the staircase and regular maintenance carried out to ensure it always looks its best.
It just goes to show how the desire and hard work of a couple of people can spread throughout an entire community and create something the whole neighbourhood can be proud of and will serve generations to come.