2014 06-10--hidden garden-steps--sunset_branch_library

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This presentation, prepared and facilitated for local library branch programs and neighborhood association meetings in spring/summer 2014, is an updated version of a conference presentation originally given in Davis, CA by Paul Signorelli and Aileen Barr in March 2014. Presenter notes are included with the slides.

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  • Let’s get right to the heart of what we’re exploring this evening: the results of a four-year-long volunteer-drive community-based project. This up-front virtual tour exists on the project website thanks to Hidden Garden Steps organizing committee members Gilbert Johnson (photographer) and Liz McLoughlin (project co-chair and webmaster).
  • A brief exploration of our antecedents
    The steps in Rio de Janeiro, by Jorge Selarón
  • The Santa Maria del Monte staircase in Caltagirone
  • The first set of ceramic-tile Steps completed in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District (Moraga Street, between 15th and 16th avenues)
  • Colette Crutcher and Aileen Barr, project artists for the Moraga (16th Avenue) Tiled Steps and the Hidden Garden Steps
  • Jessie Audette and Alice Xavier, the dreamers behind the Moraga (16th Avenue) Tiled Steps
  • Moraga Steps and gardens
  • We started, in January 2010, with a problem—people sleeping and leaving garbage in the unmaintained, terribly overgrown areas on either side of the Steps; lots of graffiti; and a public stairway badly in need of repair.
    We began with a commitment to collaboration, with clearly-defined goals:
    The mosaic and gardens
    Strengthening the sense of community that already existed in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District
  • When we formally opened the site on December 7, 2013, the signs were clear: All of us working together had created a place where members of our extended community could meet, eat, talk, and dream—the sort of Third Place that Ray Oldenburg talks about in his book The Great Good Place.
  • When we formally opened the site on December 7, 2013, the signs were clear: All of us working together had created a place where members of our extended community could meet, eat, talk, and dream—the sort of Third Place that Ray Oldenburg talks about in his book The Great Good Place.
  • We had a very strong presence in our extended neighborhood.
    We started with door-to-door contact in early 2010 to confirm that the project would have local support, and we spent nearly a year establishing our infrastructure, a fundraising plan, and a marketing plan before officially beginning our fundraising efforts in December 2010.
    Then we went to street fairs through our connections with neighborhood associations, including the Inner Sunset Park Neighbors , to describe the project and to continue listening to our neighbors’ reactions.
  • We even had a program in our local public library branch in March 2011. It’s worth noting that each of these outreach efforts attracted positive attention and new members for the project organizing committee.
  • Monthly Steps clean-ups, graffiti removal, and gardening –starting in April 2011--created part of our community and kept the project visible. We spent as much time working the people who came by as we did working the site itself! In fact, we still do. Let’s take a quick look at the transformation of the site as it occurred before the mosaic was installed.
  • Before work began near the top of the stairs, in spring 2011
  • The view from the top of the Hidden Garden Stairs in early April 2014…
  • Cracked retaining wall at top of Steps
  • DPW demolishing the retaining wall at top of Steps
  • DPW removing damaged flight of steps
  • Framing for new wall and steps
  • Smoothing the new steps
  • Erosion control begins (May 2013)
  • Erosion control continues on middle section of hill (September 2013)
  • Pouring concrete for support posts (October 2013)
  • Beginning to gardens after installation of the mosaic (February 2014)
  • Lush growth, featuring California natives and other drought-tolerant plants
  • One of the best examples of a small area filled with California native plants, near the top of the Steps
  • We had a two-hour tile sale on a cold December Saturday afternoon at the end of 2011—and were astounded to see that we took in $10,000 in donations with no overhead costs beyond the time of our project volunteers and the price of a few bags of cookies and some apple juice donated by our volunteers.
  • Volunteers represented the project at our neighborhood Farmers Market at least once a month, and also were out to talk about the project during end-of-the-month Friday evening art crawls.
  • And the three workshops we had—engaging donors and prospective donors with an opportunity to help add background tiles to the mosaic under construction—put us in neighborhood community halls so everyone could see—and be part of—the progress we were making with them as active partners.
    A key point here: There was no us and them; it was all of us working together to complete the Steps.
  • Those workshops were a gold mine in every sense:
    At least a few thousand dollars raised at each event
    More community volunteers became interested in the project
    Seeing the mosaic in progress built a visceral sense of anticipation and increased word of mouth outreach with very little extra effort on our part
  • September 11, 2012: Project artists Colette Crutcher and Aileen Barr taking preliminary measurements in preparation for making a full-scale drawing of the mosaic design
  • Hidden Garden Steps organizing committee members Licia Wells and Ceal Bialobrzeski continuing the step-by-step measurements
  • Tile fragments added to background during first of three Hidden Garden Steps mosaic workshops (December 2012)
  • Community volunteers adding tile fragments to background during first of three Hidden Garden Steps mosaic workshops (December 2012)
  • Community volunteers adding tile fragments to background during first of three Hidden Garden Steps mosaic workshops (December 2012)
  • Community volunteers adding tile fragments to background during second of three Hidden Garden Steps mosaic workshops (March 2013)
  • Artists Colette Crutcher and Aileen Barr with donors seeing their tile (center) during second of three Hidden Garden Steps mosaic workshops (March 2013)
  • Close-up of tile during second of three Hidden Garden Steps mosaic workshops (March 2013)
  • Community volunteers adding tile fragments to background during second of three Hidden Garden Steps mosaic workshops (March 2013)
  • Onsite repairs by Colette Crutcher during the third of three Hidden Garden Steps mosaic workshops (July 2013)
  • Detail of incomplete section of mosaic during the third of three Hidden Garden Steps mosaic workshops (July 2013)
  • Tile under construction during the third of three Hidden Garden Steps mosaic workshops (July 2013)
  • We obviously live in a media-rich area in terms of traditional print and broadcast outlets, so we did extensive outreach to media reps.
    We have numerous print publications.
  • We have a significant number of television outlets.
  • And we have quite a few radio stations, too.
    So, time for a pop quiz:
    How many—and which—of the local media companies shown here actually wrote or broadcasted something about the Hidden Garden Steps project while it was in progress?
  • Yes!
    In spite of regular contact via press releases, through personal notes, and through friends of friends, our total news coverage outside of our neighborhood monthly newspaper (which wrote us up twice over the course of our four-year campaign), we had one lovely “Best of” piece in SF Weekly—in 2011—before work had even begun substantially onsite, and we had a wonderful piece by Anna Duckworth at KCBS when we held an event at Crepevine (in our neighborhood) to celebrate the signing of the contract with project artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher in September 2012.
  • Let’s not ignore how valuable the attention we received was: That quote from Joe Eskanazi at SF Weekly immediately provided a great deal of credibility, and we created a link from our website to the article as soon as it was available online.
    The short form of this, however, is: Traditional media cover events, not process, and the real story of the Hidden Garden Steps was the process of neighbors reaching out to neighbors to build something beautiful and long-lasting—a site and a community to maintain that site. Not the sort of story traditional media reps seemed to covet.
    Bottom line: You never want to ignore the traditional mainstream media, but that’s not where the real action was for the Hidden Garden Steps project in terms of raising funds or building community.
  • We set out to be equally strong online as we were onsite—and vice versa.
    Our website was a low-cost, highly effective way to stay in touch with our supporters, and have them stay in touch with us. It was designed by a project committee member who taught herself how to design and create websites so she could handle this part of our project.
    Even though our fundraising is over, we continue to cultivate community by making it easy for donors and others to find specific tiles on that 148-step mosaic.
  • We placed a high premium on open communication, so developed a traditional newsletter…and again incurred minimal cost. Two of our committee members used a free online template to create the first design; we attracted a volunteer willing to write some of the copy each month; and a few of us stepped up to the plate to write and edit the rest of the copy, complete the layout, and send it to other committee members who posted in online on our website (no printing costs) and distributed it via email.
    The same was true of a four-color brochure we developed to promote donations and create awareness of the project. There were no design fees; that work was done by committee members. What we did pay for was professional-quality printing at a local print house (less than $500 for each of the two times we printed 5,000 copies of the brochure).
  • We went online with Facebook and Twitter, and also occasionally posted items on Google+.
  • Once the project was completed, social media users found us and actually started going beyond what we were fostering—more on that in a minute, but let’s not forget that once we have a strong community of support—a “friends” group, in essence—we want to nurture and sustain that group so we don’t have to start from scratch if there’s follow-up work to be done at some point.
  • A few of us split the duties on the social media side of the project.
    We set up a Twitter account (@GardenSteps) that is primarily managed by one committee member.
  • Two other organizing committee members set up an initial Facebook page; when we ran into problems with that one—Facebook didn’t seem to like the fact that two people were managing the same page and closed down the site without warning—one member recreated the page and became our primary Facebook manager.
    We closely coordinate our Twitter and Facebook postings so there is a consistent branded message and a consistent tone in the way we interact with our community of support. We also began following key players in the community to make them more aware of our efforts.
  • We even, this week, found another way to engage newcomers—by establishing a blog with our newly-established name (“Friends of the Hidden Garden Steps”). This gives us the ability to post and disseminate news about upcoming events, and we’ll be posting short pieces about what is happening on the Steps, but it will still be consistent with what we’ve done elsewhere—as you can see from the use of the tile element that has been adopted as the project logo.
  • Once the project was completed, we saw our presence extend through no extra effort on our part—which means we’re well on our way to having the sustainable extended community that was at the heart of the project.
    As soon as the tiled steps opened, reviews started appearing on Yelp; we didn’t do anything to initiate this.
  • Visitors also started posting pictures on Instagram, tagging images on Pinterest, and checking in on Foursquare, so it was only a matter of time before we had a Mayor of the Hidden Garden Steps on Foursquare after he checked in on the Steps twice. Politics being mercurial, that Mayor was deposed a few weeks later by someone who checked in five times. We can hardly wait to see what comes our way during the next Foursquare election cycle.
  • As you’re gathering at this point, we tried to coordinate all our efforts while our community-building and fundraising campaigns were underway, and we also spread the wealth in terms of responsibilities. Another volunteer, with tremendous video background, made a few promotional videos, including the stunningly beautiful and extremely poignant “Volunteers in Action” video you see here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7heKQbl5Roo
  • She then moved into using social media for overt fundraising, running three wonderful campaigns via Indiegogo and Kickstarter. The first Indiegogo campaign raised over $5,000, and the final one brought in nearly $7,000, as you can see from the image on the right-hand side of the slide.
  • Finally, the moment we had all anticipated for more than three and a half years: installation!
    With this image, we’re at the top of 16th Avenue, where the Steps connect Kirkham and Lawton streets.
  • It was never solely about the money—approximately $216,000 in cash, primarily from individual donors, and roughly the same amount from in-kind gifts like SF DPW’s huge ($150,000-$200,000) onsite erosion-control work and massive structural repairs done to that set of steps that was first installed in 1926.
    They gave because they wanted to tell their stories and be part of a permanent snapshot of the community at that moment.
    The project brought many of us together for the first time, and walking up the Steps continues to make all of us aware of the magnificently extended worldwide community that we belong to.
  • Our San Francisco Parks Alliance and San Francisco Department of Public Works Street Park Program colleagues
  • Site visit by San Francisco Parks Alliance/San Francisco Department of Public Works Street Park Program stewards
  • Saturday meet-up walkers
  • Detour from the Yellow Brick Road
  • Neighborhood Sweep-athon volunteers
  • Friday Sweep-athon volunteers
  • Sweep-athon volunteer
  • There was never a time when we felt we had thanked our supporters enough—so we made sure our levels of gratitude were—and still remain—on display, as you can see from this detail of what we call our “Gratitude Element”—a huge passion flower acknowledging all those who were in-kind donors or offered other levels of support that kept us going.
  • Just as we were inspired by the original ceramic-tiled steps on Moraga Street, between 15th and 16th avenues in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District, we hoped that others would be inspired by what we as a community accomplished.
    We’re happy to report that it didn’t take long. Among the individuals talking about adopting another set of neighborhood steps in Al Magary, who remains active as a Hidden Garden Steps volunteer—as you can see here. Al is now taking the preliminary measures needed to organize a group to clean up the larger staircase that is one block away (on 15th Avenue, between Kirkham and Lawton. His approach is wonderful: If he can attract a group of neighbors interested in sweeping and doing other routine clean-up on those steps, he might have the beginnings of the sort of community-based organizing committee we were able to attract. And you know we’re rooting for him:
    [email_address] 
  • A few resources worth reviewing…
  • 2014 06-10--hidden garden-steps--sunset_branch_library

    1. 1. Paul Signorelli Licia Wells paul@paulsignorelli.com licia.wells@gmail.com San Francisco Public Library Sunset Branch June 10, 2014 Hidden Garden Steps: Creating Community, Art, and Gardens
    2. 2. Prelude: A Virtual Tour Flight by Flight Photos by Gilbert Johnson
    3. 3. Inspiration: Rio de Janeiro Escadaria Selarón
    4. 4. Inspiration: Caltagirone (Sicily)
    5. 5. First Steps: (Moraga Street and 16th Avenue)
    6. 6. Collaboration
    7. 7. Hidden Garden Steps: Solving a Problem
    8. 8. Hidden Garden Steps: Solving a Problem
    9. 9. Hidden Garden Steps: Solving a Problem
    10. 10. Hidden Garden Steps: Solving a Problem
    11. 11. Listening to the Community
    12. 12. Listening to the Community
    13. 13. Building Community: Peerto Peer
    14. 14. Going Where Our Community Is
    15. 15. Going Where Our Community Is
    16. 16. Going Where Our Community Is
    17. 17. Creating Community Hands On
    18. 18. The Landscape as Some See It
    19. 19. The Landscape as Some See It
    20. 20. The Landscape as Some See It
    21. 21. The Landscape as It Was forUs
    22. 22. The Landscape as It Was forUs “Theproject is poignant inits sweetness.” --JoeEskanazi, SFWeekly
    23. 23. OurWebsite
    24. 24. Combining Tradition and Innovation
    25. 25. Combining Onsite & Online Communities
    26. 26. Combining Onsite & Online Communities
    27. 27. Personalizing OurOnline Presence
    28. 28. Personalizing OurOnline Presence
    29. 29. Personalizing OurOnline Presence
    30. 30. Others Extending OurOnline Presence
    31. 31. Others Extending OurOnline Presence
    32. 32. Indiegogo , Kickstarter, and YouTube
    33. 33. Indiegogo , Kickstarter, and YouTube
    34. 34. Telling More than 600 Stories
    35. 35. Thanks, Thanks, and More Thanks
    36. 36. A Postscript 15thavestepspark@gmail.com
    37. 37. Resources
    38. 38. Questions, Comments, and Next Steps
    39. 39. ForMore Information Licia Wells San Francisco, CA licia.wells@gmail.com Twitter: @liciawells Paul Signorelli & Associates 1032 Irving St., #514 San Francisco, CA 94122 415.681.5224 paul@paulsignorelli.com http://paulsignorelli.com Twitter: @paulsignorelli http://buildingcreativebridges.wordpres s.com
    40. 40. Credits & Acknowledgments Slide DeckDesigned by Paul Signorelli Flight-by-flight Hidden Garden Steps photographs were taken by Gilbert Johnson Other onsite Hidden Garden Steps photographs were taken by Paul Signorelli and Liz McLoughlin Opening Day Celebration Photos: Steve Bowles at https://www.flickr.com/photos/sfparksalliance/sets/72157638534226696/ Caltagirone Steps: From Brka’s Flickr photostream at http://tinyurl.com/kt3cjds 16th Avenue Tiled Steps (Moraga Steps) photographs were provided by Aileen Barr The Hidden Garden Steps project was completed through the support of numerous volunteers, government and nonprofit organizations, local business owners, existing neighborhood groups, and more than 600 donors. More information is available at http://hiddengardensteps.org More photographs are available on the website, as well as on Google+ at the following sites: Creating the Mosaic: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/104017204598614298654/albums/5874010570789214705 Preparing the Site: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/104017204598614298654/albums/5821542691776998769 Installing the Mosaic: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/104017204598614298654/albums/5938536121031791729 Sustaining the Steps Community: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/104017204598614298654/albums/5968581623346005153

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