16th Avenue Tiled Steps in San Francisco, photo by Heidi M. Kim
16th Avenue Tiled Steps in San Francisco, photo by Heidi M. Kim

On a recent trip to San Francisco a good friend took me to see these beautiful tiled steps high above the city at 16th Avenue & Moraga Street.

It happen to coincide with a time when I was feeling particularly dispirited about our society and what seemed to be a lack of kindness and caring. Perhaps tainted by politics and media, I felt an emptiness from the tearing down and destruction and rifts I was seeing and feeling in the world around me.

So on a clear and cold day, we went to these unassuming steps that rose high above the city, and we climbed.

In total 163 steps are decorated with hand-tiled mosaic art. From animals and insects to suns and moons and stars, each set of stairs told its own story with intricate tiles depicting a scene. Hidden among the individual tiles themselves were also dedications of gratitude and other Easter egg-like signs alluding to the people behind the creation of the art itself.

I admired the art (and the view!) but even more I was astounded that it had come together with the help of more than 300 neighbors and 220 tile contributors, all a part of the local neighborhood.

Rather than one artist creating a piece of beauty for the community to enjoy, many, many hands in the community had come together to make a creative vision come to life. The beauty of this communal effort made the entire work even more incredible in my eyes.

Imagine what kind of beauty could be created if we collaborated together, many hands on deck, to imagine and create?

We need more steps, even baby steps, like these.

View from Tiled Steps at 16th & Moraga, photo by Heidi M. Kim