PRESIDIO HABITATS

From: Sanford, Jody Subject: CONFIRMATION: Guided Walk of Art and the Park with Presidio Habitats Curator – Saturday, February 26, at 11 am Date: February 22, 2011 10:41:40 AM PST Thanks for registering for the Guided Walk of Art and the Park with the Presidio Habitats Curator, which is a special program of the Presidio Habitats Exhibition. This email confirms your reservation. The event will be held on Saturday, February 26, from 11 am to 1 pm. Please meet at the Presidio Habitats Exhibition Hall at Fort Scott. Driving and transit directions are located on the website here: http://www.presidio.gov/experiences/habitats/. We hope that this walk will occur as scheduled. However, rain is currently predicted for Saturday. We will be monitoring the weather forecast throughout the week. If we anticipate heavy rain on Saturday morning, we will send an email cancelling this walk. We will make the determination by 3 pm on Friday, February 25.

Actually, it was a totally beautiful day, about 45° but seeming like 60 in the bright sun. About 50 folks attended, about equal MF, ages 50 and up, including women with gnarly walking sticks. My guess is these are retired folks who love to walk in the Presidio on a regular basis, just like me, but my walks have been confined to the Crissy Field area. Cheryl Haines, curator of Presidio Habitats, took me (and others) on a walk to view the projects. Quite illuminating on a dazzling day. (tweet). She’s a nice looking woman in her 50s, very stylishly dressed, and the owner of Haines Gallery. She works with outdoor oriented artists (Goldsworthy and his ilk) and felt like she was well established and wanted to give something back, so she set up the For Site Foundation to do educational public art projects.

The FOR-SITE Foundation (established 2003) is dedicated to the creation and understanding of art about place. This pragmatic program supports the creation of a new work for exhibition in collaboration with partner museums on the West Coast. Past residency and exhibition included Richard at SFMOMA; Cornelia Parker at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; Pae White at New Langton Arts and Mark Dion at the Oakland Museum.

I signed on for this walk because I had been to the Presidio Habitats Exhibition Hall, read the brochures and viewed a couple of the installations but frankly, didn’t get it. Cheryl Haines described it as, “…our little project in the Presidio about the animals who live here.” A (famous) artist would be found to conceptualize a habitat for such animal — Gray Fox, or Screeching Owl — for example. Very cool, very illuminating and a perfect excuse for a walk on this dazzlingly beautiful day.

She started by explaining the Presidio Habitats Exhibition Hall, a triskelion, three shipping containers put together to form an interlocking triangle. All materials used in the construction of the triskelion are re-purposed and from the Presidio itself, although the three shipping containers are not from the Presidio, they are not new. In fact, all of the installations use re-purposed materials from the Presidio.

animal estates snag tower

We started at the SNAG TOWER (11) by Fritz Haeg. Based on the idea of a “snag tree,” a dead tree left standing in the forest to provide habitat for forest critters in its trunk, roots, limbs, surrounding plants and so on. In this case, think of birds on the perch, or entering through the slats, snakes living in the concrete chunks, and so on. Fort Winfield Scott, where Presidio Habitats resides, is a post within a post. Soldiers got tired of traipsing up the hill from the Crissy Field barracks to defend the northwestern batteries of the Presidio when there was an alert. Thus, Fort Scott was built and manned by its own General and troops.

where is the hare

WHERE IS THE HARE (1a) is Nathan Lynch’s attempt to lure the black jackrabbit back to the Presidio. Maybe he’ll see the START gate and want to race to the Finish (1b, not on our hike).

The Parade Ground of Fort Scott is more like an oval than the traditional rectangle. This is where Mark Jensen, of Jensen Architects, created PATIENCE (2). Perhaps if one sits in one of the yellow chairs and contemplates, the Great Blue Heron will appear (it did).

yellow chair

the great blue heron
general's house
western screech owl habitats

A lone tree near the General’s house is the WESTERN SCREECH OWL HABITAT (3), formed by a number of blue and white porcelain vessels by Ai Weiwei. These are meant to create a living environment for the owls. Down the hill and facing the General’s house we find Mark Dion and Nitin Jayaswal’s WINGED DEFENSE (9), a home for the MEXICAN FREE TAILED BAT, the first line of defense against parasitic disease carriers (mosquitos). It is built of traditional Presidio materials — wood siding, red tile roof — and has wood slats forming 3/4 inch spaces where the bats reside. The bottom is open to allow entry and exit.

winged defense
community gardens

Around and down again to Wisser Court, one of the least trafficked spots in the Presidio, we find the Community Gardens, not an artistic endeavor, but gardens planted and used by the residents of the Presidio. They have been here for many years, but once the Habitats program started, the gardeners made an effort to make them look nice and function just as well or better. An appropriate site for the HABITAT FOR ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD (8) by Chadwick Studio is just down the hill.

habitat for anna's hummingbird

THE STAGGERED ARCS that make up this circular structure correspond to a Cornell University ornithological diagram of the annual cycle of the Anna’s Hummingbird: breeding, migrating, and molting. Flowering plants make this work a natural feeder for the Presidio’s resident hummingbirds.The soil for the flowering plantings came from an adjacent area where a ceremonial square had been long buried. Through a “coyote fence” and around a road, we finally walk on a trail. The trail system at the Presidio has undergone extensive design and construction in the past two years. The trails are now clear, well signed and handicapped accessible. And I must say they are beautiful and inviting. I’ve been meaning to do some trails, but didn’t know where to begin. Now I know. Here, at a crook in the trail, stands SCULPTURE HABITAT FOR THE GRAY FOX (6) by CEBRA. The triangular sculpture is built of interlocking wood members — I’ll call them 4x4s — forming a central cavity or fox den. They’re salvaged from the cypress trees removed in the Presidio reforestation program and milled on the site. It is a stunning structure to suddenly come upon during your walk.

sculpture habitat for the gray fox

Finally, down the trail from the fox den we find the most incredible work of them all, WINGED WISDOM, a habitat for the American Robin by Phillippe Becker Design, a branding and product design firm which may explain the use of letters and words. The letters are formed of a steel armature and mesh netting and filled with sterile straw to provide a perfect nesting environment.

letters made of straw

Every picture tells a story, don’t it?

resolve conflict with song
nest from the inside out
adapt to change

And that, as they say, is that. We did not see five of the 12 installations, as they were beyond our two hour limit for walking and talking. But now I know where they are and what they’re about. What a day. Driving home, I couldn’t help but stop at the Crissy Field Overlook on Lincoln Boulevard to capture a view of the San Francisco skyline.

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