EVER UPWARD is a one-of-a-kind sculpture that heralds the gateway to a bustling and diverse neighborhood of San Francisco, the Excelsior. The first sculpture in the neighborhood, Ever Upward was awarded San Francisco's Neighborhood Empowerment Network Award in 2013 for Best Community Challenge Grant Project.
The Ever Upward Story
Since its establishment in the early 1900's, the population in the Excelsior Neighborhood has always been largely immigrant-mainly Italian and Irish at the beginning-and working class. Its relative isolation and distance from downtown helped ensure its affordability and the "small-town" feel that so many longtime residents recall. John Consiglieri, a 98-year-old, lifelong resident recalls the early days, when the neighborhood was less densely populated, "The Excelsior was full of farms back then. We were the original producers of local food." In the 1970's and 80's, a new wave of immigrant residents hailing from China, Southeast Asia, and Latin America began moving into the neighborhood. More recently, middle and upper middle-class professionals who have found themselves priced out of other parts of San Francisco have begun to move into the neighborhood, many with their young families, to add yet another ethnic and socio-economic layer to the rich diversity that characterizes the Excelsior.
The concept for the Ever Upward Project first arose during the 2009 Excelsior Art Summit, at which over 50 local artists of all ages and mediums convened with community stakeholders to dialogue about projects for the neighborhood. Artists called for a project to mark the gateways to the Excelsior Community, most notably our bustling southern gateway at the intersection of Geneva Avenue & Mission Street. Over the past few years, the Excelsior Action Group has executed earlier phases of the gateway project, including a garden and mosaic installation at Geneva & Mission in 2009 and a mural spanning the 280 Overpass at the neighborhood's northern extremity in 2010. In 2012, the Excelsior Action Group received funding from the City of San Francisco to begin a robust community design process and install a piece of public art at the southern gateway. Over the course of six public meetings with the help of at least 200 community members, the design concept for Ever Upward was born. The most salient ideas that came from our community process described the Excelsior neighborhood as a landing point for immigrants and working class families who endeavor to raise themselves ever upward.
A tremendously talented and dedicated Project Team was organized to bring this project to life. Isis Rodriguez, an award-winning international artist based in San Francisco's Excelsior district, was the designer for the metal sculpture. Jason Gilmore, a local artist and educator who has worked on murals in the Excelsior, was the mosaic designer for the column. Aurelio Lofaro, an Italian Master Blacksmith based out of Petaluma and educated in architecture, industrial design, metallurgy, and fine art, was the fabricator for the sculpture. Structural Engineer Jack Laws of Structural Design Engineers served as design consultant on this project. Local residents Grace D'Anca and Debbie LeDet led a team of loyal volunteers to piece together the mosaic panels one tile at a time over the course of seven months. Suaro Cervantes, master grouter of Precita Eyes, led a team of volunteers to grout the mosaic panels to the column. The Excelsior Action Group was the non-profit organization managing the project under the leadership of Corridor Manager and Excelsior native, Nicole Jesslyn Agbayani. Project funders included the S.F. Community Challenge Grant Program, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, District 11 Supervisor Avalos, the San Francisco Foundation, the Max and Anna Levinson Foundation, the Jewish Home of San Francisco, and many local businesses and residents. Hundreds of Excelsior community members dedicated their ideas, energy, and time to move this project forward.
Preserve the project!
The Excelsior Action Group & a committed team of community volunteers are working to preserve Ever Upward for years to come. We are raising a maintenance endowment and we need your support! All donations to this project are tax-deductible.