The Artist of Cayuga Playground

 Posted by on October 29, 2013
Oct 292013
 

Cayuga and Naglee Avenue
Outer Mission

DSC_5369

In 2011 I read this wonderful article  in Conversations.org and was intrigued to visit Cayuga Park and Demetrio Braceros’ work.  I drove to Cayuga Playground to discover that it was closed.  The sign said it would reopen in a few months.  Alas, the work took until August of 2013 to actually finish the work.

Demetrio “Demie” Braceros

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

…Demetrio was born in the Philippines. He had taught industrial arts there. He’d come to the Bay Area in 1977, I think He’d worked at the Arboretum in Golden Gate Park for three years.

I didn’t get the details about how he was given responsibility for the undeveloped parcel of land on Cayuga Street, but it happened in 1986, twenty years ago. At that time the place was just a raw stand of weeds and unkempt trees. In the neighborhood, he told us, “there were prostitutes, drug dealers and crime. People got killed up there,” Demetrio told us, pointing to houses along the southern edge of the park. It was bad. “I thought to myself, how can I help this place?” he told us.

Speaking to Carlo, he tried to explain himself by quoting a biblical reference, “Let there be Light.” It was hard to make out the words. Demetrio took Carlo by the arm and we all walked over to another one of his sculptures, a bust which might have been the head of Jesus. It was hard to say, but under it was written, “Let there be Light.” Demetrio pointed to it. “There was darkness here,” he said. “Evil. It needed light.” “These are not mine,” he said, speaking of all the pieces of sculpture he’d made. Across the language barrier I made out something like this: “Whatever this creative ability it is that has been given to me, it is not mine to claim for myself, but to use for the good of all.” All that he did, he told us, was for someone else: his employer, “the taxpayers,” he said, pointing to us. It went beyond that, I knew.

The explanation was another piece of shorthand. Braceros, as best I could understand, landscaped the entire site, choosing the plants and getting them planted, and he’s maintained it ever since. But that was only the beginning of his work, the part he was being paid to do. There was another part, the part he felt called to do for other reasons. All the wood for his carvings comes from the park itself, he told us. The first large piece came from a big Monterey Cypress that had blown over. “Here it is, over here,” he said, leading us to an impressive carved figure that, somehow, I’d missed before. It was tucked into a half circle of large bushes. He explained that the piece showed a man reading “The Book of Knowledge.” As he searched for words to explain his idea more fully, I remembered what he’d said when my wife and I had met him earlier: “I wanted to inspire the kids.” This piece was about the importance of learning, of getting an education…

Demi Braceros

*

Cayuga Playground Wooden Carviings

The City of San Francisco and the SFAC worked with conservators to stabilize roughly 130 of Braceros’s sculptures. The process entailed removing the sculptures from the park, clearing away accumulated detritus such as dirt, mold and bugs, and applying a protective coating to help the artworks better withstand the elements. The revitalized sculptures are on display throughout the park, while the remainder are in storage or have been left in place to be reclaimed by the soil.

Ships Prow at Cayuga Park

There are entirely too many sculptures for me to show them all to you here, but one day, take a stroll in the Cayuga Playground and just marvel at the work of Demetrio Braceros, and celebrate the fact that the city did right by Mr. Braceros, the neighbors, and the park by maintaining the sculptures as an integral part of the design.

Cayuga Playground Folk Art

Demetrio retired in 2008.

Cayuga Playground*

Cayuga Park Wooden figures*

Braceros and Cayuga Park*

Little Bicycle Man

The Rebirth of Cayuga Playground

 Posted by on October 28, 2013
Oct 282013
 

Cayuga and Naglee Avenues
Outer Mission

Cayuga Playground

The 3.89 acre, 63 year old, Cayuga Playground closed December 2011 for a badly needed $8.4 million renovation.

About $7.3 million of the renovation was paid for by the 2008 voter-approved parks bond, $711,000 from a state urban greening grant and $1.36 million from BART’s Earthquake Safety Program Impact Compensation.

The playground’s old clubhouse had fallen into disrepair before the renovation, vandalism had increased and the baseball field was usable for only about three months of the year because of irrigation problems from the creek that runs beneath the park. On one occasion, a lawnmower got stuck and had to be pulled out of the swampy field.

Braceros

I couldn’t be happier to see that the Recreation and Parks Department, led by project manager Marvin Lee, did the right thing in making Demetrio Braceros’ sculptures the raison d’être for the park.

The Department of Public Works (DPW) provided the architectural and landscape design, engineering and construction management services for the renovation of playground and construction of the new clubhouse on behalf of Recreation and Parks Department.

DPW also collaborated with surrounding community members and the Recreation and Parks department to vacate and transfer a part of Cayuga Avenue to increase Cayuga Park by 8,400 square feet.

Wooden Snakes

There are several dirt paths that one can wander to find the more hidden sculptures.

wooden climbing structuresAnd spots where only nimble children can climb

runoff mediation

As you enter the gate you first notice a pool and a drainage system lined in stone.  One must assume that there is considerable design within the new park for the water problems that beset it for years.

Cayuga Playground Water Mitigation

*

water at Cayuga

 

A fountain area that I am sure is just lovely during the rainy season, the stone, gravel, slate combination is really beautiful in person.

Cayuga Park Clubhouse

The Clubhouse has a green roof , a multipurpose room with surround sound and a sculpture garden that houses even more of Demetrio Braceros’ sculptures.

DSC_2289

Fun Seating areas throughout the park.

Cayuga

The park incorporates a very large green open space as well as a tennis court and basketball court.

floral

What also makes this park special is the unique plant materials.  There are many species of plant not normally found in public parks.  The bring color and differing texture that adds a lot to the special feel one gets at the park.

DSC_5429

 

 

Jun 042011
 
A little blue bird in Cayuga Park, San Francisco
Cayuga Park sits at the end of Cayuga lane under the 280 freeway and the Bart tracks in an area called The Excelsior district in San Francisco.   I had been hearing for years about this little park and its grounds attendant Demetrio Braceros, but we all know how life goes on and we never quite get all the things on our list accomplished.  This was one of them, and well, it is still one of them.  I knew I was in trouble when I really had an incredibly difficult time finding the place, no signs for the park and no signs of a park.  After getting out of my car and wandering for a while, I finally found a badly worn sign stating that due to seismic upgrade to BART the hillside was dangerous and they had closed the park for construction.  It is due to reopen in June.  That I promise, is not going to happen, peaking through the fence I could see that there was far more than a months worth of work.  I will give this one at least another 6 months and go back on my quest.  This little fellow, however, is at the main gate and seems to be making sure things continue as they should.  In the meantime, there is an amazing article by Richard Whittaker that is quite long about the park, and more importantly about Demetrio Braceros.
Here are a few more photos I was able to shoot through the chain link fence.
*