Some of San Francisco’s most outstanding art isn’t found inside museums. It’s seen on city streets in exuberant neighborhoods. Among the most vibrant: Excelsior. Go on a 1.2-mile (round-trip) urban ramble through this cool and colorful part of the city, and be treated to murals galore and a hidden mosaic stairway.
For the most art-intensive route, start from the Excelsior Branch Public Library and finish at Kenny Alley, an enclave that’s been revitalized into a secret succulent garden with a beautiful mosaicked stairway. As you head south from the library on Mission St. through the Excelsior’s commercial district, each block you encounter reveals a new sprawl of inventive paintings. Garages, businesses, schools, and urgent-care centers each showcase an addition to the colorful landscape. At the corner of Mission Street and Francis Street, see “Music Is Freedom” by artist Delvin Kenobe Leake, a celebration of culture and diversity that highlights how music and dance can unite a community.
Shortly after, at the Excelsior Avenue intersection, see “Waiting for the 52 Excelsior,” a mural by local artist Marta Ayala presenting a fishbowl vantage of the neighborhood. Across from it, find the 2007 Precita Eyes Muralists’ “Excelsior Love,” with quotes like “Education is the key,” and “Follow your dreams!” After 0.6 mile of murals, come across Kenny Alley, a quiet garden and mosaicked stairway, renovated to reflect the bright community in which it rests. An extension of the neighborhood’s cleaning-and-greening-through-art philosophy, here you can spy a garden of native plants, a nature-celebrating mural, and water-inspired tiled steps. The project, a City Arts and Tech High School and community team effort, was created as a welcoming space for visitors and residents alike. It’s a sanctuary on a city street. Muralaculous!
Tip: Double your mileage by starting just beyond the 280 overpass at the Mission-Bosworth intersection. You’ll cross a portal into the Excelsior (the 280 overpass), painted with the highly international street names within the district and celebrating its diverse cultural history.
The Excelsior Branch Public Library is located at 4400 Mission St. The Kenny Alley Stairs are located between 4941 Mission St. and 4945 Mission St., connecting London and Mission Streets. Street parking. Dog-friendly!