A Canvas Awaits: The Burnside Mural+ Project

By Renee A. Burger, June 29, 2021


In recent months, Glen Park has become a canvas for two new murals: This is Ohlone Land, by Josué Rojas at the Surrey Street entry to Ohlone Way, and Glen Canyon 1942, by Amos Goldbaum on the side of Pebbles Café on Kern Street at Diamond. On the proverbial drawing board is a third, the recently launched Burnside Mural+ project. This large-scale project will be a mural plus a tiled stairway that will celebrate the neighborhood’s rich history.


The proposed mural wall stands at the end point of the Glen Park Greenway at Burnside Avenue just south of Paradise Avenue, which sees many walkers heading to and from Glen Canyon Park Recreation Area, or home from work or school. It is also part of Section Two of the 17-mile Crosstown Trail that attracts dozens of walkers, especially on weekends, intent on experiencing San Francisco’s neighborhood treasures. The Burnside steps take flight rising in a zigzag behind the wall, leading up to Bosworth Street.

(Left) View of the Burnside Stairs coming down from Bosworth Street in Glen Park, future canvas for the Burnside Mural that will depict the history of Glen Park. (Right) Neighbors and supporters gather for the project kick-off and happy hour on a June 18, 2021, a lovely Friday evening. Image on left by Kim Sites; on the right by Mary Szczepanik.


The birdlike shape of the wall and the sweep up the surrounding hill provide a gorgeous canvas for the overarching theme of the project, the colorful history of Glen Park. It will highlight Islais Creek, which runs through Glen Canyon and under the Burnside Mural+ wall. The area was likely once the hunting grounds for the San Francisco’s Native Americans, the Yelamu, an independent tribe of the Ramaytush Ohlone. The wall and tiled stairway will also depict when the canyon was home to the first dynamite factory in America, personally licensed by inventor Alfred Nobel (the complex was obliterated in an explosion in 1869) and 30 years later had a popular zoo and amusement park with a bear pit, seal pond, and acrobatic aeronauts.


Most importantly, the mural will bring to the public’s attention transformative local leaders of Glen Park, three neighborhood women who became known as the Gum Tree Girls and their predecessor, Minnie Straub Baxter, whose moxie kept a freeway from being built through Glen Canyon in the 1950s and 1960s. The project will benefit greatly from the research performed by the Glen Park Neighborhood History Project that has searched archives, vintage newspaper articles, oral histories, and photographs – providing a wealth of assets that will enrich this project.


The core team, long-time Glen Park residents Renee Berger, Mary Szczepanik, Anne Wintroub, and Allison Arieff, are thrilled with the prospect of engaging the Glen Park community to bring our storied history to life. We plan for two phases, the first dedicated to the completion of a mural and the second, a tiled stairway. On June 18, 2021, the project turned the cul de sac in front of the wall into a happy hour gathering welcoming about 40 neighbors, family and friends to formally launch the project and begin fundraising. The team will be doing additional community outreach and another mural fundraising event in the early fall.


Please sign up at http://www.gpmural.com to receive updates. Tax-deductible donations can be made on the website and will be very much appreciated. Suggestions? Like to offer your talents? The GPMural+ project wouldlove to hear from you! For inquiries, please contact Renee Berger at raberger@sfteamworks.com.


The Burnside Mural+ project is part of the Glen Park Greenway, with fiscal sponsorship provided by the San Francisco Parks Alliance. The wall and stairway are under the jurisdiction of San Francisco Public Works.

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