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A New Art Installation Blooms on the Presidio Tunnel Tops

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angled view of sidewalk with large floral decals on surface
Detail image of Tosha Stimage's installation 'SUPERBLOOMS' at the Presidio Tunnel Tops. (Ariel Robbins/Parks Conservancy)

It wasn’t exactly a park day. Wind whipped across the Presidio Tunnel Tops. The Golden Gate Bridge was completely hidden by a bank of thick fog. But just east of the Presidio Visitor Center, where park-goers waited for the 43 bus or Presidio GO shuttle, bright botanical designs spread across the sidewalk, piercing San Francisco’s version of summer. A team of Presidio staff posed for pictures over the just-completed artwork, grins spread across their faces.

A planned three-day installation had been completed in just one day, and the decals by Oakland artist Tosha Stimage, the culmination of four months of research, site visits, community feedback and design work, were complete.

Stimage’s artwork, SUPERBLOOMS, joins two previous sidewalk installations by Favianna Rodriguez and Felicia Gabaldon as part of the Presidio’s Ancestral Futurism Public Art Mentorship for emerging and mid-career BIPOC artists. Rodriguez drew from her own experience of working with the Presidio to assume a coaching role, guiding Gabaldon and Stimage through the creation of their temporary public art installations.

person in safety vests leans over as another person points to large decal on sidewalk
Tosha Stimage during the installation of ‘SUPERBLOOMS.’ (Ariel Robins/Parks Conservancy)

While Rodriguez and Gabaldon included native animals in their designs, Stimage, the founder of SAINTFLORA, a floral design company that specializes in buoyant and dramatic arrangements, was the first artist to focus solely on the park’s botanic species. Rendered alone or set against circles of yellow, fuschia and gold, Stimage’s punchy designs depict the Chilean strawberry, California poppy and Checkerbloom.

Their vividness is by design.


Rodriguez says park staff have worked hard to make the Presidio a destination not just for nearby neighborhoods (some of San Francisco’s wealthiest), but for the entire Bay Area. “They were like, that’s not the kind of park we want to have,” she says. “And so they began to engage in a process, including having relationships with community partners.”

Rodriguez joined the Presidio’s 13-member Activator Council in 2021, bringing with her a belief that art and culture can create welcoming spaces. “I was like, honestly, I never come to this park,” Rodriguez remembers saying. “This park is so white and there’s no color here. Seriously, just color will disrupt this sterile-ass park. And they were like, ‘OK, we’re down.’”

For Stimage, her time working on SUPERBLOOMS has been one of deep immersion in the daily workings of the Presidio. “It was really cool to have access,” she says. “A big part of all of this is creating space, creating opportunities where people who don’t traditionally show up in these spaces get to know that [the park is] there.”

Two people pose smiling with Golden Gate Bride in background
Tosha Stimage and Favianna Rodriguez at the Presidio. (Felipe Romero)

Talking to Presidio ecologists in particular allowed Stimage to look at her own floral practice through a different lens. The species she highlighted in her designs are united by their extreme resilience. “The strawberry is one of my favorites because of that reason,” she says. “It’s a badass plant. It’s evolved over time in spite of the violence done in the spaces where it needs to be.”

Info panels provide details about each species in excited and easy to understand language. (Exclamation marks abound.) Stimage wants to make such knowledge accessible to all park visitors, including the very young.

“It may be a sticker on the top of the surface,” she says, “but maybe that person learned how to identify a plant, and then maybe it makes them curious enough to go and see where that thing lives and learn about its habitat and learn all the medicinal properties or how to engage with it properly.”

“All these things are little revolutions, too, that I think are super important,” she adds.

view of sidewalk with large orange decal and depictions of strawberry plant
Another view of ‘SUPERBLOOMS’ with Chilean strawberries featured prominently. (Ariel Robins/Parks Concervancy)

For Rodriguez, Stimage’s approach embodied Ancestral Futurism as a whole. (The project’s subtitle is “Looking Back to Repair the Future.”) Her many site visits, her flower deliveries, her desire to truly learn from the experts working behind the scenes at the park — Rodriguez says Stimage set a new bar for artists moving forward.

Coming from West Oakland to the Presidio, even to just sit on the grass and read a book, Stimage says, has been a nourishing experience.

“When we’re talking about equity and inclusion, it requires artists who can both make those connections, but also actually enjoy the beauty that is here,” says Rodriguez.

The Tunnel Tops are nearly two years old. Plantings have leafed out, the playground is broken in. It could be easy to see the Presidio’s newest recreation area as settled, fixed. But SUPERBLOOMS pops out of that landscape in sunset-hued circles. It calls attention to itself and its subject matter in joyful celebration.

As I left the Presidio, wrestling my car door against a heavy gale, I looked down at the plants growing alongside the curb. Were these? Could it be? I bent down and lifted a few small leaves to reveal tiny red fruits. Wild strawberries.

‘SUPERBLOOMS’ is now on view between the Presidio Transit Center and the Picnic Pavilion. A public launch event takes place July 14, 12–3 p.m. at the Presidio Tunnel Tops with all-ages art activities, a floral installation, free plant starters, music and a show-and-tell by Presidio nursery staff.

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