Friday, September 26, 2008

Mission Creek Sports Park - Artists

Saturday saw the Grand Opening of the visionary Mission Creek Sports Park beneath the freeway at Mission Bay...see previous blogs...

Ginny is an artist living what one imagines to be a romantic life on one of the houseboats on the creek. She also volunteers many hours as a conservationist caring for the wildlife and nature around her.

Ginny's tasks involve 'supporting the tidal community,' as she puts it, and looking after the banks and wildlife gardens, including one for butterflies - 'it's not been a great butterfly year,' she said.

She stood at her stall, one side representing her work for the Mission Creek Conservancy, the other her art.

Speaking first as a conservationist she said the small creek, amazingly, is a habitat for over 60 different kinds of birds. She handed me a blue sheet of paper which held a record of their sightings, although I later realised that they date from September 1987 to February 1988.

Nevertheless, spotted on the creek have been birds with exotic names such as Northern Mockingbird, Red-throated Loon, Bonaparte's Gull and Black Phoebe. There is even mention of a Budgerigar.

Western Gulls, Rock Doves and European Starlings were the most common.

Generally today, gulls and cormorants seem to be the most visible birds - there is a group of four cormorants that are often seen socializing on some pilings - while last week a lone brown pelican spent a few days swooping over the water and perching on a piling.

But beneath the water is a world, amongst others, of tiny invertebrates that live on the pilings, rocks, and boats.

'I wouldn't have known it existed if my daughter hadn't done a science project,' said Ginny.

The fascination of learning of these creatures living round about her was what drew her into conservation work.

It illumines her art and brings an unexpected bonus: she can swim daily in the creek knowing that if certain little beings are alive and well, then the water is safe for her!

As an artist she works in fabric - 'material is more alive than wood or bronze' - fashioning her wildlife. A plump, green, velvet giant sea anemone with pink fronds waves out of her contact card.

Next to it, as we looked at her display board, were a sea squirt and an acorn barnacle. A deep- blue Pacific mussel stood on a sea of green, it's mouth gaped open.

'Do you know,' she said, 'that mussels sift 33 gallons of water an hour?'

Her gallery showpiece, however, of which she is immensely fond is a 16ft pink velvet earthworm.

Ginny, who works in wood for other things, has created perches with floating islands of drift wood on the creek and has been commissioned to provide permanent perches around Mission Creek.

Her floating islands attract the same gull family every year.

'They know me. I know them,' she says. 'They share everything - time on the eggs, getting food for the kids. They've brought a lot of baby gulls into the world.

'It's been interesting raising a child and hearing this other family outside.'

Another artist of quite a different hue but making a visual impact was Jim Tulare, whose inventions are made mostly out of trash!

'It's just junk!' he said, 'Things out of trash cans!' We were looking at his water-pump contraption that used a lot of plastic bottles, the trash for which came from a Tenderloin apartment.

'But aren't you cutting-edge San Franciscan?' I said.

'Yeah, right!' he replied with wry humour.

Behind him, the Spoon Moon Jogger with Mystery Sails made with old bicycle wheels was turning in the wind.

'Do you know what the sails are made of?' he asked.

I didn't.

'Laundry baskets,' he said. And the wooden spoons, he added, came from a sale at Walgreens.

But his piece de resistance was his interpretation of a three-wheeled bicycle. Children especially loved pedalling it by the creek.

Throughout the day, a fascinated stream of people peered up and down and around his inventions.

At 76 years of age, he has spent the last ten years recycling and building things.

HIs motivation is simple. 'I was trying to build something I could sell to get out of the Tenderloin!' he said.

'Is there a big market for this sort of thing?'

'No!' he said.

But for fun and entertainment at public occasions, we say...

Keep 'pedalling' Jim!

pics show Ginny Stearns with her conservation work and art; the puzzle of the water-pump with the Spoon Moon Jogger behind; Jim Tulare with two-year-old James

Ginny can be contacted and her work viewed at: and

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