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  • Resonate

    September 12-26, 2015
    Root Division, San Francisco, CA

  • Precarious Vision Nights

    Monday, October 12, 2015, 7:30-9pm
    Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA

  • 2015 Heavy Breathing Catalog

    The inaugural season of Heavy Breathing culminated in a spiral-bound publication

  • Sign Language in San Francisco Field Trip

    Friday, April 29, 2016, 3-4:30pm
    Southern Exposure, San Francisco, CA

  • Desire Trails at Headlands

    Sunday, September 25, 2016, 12-3pm
    Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA

  • Stairwell’s Stair Summit

    Thursday, January 19, 2017, 5-8pm
    Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA

  • Read ‘The Edda’ at the Stairs Seyðisfjörður

    The Edda is the title of two collected Medieval Icelandic folktales, prose and poem written by Snorri Sturluson. I have a large book with the collected stories of these Viking gods illustrated with fine art inspired by these tales. Being here in Iceland, during this dark month, at the close of 2016, I feel compelled…

  • The Decline of the Incline

    The Decline of the Incline: An Elegy for Cincinnati’s Inclined Plane Railways, 1872 – 1948 PDF version The “Age of Inclines” in the “City of Seven Hills” Was filled with laughter, vistas and thrills Seventy-six years of (mostly) smooth ascents and good cheer Fueled by pulleys, cables, wedges and beer Atop Mount Auburn, the view was…

  • 5 Things to Love about Stairs & Unstairs in 10 Things I Hate About You

    In order of appearance… 1. After Cameron’s first day of school at Padua High, Michael, his geeky tour guide, manages to careen out of the parking lot and down an ivy-covered cliff on his motorbike, much to the entertainment of the shocked crowd above. 2. That amazing shot to the sound of Air’s “Sexy Boy,”…

  • Freaking Tiny Staircases at the Cooper Hewitt

    Recently, a friend brought to our attention the amazing collection of staircase models at the Cooper Hewitt in New York. These wooden steps, spirals and banisters are from the mid-18th century through the mid-20th century. They measure everywhere from just under 4 feet to only a foot in height. And they are astounding. The staircases come…

  • The Floating Museum (1975-1978)

    While writing a review of the excellent Oakland Museum of California exhibition Marion Gray: Within the Light, I learned about The Floating Museum, a temporary, non-permanent project run by Bay Area artist Lynn Hershman that “assisted artists in locating and securing spaces in which to create one-time site-specific performances and installations” (MOCA, Under the Big…

  • Thomassons

    We’re huge fans of the fantastic design podcast 99% Invisible over here at Stairwell’s. Their recent episode about “Thomassons,” architectural anomalies regularly maintained (cleaned, painted, weeded) despite their lack of functionality, charmed us entirely. Take a listen, check out the English translation of Gengpei Akasegawa’s 1980s collection of Japanese Thomassons (originator of the concept and the man…

  • High Fives & Water Stairs

    We took a recent trip to YBCA for a BAN7 planning meeting and managed to turn it into an exploration of back passageways and secret stairs. Ostensibly we were there to shoot promo video but we managed to convince 2 enthusiastic museum staff to show us their favorite stairs and stair-related structures around the YBCA…

  • From the Ground Up: Liz Bernstein

    For her part as a From the Ground Up Field Trip Leader, artist Liz Bernstein led an activity in the Oakland Columbarium and delivered a fascinating history of the pasty while handing out homemade versions of the traditional miner’s meal. Oakland Columbarium A columbarium is a public storage site of cinerary urns. The word “columbarium” derives from…

  • From the Ground Up: Kari Marboe

    For her part as a From the Ground Up Field Trip Leader, artist and writer Kari Marboe delved into the history of two Oakland quarries and the lives of their namesakes: Frank W. Bilger and Anson S. Blake. Bilger Quarry Frank W. was born in Oregon in 1868, graduating from the UC Berkeley department of pharmacy…

  • Proto-Stairwell’s: Jim Melchert’s Location Project #10

    Jim Melchert, Location Project #10, from the Points of View series, Thursday, November 7, 1974; Paramount Theatre, Oakland; photo courtesy the artist; © Jim Melchert Descending along the sidewall of the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, the emergency exit stairs played a starring role in Jim Melchert’s outdoor Location Project #10 (November 1974). The Oakland-based artist shot…

  • Take the stairs

    Tomorrow I will ascend the stairs at 49 Geary for the best kind of event I can envision: a friend’s art opening. The stairs at 49 Geary are steep and narrow, ascending all five stories of the downtown warren of commercial galleries. They’re unused for the most part, except for times when the desire to see…

  • ‘The Cliff House’ Documentary at Balboa Theatre

    For those of you who had your appetite for all things Lands End-related whetted by our last Field Trip (or for those you who missed that fantastic outing), never fear! From the makers of the award winning documentary films “Remembering Playland at the Beach” and “Sutro’s: The Palace at Lands End” comes a brand new…

  • DREAM SITE: Stairwell’s at Aquatic Park

    What if the next Stairwell’s show was in one these 2 circular concession stand/restroom structures at Aquatic Park? There’s quite a bit of history here–one of the largest WPA projects in the 20s, site of the Maritime Museum since the late 50s, much adored swimming spot (despite the frigid temps of the SF Bay), and…

  • Walking and Listening: Podcasts

    Hello, my name is Sarah and I’m a podcast listener. While binging on audio, I realized that by some cosmic alignment two of my very favorite programs featured Stairwell’s-appropriate episodes this week. On the locally-produced 99% Invisible, host Roman Mars and producer Sam Greenspan met with stair-aficionado Charles Fleming (author of our Field Trip #3…

  • Some Stairs: Part II (Leading Stairs)

    [This is the second in a series of posts by Joy Drury Cox. You can read Part I here.] A lot of my work deals with standard forms. I collect paper ephemera like guest checks and job applications. These documents usually display lines and boxes waiting to be filled. I’m interested in how people approach…

  • DISPATCH FROM LA: Missing Stairs

    Taking a brief weekend away from the Bay Area, I flew down to Los Angeles for a few excellent reasons: a) the LA Art Book Fair and the wonderful team at Colpa; b) a dear friend‘s installation at Calarts; and c) another dear friend‘s opening at Commonwealth & Council. Commonwealth & Council is run by…

  • Living Upstairs

    Until I moved to Brooklyn in the summer of 2007, I had never lived above street level. I don’t count the one summer I spent in a garret room in Providence, recovering from a break-up by knocking my head against the rafters. And I don’t count that semester I spent in a Dublin dorm room, emerging…

  • Stairs in the Dark

    The staircase leading to the upstairs room in the back of the Hideout at Dalva, as seen peripherally. Delicious fancy cocktails and some subtle stair action. What’s not to like? [CL]

  • Portable Ramp at the Piers

    I spotted this portable ramp on the Embarcadero while touring the new Exploratorium buildings at Piers 15/17 recently. I don’t have much to say about the thing really, but just wanted to note its ‘understated gracefulness’ as a sculptural object (ha!), especially when it’s not being used to attach anything to the pier. There is…

  • Some Stairs: Part I

    How does one meet a staircase? My first response is negligently. Staircases incite an immediacy to respond that must tap into some basic human desire to rise or perhaps to conquer. We move forward, lacking knowledge of the history of the thing before us, comforted by its repetition of elements. One, two, three. Each stair…

  • The Second Longest Escalator in Nebraska

    It is probably no accident that those lulls in a cross-country road trip, when eager camaraderie and ingenious mix tapes give way to bleary-eyed silence and a car stereo auto-cycling through various colors of radio snow, seem to coincide with the appearance of billboards trumpeting the imminent appearance of some roadside attraction sure to cure…

  • PAUSES: Bruce Nauman’s Staircase at Oliver Ranch

      In a recent quest for inspiration, I found myself revisiting PBS’s Art21 series. I was pleasantly surprised by the interview with Bruce Nauman, particularly a brief segment regarding his Staircase project for the Oliver Collection in Northern California. The piece is an installation of a staircase built into the hillside of a private property.…

  • Winchester Mystery House

    The Winchester Mystery House is a mansion located in San Jose, California. Now a famous tourist attraction, the mansion was once home to Sarah Winchester, widow to William Winchester, heir of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Said to have been haunted by the ghosts of those killed by the Winchester rifle, Sarah Winchester began the…

  • LOS ANGELES: Angels Flight

    A short time ago, I spent a weekend in Los Angeles, visiting my parents and celebrating a friend’s inclusion in a great group show at the Highland Park gallery Public Fiction. On Sunday, before a long drive back up the 5, I wandered around downtown LA on the lookout for stairs and found myself at…

  • “WATERFALL ON LAKE MARGIN NOVEL FEATURE”

    The Cleveland Cascade is not a dance move common in the state of Ohio. Rather, it is an outdoor Oakland stairway disguised as a park, or vice versa, that was created to provide a small taste of Italy right in the center of Oakland at the edge of Lake Merritt. It was originally made possible…

  • FORT POINT: Stairs to Safety

    Fort Point (built in 1861) to defend the Union army and California’s gold from outsiders, never saw any military action. There are three great stairwells in the fort which allow for passage between its three levels. Huge granite wedge-shaped slabs are stacked upon each other tongue and groove style and spiraled up. This construction is…

  • THE RULES OF STAIRS: Poison arrows, crystals, & more

    I have to admit that I’m not really a subscriber of Feng Shui. It seems to employ a threatening kind of reasoning: if you don’t make (at times, drastic) changes to the physical arrangement of your immediate surroundings you’ll be ‘punished’ with a loss of energy or health or wealth or whatnot. Maybe I’m being…

  • MATT KENNEDY: Jumping (2010)

    jumping from matt kennedy on Vimeo. In this video, Matt Kennedy frames himself at the peak of his jumping capabilities, capturing a strenuous personal challenge with characteristic deadpan humor. Matt’s ability to transform a simple activity into one of endurance (both for himself and the viewer) is a feat he promises to repeat for A…

  • COLLIN MCKELVEY: Updates from the studio

    We did a second site visit with A GOOD WAY AWAY artist Collin McKelvey recently to see how things were coming together for the upcoming show. We won’t give everything away, but will say that we are super excited about what we’ve seen and heard so far, including sights, sounds, and smells inspired by stair structures…

  • NOAH KRELL: To Move a Body (2010)

    The artists are hard at work on their pieces for the next Stairwell’s exhibition (July 13!). Noah Krell, one of the three, has made previous work involving stairs. While we chose to work with him for his outstanding video art in general, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to highlight this piece, in which he had…

  • KIDS ON A RAMP: Low tide on the Marina Green

    I pass this spot every morning on my way to work and one day these kids demonstrated that it doesn’t go entirely unused. Apparently the “inclined plane” is a “simple machine” with a “mechanical advantage” (thanks, Internet). Mostly I just like how it’s ambiguous as to whether this would be considered an “on ramp” or…

  • Copies of Stairs: New work by Margo Woloweic

    Bay Area artist Margo Woloweic is working on an exciting new project that features stair-related pieces made out of sewn tissue paper. Woloweic’s “copies” of entranceways and front porches of homes are created by using Google street view to approximate the ratios of stair structures in other cities, rather than through direct on-site observation. The resulting floor…

  • World’s Coolest Staircases

    Is everyone thinking about stairs right now? We’ve tapped into some sort of zeitgeist, that’s for sure. An article in last month’s Travel + Leisure magazine showcased the “World’s Coolest Staircases.” I quote: While staircases are fundamentally a means to get from one point to another, they become cool—and worth seeking out—when the form is…

  • Architectural LOLCATS <3 Stairs & Ramps!

    Created by UC Berkeley Architecture students on spring break, these Architectural LOLCATS I just read about on the Archinect blog are great on so many levels (pun intended). Here’s a few examples of what happens when they embark on the circular ramps that comprise the interior of the Guggenheim (“The Purrrgenheim”) or some of Escher’s…

  • Stairs in film: A Matter of Life and Death/Stairway to Heaven

    I recently stumbled upon an amazing romantic fantasy film from 1946 called Stairway to Heaven (also known by its original title: A Matter of Life and Death) at the Castro Theatre. The plot follows a RAF pilot during World War II who jumps from his plane without a parachute and miraculously survives the fall, waking…

  • Other art in stairwells: Ann Hamilton & Meredith Monk

    While working on the first Stairwell’s exhibition, DEEP DOWN AND BUILDING UP, a friend suggested I take a look at another art in stairwell’s project: Ann Hamilton’s The Tower. Built over the course of 3.5 years at the Oliver Ranch in Sonoma, it stands 8 stories high with two separate staircases winding their way (double-helix…

  • Studio visit with Maggie Haas

    We recently paid a visit to SF-based artist Maggie Haas at her studio in the Mission. Maggie told us about her residency at ACRE in Wisconsin last summer and about an upcoming show at slow, an alternative exhibition venue in Chicago’s Pilsen district. Other subjects of discussion included felting techniques, yurts, and the best way…

  • Research for future Field Trips

    This weekend included research for future Field Trips in the areas just south of Piers 15/17 on the Embarcadero and the residential stairways leading up to Coit Tower. As part of an outdoor excursion led by staff from The Exploratorium, we traversed the Filbert St. and Greenwich St. stairwells. Aside from actual stair structures, I noticed…

  • Studio visit with Carrie Hott

    We visited the studio of Carrie Hott at REAL TIME + SPACE in Oakland last weekend. Carrie’s recent work touches on (but is by no means limited to): whales, oil lamps, blackouts, and imagined visual histories.

  • Introduction

    Hello! Feel free to contact us at stairwells.sf@gmail.com as we fill our site with useful, pertinent information.