Artists Amber Hasselbring, Lisa Lee Benjamin, Moose, and Liam O’Brien
1. •Highlight the quiet success of San Francisco’s Green Hairstreak butterfly corridor
2. •Perform “reverse graffiti” at a selected retaining wall site along the corridor
3. •Add Green Hairstreak habitat plantings at the base of this retaining wall
The Green Hairstreak corridor is a community-based ecological restoration project in San Francisco’s inner Sunset District that is connecting remnant habitat for the Green Hairstreak butterfly (Callophrys dumetorum). This butterfly’s population has been isolated to hilltops overlooking the Sunset District where the butterfly no longer flies. Since the project’s inception in 2009, neighbors, property owners, government, and non-government agencies have created butterfly habitat at sites along the corridor: Hoover Middle School, Hawk Hill, Golden Gate Heights, Rocky Outcrop, Grandview Park, Moraga Steps, public land, and private front and back yards. The once isolated populations are now are connected, and Green Hairstreak butterflies interbreed; their genetic viability and diversity is more secure.
We propose to create a large public artwork on one 15’-high retaining wall within the Green Hairstreak corridor. The work will consist of two semi-permanent components: “reverse graffiti” imagery of the butterfly and its associated larval food “host” plants and nectar plants; and additional Green Hairstreak habitat in narrow planting strips along the base of the wall. During the butterfly’s flight, there will be a series of butterfly sighting tours and lectures.
Artist, lepidopterist, and Green Hairstreak corridor ringleader, Liam O’Brien will create stencils using his original illustrations. London-based street artist, Moose will use the “reverse graffiti” technique, creating beautiful renditions of the butterfly in its habitat. Amber Hasselbring and Lisa Lee Benjamin will produce the project.
This work will intrigue neighbors, encourage San Franciscans to visit established habitat sites, and most importantly, a larger audience will learn about San Francisco’s unique hilltop, sand dune ecosystem. This work will infuse a traditional ecological restoration project with a highly visual component. With publicity from SOEX and project partners, the habitat creation portion of this project will generate cross-pollination between art audiences and nature audiences, thereby bolstering and adding vitality to both. And with greater exposure, projects like the Green Hairstreak corridor will become a model that is duplicated in other cities.
Our work will bring attention to the Green Hairstreak corridor, an effort that without prior knowledge is nearly invisible. Also, we are subtly asking people to shift their understanding about how they relate to urban nature. We are motivated to participate in an urban nature movement. With more people than ever before living in cities, as opposed to rural areas, nature need not be a place we visit, but a place that visits us. Additionally, the reductive methods of cleaning to reveal imagery and replacing less productive plants with plant communities and habitats, inspires us to participate in supporting urban pollinators, songbirds and other urban species.
There are a number of logistical concerns we are addressing with this project. We have made early attempts to contact Mohammed Nuru, Director of the SF Department of Public Works to gain permission for Moose’s “reverse graffiti” on the retaining wall. Moose has a good working relationship with Nuru, as the two worked together on Moose’s work in San Francisco’s Broadway Tunnel. In addition, we have presented the idea to Green Hairstreak Corridor committee members at Nature in the City, and we have received encouragement. We also plan to secure all necessary permits for overnight street closure during Moose’s work. During the volunteer planting, we will assure that someone is present to divert traffic. We will also assure that this newly planted habitat segment is assumed into the corridor’s long-term stewardship plan.
Nature in the City – oversees the Green Hairstreak Corridor project, neighborhood stewardship, and volunteer work efforts.
Natural Areas Program – a separate division of SF Recreation and Parks that manages San Francisco’s remaining natural habitats.
Kids in Parks & Hoover Middle School – have adopted the butterfly as school mascot, and creating new habitat on school grounds adjacent to existing and potential butterfly habitat.
Parks Alliance – administer San Francisco’s street parks program, which assists community members in stewarding small street parks (there are 5 in the Green Hairstreak Corridor) on city owned land.
SF Planning Department’s Green Connections – planning a set of design guidelines that create more productive wildlife habitat, vegetation in general, better walking, and biking routes to San Francisco. Hasselbring, on behalf of Nature in the City, is a consultant on this project.