McLaren Park art trail 'Philosopher's Way' encourages contemplation 

click to enlarge Philosopher’s Way, a new public art project in McLaren Park, offers 14 “musing stations”  for hikers. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Philosopher’s Way, a new public art project in McLaren Park, offers 14 “musing stations” for hikers.

San Francisco has a new place for people to philosophize, and it’s in a new public art project on a refurbished trail in McLaren Park.

On Saturday at 11 a.m., visitors are invited to a dedication and free tours of Philosopher’s Way, a 2.7-mile trail loop created by San Francisco-based installation artists Peter Richards and Susan Schwartzenberg.

Sponsored by the Arts Commission, Recreation and Park Department and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the park perimeter trail features 14 “musing stations” that invite hikers’ introspection, not only of personal thoughts, but also of connections between nature, history and individual experiences.  

“The views we hope people will notice are not only historic, but also a commentary on both the contemporary and historical landscape and what it means to be in a place and find ways to feel rooted to time and history,” said Richards and Schwartzenberg in a statement.

The artists, whose lengthy résumés include work at the Exploratorium, fashioned the project after philosopher’s walks in Heidelberg, Germany; Toronto; and Kyoto, Japan.

Stations on Philosopher’s Way have various offerings, from a bench overlooking a meadow and ocean view, to a bowl made from stone that catches runoff from nearby hills.        

Funding for the project, which began in 2008, was provided by the SFPUC as a result of a change in a plan to replace a water tank known as the Blue Tower in the park. Money that would have been spent on the tower building was freed up for public art in the park, which is located in the southeast portion of The City near Visitacion Valley.  

Rec and Park contributed more than 850 staff hours and oversaw volunteers who spent some 2,500 hours working on one mile of the trail.

Other collaborating artists include stone masonry artist George Gonzalez, cartographer Ben Pease and landscape architect-graphic designer Leah Elamin.

Supervisors John Avalos, David Campos and Malia Cohen are slated to attend Saturday’s rescheduled public opening, which was postponed due to rain last month, as are the artists, who will be on hand to lead tours.

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Leslie Katz

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