In a crisp white button-down shirt, David Best looked a blurry-streak of white as he bounced around San Francisco’s Hayes Green, offering suggestions and commands to his vast crew of volunteers. For the second time in 10 years, Best and his team were erecting an ornate, yet temporary wooden temple on the green, a site which just over a decade ago lay beneath the yet-to-be-torn down Central Freeway.
“It’s phenomenal to have the return of it,” said Madeline Behrens-Brigham, a Hayes Valley resident who rallied the city to tear down the Central Freeway to create the Octavia Boulevard open space. “It’s really the central gathering place of the neighborhood.”
A decade back, Best became the first artist to install a sculpture on the newly christened site. Under then-mayor Gavin Newsom, Best erected a 40-foot wooden temple where visitors could gather to remember lost loved ones. Best's signature temples have appeared at the Burning Man Arts Festival, and disparate sites like an empty lot in forlorn Detroit, and in a field in Northern Ireland.
“To be an artist and have someone like what you do is pretty amazing,” Best said watching a crane lifting the temple’s steeple into place.
To mark the tenth anniversary of his first temple on the site, Best was once again adorning the site with a temple, its walls and beams erected from an artistic swiss cheese of cut-out boards.
“Coming back here ten years later,” Best said, “I’m just as grateful as I was ten years ago.”
Best’s initial temple kicked-off a rotating cast of art temporary sculptures on the site by artists like New York-based Kate Raudenbush and Oakland’s Karen Cusolito. The temporary nature of the pieces allowed artists and organizers to skirt layers of red tape and critics of the art installations.
“What we established was a permanent temporary site where artists could come in and put up a sculpture for six months to a year,” Best said.
Best’s new piece was sponsored by Burning Man and the San Francisco Arts Commission which have paved the path for other temporary public installations around San Francisco. Best’s piece is scheduled to remain at the site, now named Patricia’s Green, for a year. As is tradition with Best’s temples, visitors are encouraged to write on the walls, post pictures of departed loves ones and notes of remembrance.
“I just think the wooden stuff,” Best said. “The community’s got the losses and the celebrations.”
Best stood by the temporary fence surrounding his temporary temple — chatting with visitors and relating stories of his travels to Ireland and delivering oft-repeated themes of his work — skewing the glory toward his volunteer Temple Crew.
“Volunteers do not work for nothing, they work for love,” he said. As he bounded back into the fray of construction — he paused to allow one more glimpse at the rising wooden sculpture. “Where do those ten years go?”
The city will dedicate the temple on Friday morning at 11am on Patricia’s Green in Hayes Valley.