‘An Amazing Unfolding’: Years-in-the-Making Sculptural Gate Installed at Ingleside Library

Eric Powell stands beside the new gate he made for Ingleside Library. Alex Mullaney/Ingleside Light

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A seven-years-in-the-making major piece of public art was installed at Ingleside Library on Wednesday.

The 15-foot-tall, $144,000 handcrafted steel sculptural gate is adorned with spirals and the word “Ingleside.” Its blue-green color is meant to evoke wind and water.

“It was a herculean effort,” sculptor Eric Powell told the Ingleside Light after hanging the gate’s largest section. “A combination of five years.”

While it took five years for Powell to design, fabricate and install, others spent years more to make the vision of a significant investment in neighborhood public art a reality.

Eric Powell completing the installation of the gate. Alex Mullaney/Ingleside Light

Fits and Starts

Neil Ballard shepherded the gate through completion first as staff for the Ocean Avenue Association and then as a contractor after he left the organization. Ballard, an artist himself and sometimes contributor to this publication, recently completed an expansive mural of a fictional terrain on the facade of Faxon Garage.

The project began in 2014 when Ballard and Dan Weaver, then the OAA’s executive director, applied for a Complete Neighborhoods Program grant through the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

The first location, next to Fire Station 15, was swatted down by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission because of the amount of plumbing beneath it, according to Ballard. The second location tried was the Ocean-Geneva Greenspace, but the grant funding for both projects was not allowed to be intermingled. In 2016, they identified the library, got permission from various city agencies and engaged Powell, the sculptor.

Powell is a familiar artist to patrons of Ingleside Library. His sculpture “Currents” has been displayed there for more than a decade, and the gate shares visual continuity.

“It fits in really well with the piece that Eric made inside the library, and it’s a great compliment to his gate at Cayuga Park,” Ballard said.

Powell found inspiration for the sculptural gate in vortexes.

“Life itself started in a spiral. There are countless examples in nature of the use of spirals including the human heart and the inner ear,” Powell said. “It’s been an amazing unfolding as I’ve been working on it.”

The gate is located on land owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission that serves as an access road for the Balboa Reservoir while also being the library’s open space.

“The gate is a lovely addition to the neighborhood, and it’s nice that the same artist who created the sculpture inside of the Ingleside Branch was selected for this project,” said Rebecca Alcalá-Veraflor, San Francisco Public Library’s assistant chief of branches.

The completed gate. Alex Mullaney/Ingleside Light

Gate to Gateway

When AvalonBay Communities develops 1,100 units of housing on the Balboa Reservoir, the gate may be turned into a gateway for its future residents.

“I hope that this can become the gateway for a pedestrian and bike path that leads from Ocean Avenue to the future development,” Ballard said. “The door can just be removed and open for easy access so people can just come and go.” 

Should city or other maintenance vehicles need to get by, the larger door can still swing open, Ballard added.

Until then, the library will manage the opening and closing gate.

“What a beautiful piece of art,” Ocean Ale House co-owner and Ingleside Merchants Association president Miles Escobedo said. “I hope we have more art installations in the neighborhood. There are lots of opportunities.”

The OAA is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony for September.