You may not know Buddy Rhodes but you have seen his concrete work around Duboce Park. He provided the materials, expertise, and studio that allowed ud to make commemorative tiles with handprints, dog prints, and names. for the playground wall near the mosaic thrones. He designed the table labyrinth and toad stools for the Scott Street Labyrinth and most recently designed and manufactured the sitting disks located at the Noe-Duboce MUNI stop. He is currently involved in the design of the seating wall at Steiner and Duboce.
Where did you grow up? Did you go to parks as a child?
I grew up on Long Island in New York: Central Islip during the school year and summers at a beach house on Peconic Bay that I truly loved. My summer on the Bay was one big park. But my parents would take me to Central Park in Manhattan – in the center of the city just like Duboce Park is – and I really loved the openness and all the things going on there.
What is your educational background?
I went to Alfred University College of Ceramics in upstate New York, and drove across country to attend the San Francisco Art Institute undergraduate and then the masters program. I was attracted by the artists here working in ceramics: Peter Voulkos, Richard Shaw, Robert Arneson and others.
What are some of your favorite things about Duboce Park?
It’s beautiful! My now-wife Susan and I found a house in 1987 that sat right next to it. We fell in love with the neighborhood long before it became what it is today. My street is almost like a boardwalk, with people walking to and from the N Judah. We know our neighbors all by name and we celebrate holidays together. I’ve watched babies grow up now and go off to college.
And now, as the houses have changed owners, the street has been filled with new little ones. Susan and I were married where our street meets Duboce Park and we closed off the street for the party. I love Duboce Park and all the events it attracts: DogFest, SantaCon, birthday parties and movie nights. The best thing of all is that our dogs have grown up thinking the park is their back yard and we have met many friends there through the dogs.
How often to you come to the park?
Most every day.
Why do you volunteer?
I like to offer what I can. I always wanted to make something for the park. I’ve gotten a chance to do that several times now, and sometimes I even get paid for it.
How has the park changed since you started coming to the park?
Well, some of the trees have fallen over or died, just like some of my friends since I’ve been here! The dog park was moved from one end of the park to the other and it’s now SF dog central. The Harvey Milk Center was renovated, and the “haunted house” at Carmelita on the park has been totally renovated.
What would you like to see done in the park?
Ah, yes! I would like to see the Steiner-Duboce Corner Improvement Plan come to fruition. It’s a creative way to turn that underused corner into a safe and useful, not to mention beautiful, area for everyone. And I have been asked to bid on making the curved wall-bench. Wish me luck!
That stool design came to me as a refinement of a stool I’d been making for years. This one is more sculptural, but it’s a variation on a long running theme of mine. The Labyrinth stools are planted in the ground, but most in my shop are hollow and moveable.
The city came to me with an idea and I adapted it. They tried to give the job to a cheaper contractor, a big company, not an artist. Then my wife, who was working for me at the time, appealed to them by saying we could make them with 97% recycled material and they would also be made by a local artist who lived on the park. The city’s architect went to bat for us and here they are.