Illuminate SF's annual Festival of Light brings holiday cheer to San Francisco
Illuminate SF light art installations include Hank Willis Thomas' "Love Over Rules," displayed on Jessie Street in SoMa. (Photograph by Mariah Tiffany, courtesy of Sites Unseen)

Illuminate SF's annual Festival of Light brings holiday cheer to San Francisco


With endless Bay Area holiday traditions either going virtual or cancelled altogether this year, we're beyond thankful that Illuminate SF's Festival of Light is still on to provide a safe, pandemic-friendly hint of festive normalcy.

Kicking off on Thanksgiving, the eighth annual art display will add some glow to 17 San Francisco neighborhoods with more than 40 eco-friendly light installations designed by artists from around the globe. Next time you're out for an evening stroll or bracing the cold for an alfresco parklet dinner, keep your eye out for some shining new additions to the City's public art scene, plus temporary works and 34 permanent installations displayed at locations ranging from the Embarcadero to Salesforce Tower.

New additions to this year's Festival of Light include a handful of installations in honor of Golden Gate Park's 150th anniversary. After hitching a ride on the SkyStar Observation Wheel after dark (its open until 10pm daily), check out the neighboring 120-year-old Spreckels Temple of Music Bandshell, now fitted with a new sound system, stage, and colorful lights post-sunset. Beginning on December 10th, you can wander over to Peacock Meadow to experience SF-based artist Charles Gadeken's enchanted wonderland, "Entwined". On view through February 29th, the installation incorporates larger-than-life sculptural trees with illuminated canopies, bushes comprised of 2,000 LED lights, and nature-enhanced lighting effects—think raindrops, blowing grass, and pond ripples.

Other new installations include Ivan Navarro's "The Ladder (Sun or Moon)", a permanent, site-specific 10-storied neon and steel ladder installed on the façade of 50 Jones on Market Street.

If you're in the mood to make an evening of it, follow the Light Art Trail on foot. Begin at the Embarcadero waterfront to view Leo Villareal's already-iconic "Bay Lights," and finish at Harvey Milk Plaza with "Hope Will Never Be Silent." Along the way, you'll stop at an additional nine installations including Jenny Holzer's "White Light," which displays the words of writers including Maya Angelou on an LED screen inside the Salesforce Transit Center's Grand Hall; Dana Albany's 17-foot-tall robot-inspired sculpture "Tara Mechani," temporarily located at Patricia's Green in Hayes Valley; and the tallest public art installation in the country, Jim Campbell's "Day for Night,","which occupies the top 130 feet of Salesforce Tower.

You can also snap pics of old favorites including Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn's beloved "Language of the Birds," and "Bayview Rise," a mural by Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan designed for the grain elevator and silos of Pier 92's 187-foot façade. At night, the colorful work transforms into an "illumination animation" with shifting lights to represent a transforming community.

// November 26 through January 23, 2021,

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