In honor of the Fourth of July, and commemorating the 50th birthday of San Francisco's Sutro Tower, there will be lasers shooting up through the radio tower for five nights this week.
Continuing their "Summer of Awe," nonprofit group Illuminate the Arts has installed red, white and blue lasers that will light up the sky and Sutro Tower from tonight, July 4th, through Saturday, July 8th. The twelve high-powered lasers will turn on at sunset tonight and stay on until midnight.
The piece is called "loveAbove," and it follows 10 days after the rainbow laser installation on Market Street for Pride Weekend, called "Welcome." And two more installations at prominent San Francisco landmarks later this month.
"The purpose of the four-weekend light show? To remind San Franciscans of their city’s stunning beauty, endless creativity and artistry, and flair for the weird and dramatic," Illuminate the Arts says on an Instagram post.
Sutro Tower — which, like the Transamerica Pyramid, was initially hated by many San Franciscans until it became beloved and iconic — broadcast its first radio and television signals on July 4, 1973, and today is its 50th anniversary. As KRON4 explains the 977-foot tower was built to improve TV and radio signals around the Bay Area, rising much taller than the 588-foot radio tower that it replaced.
The next iconic landmark to get the laser treatment is scheduled to be Coit Tower, from July 14 to 16. That installation, called "Candle," will feature the same twelve laser cannons pointing upward, casting golden-colored light — but of course the project is mired in some red tape, and the Recreation and Park Department has not yet granted permission for it.
The Federal Aviation Administration also needed to grant permission for the Sutro installation as well as the one at Coit Tower, because the lasers will be shooting up into federal airspace.
After "Candle" goes dark, from July 27 to 29, a fourth "Summer of Awe" installation will go in along the roof of the Fairmont Hotel , with 12 lasers focused on the front stained-glass window at Grace Cathedral across Huntington Park. That piece will be called "Window."
Ben Davis, the CEO of Illuminate the Arts, tells the SF Business Times, "We're really here to help San Francisco shine. We get invitations to work all over the world, and we say no to everything outside of San Francisco. We are choosing to stay put, go deep and build a high trust network, so we can make a difference in the place that we live in to inspire the rest of the world.”
Davis is simultaneously trying to raise $11 million to reinstall the "Bay Lights" on the Bay Bridge. That decade-old installation went dark in March due to accelerated wear and tear on the LEDs. Davis told the Business Times this week that the group has raised $8 million and just needs the final $3 million to go forward.
"How often do we get something so charming and delightful?" says Illuminate board member Patricia Wilson, speaking to the Chronicle about the "Summer of Awe" projects. "We’re so focused on all the haters and all the things wrong, and there are many, that we forget the amazing things about San Francisco. It’s a beacon of hope."