Joseph Kosuth’s “W.F.T.” on the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium is one of the stops on the Illuminate SF Light Art Trail. (Courtesy San Francisco Travel Association)

Dramatic public art lights up The City

Travel bureau’s Light Art Trail a fun winter diversion

For the seventh year, the San Francisco Travel Association is giving tourists and locals good reason to venture into the cold, dark, wintery night with the Illuminate SF Festival of Light.

“At this time of year, people can get really stuck into the shorter days and spending more time at home,” says Brenda Tucker, director of arts marketing for the San Francisco Travel Association. “But this is a time when there are more light installations than ever, so it’s a great excuse to be out in The City and walk and see beautiful art.”

The festival, which runs through Jan. 1, includes 44 dramatic, eco-friendly and mostly free-to-view temporary and permanent installations by 33 local and world-renowned artists in 17 neighborhoods in and around The City.

Presented by the travel association in collaboration with civic and cultural partners, Illuminate SF Festival of Light showcases familiar works — like Leo Villareal’s “The Bay Lights” on the western span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge — and new additions including acclaimed conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth’s “W.F.T.,” which diagrams the etymology of the words “Civic” and “Auditorium” in white neon letters on the side of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

Tucker has made touring a dozen of her favorite light installations easier than ever with the Illuminate SF Light Art Trail, a self-guided itinerary available for download on the SF Travel website.

The first 10 attractions are on a walkable route from the Embarcadero waterfront to the Castro.

They include aforementioned “Bay Lights” and Kosuth’s “W.F.T.” (which stands for “Word Family Tree”), as well as “Glow,” a series of sculptures at the Exploratorium; Jenny Holzer’s “White Light” in Salesforce Transit Center; Jim Campbell’s “Day for Night” at the top of the Salesforce Tower; Hank Willis Thomas’ “Love Over Rules” in the Yerba Buena area; Villarreal’s “Point Cloud” on the Moscone Center bridge; James Turrell’s 2007 “Skygarden” on the Federal Building; Dana Albany’s “Tara Mechani,” inspired by the robot from the film “Metropolis” in Hayes Valley; and “Hope Will Never Be Silent,” based on words spoken by the late Harvey Milk, in The Castro.

“Grace Light,” an installation by George Zisiadis with an original score by Gabriel Gold, is at Grace Cathedral. (Courtesy Henrik Kam)

The final two — Bay Area-based artist George Zisiadis’ immersive “Grace Light” installation at Grace Cathedral (it’s free, and reservations are recommended) and artist team Haddad|Drugan’s animated mural “Bayview Rise” at Pier 92 — are accessible by public transit.

Stressing that the Illuminate SF Light Art Trail is safe to explore at night, Tucker encourages those who take it to remain aware of their surroundings, particularly when viewing light artist giant Turell’s “Skygarden.”

“People should have their wits about them close to the Federal Building, which is an area that can feel pretty tough,” says Tucker. “James Turell’s ‘Skygarden’ is a stunning piece of art, so I want everyone to see it, but they should always use their best judgment.”

Visit sftravel.com/article/12-installations-see-illuminate-sf-light-art-trail for details.

Visual Arts

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