City Hall is just one of the colorful places to see in San Francisco.

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August 14, 2018
City Hall is just one of the colorful places to see in San Francisco.

Always Colorful: San Francisco's Current Feast for the Eyes

Perhaps triggered by the explosion of color that marked Summer of Love 50th anniversary celebrations, San Francisco, the “cool, grey city of love,” is giving the color wheel a twirl this season.

Brighten your trip with visits to these special exhibitions and some colorful classics:

BIP Bay Area Megamural Series (580 Geary St.)
The anonymous international artist BIP has created the fourth mural in his Bay Area Megamural Series. Located at 580 Geary St., the seven-story piece, called Figurine, depicts two personified flowers growing together. BIP singlehandedly completed the giant work over one month, using roughly 500 cans of spray paint. Previous works in the Megamural Series include No Ceiling at 816 Mission St., Vintage at 1600 Broadway in downtown Oakland, and Dave-Self Consuming Self at 685 Larkin St. BIP will be creating many more murals locally and internationally in the next year as he continues his effort to provide the public with free, thought-provoking art that engages and reflects the neighborhood and community.

City Hall (One Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place)
At sunset every evening, more than 220 LED lighting fixtures illuminate the exterior of San Francisco’s City Hall. The Beaux Arts “People’s Palace” is usually bathed in a soft white glow, but for special events it takes on a celebratory cast. The Warriors’ NBA title win triggered a show of royal blue and golden yellow, for example. During Pride week in June, City Hall shimmers in the colors of the rainbow flag. It is often lit up to support public awareness campaigns such as Alzheimer’s research.

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Conservatory of Flowers (100 John F. Kennedy Dr.)
Gobo projectors are transforming the normally white exterior of the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. Each night, the building becomes a canvas for a colorful light art installation. The projections include scenes inspired by the rare tropical flowers housed within and the legacy of San Francisco’s flower children.

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The Exploratorium (Pier 15)
The Exploratorium has always shimmered with colors throughout its galleries and the public plazas surrounding them museum. Everyone has their favorite, whether it’s Buckyball, a towering 25-foot illuminated sculpture featuring two nested geodesic spheres composed of 4,500 LED nodes, or Recollections, which explores time and motion in beautiful colors. “After Dark,” the Exploratorium’s adults-only event (for ages 18-plus, every Thursday from 6-10 p.m.) fills the space with dazzling light displays and a large-scale kaleidoscope. On Dec. 7, “Glow,” which organizers describe as a festival of “ebullient lights and subtle glows,” celebrates the close of the year. Buy Exploratorium tickets.

Harvey Milk Plaza (Castro and Market Streets)
In early November, Illuminate, the team who brought us The Bay Lights, will debut two light sculptures to honor the 40th anniversary of Milk’s election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, making him the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. Dubbed “Harvey’s Halo,” the light art will match the rainbow flag. A neon sign will also proclaim “Hope Will Never Be Silent,” a quote attributed to Milk.

Rainbow Flag (Castro and Market Streets)
The rainbow flag was created by a San Francisco resident named Gilbert Baker. Legislation is pending to grant city landmark status to the flagpole where a large rainbow flag flies at the corner of Castro and Market streets in Harvey Milk Plaza. The rainbow flag is also echoed in the pedestrian crosswalks throughout the Castro District.

Museum of Ice Cream (One Grant Ave.)
Another pop-up with punch, the Museum of Ice Cream is just the treat this month for those who crave the sweeter things in life and love highly concentrated doses of color. The San Francisco edition of the Museum of Ice Cream offers a candy garden, Pop Rocks cave, Push-Pop art installation and a rotating lineup of California ice cream makers including It’s-It, Bi-Rite and Salt & Straw, offering visitors a special “scoop of the week.” And yes there’s a sprinkle pool, too!

POPOS and Alleyways (Various Locations)
San Francisco has always been rather proud of its POPOS, which is short for privately owned public open spaces. The staff at SPUR, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, has thoughtfully mapped all of them out. Many are awash with color and punctuated with sculpture. After getting bright makeovers under the auspices of Site Unseen’s Local Color, alleys are getting into the action, too. On Natoma Street near New Montgomery, five alcoves have been painted in long, colorful stripes. The spot can be seen from the east side of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Nearby, a six-story kaleidoscope mural by Barry McGee covers exterior walls of the Moscone Center garage at Third and Howard Streets. A third installation in Annie Alley near the California Historical Society (whose exterior is painted international orange, the same color as the Golden Gate Bridge) will soon debut.

Murals (Various Locations)
Don’t forget San Francisco’s famous murals, too. While heavily concentrated in the Mission District, they are visible all over the city, including works by Diego Rivera in The City Club of San Francisco in the Financial District and more than 30 pieces in the ground floor lobby of Coit Tower.

Across San Francisco Bay, there is plenty of color, too:

Oakland Museum of California Nature’s Gift: Humans, Friends & The Unknown (1000 Oak St., Oakland)
A rainbow passageway leads to Nature’s Gift, a light-filled, interactive environment and multi-sensory experience that just opened at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA). The Great Hall at the Museum has been “transformed into a rainbow-filled universe,” according to Carin Adams, associate curator of Art and Material Culture. Created by Los Angeles-based FriendsWithYou, the new commissioned installation will fill an otherwise dark room with bright, multi-colored LED lights and layers of texture and sound. The exhibition will be on view through Jan. 21, 2018. Easily reached by BART, OMCA is just one block from the Lake Merritt station.

Robin Williams Tunnel (Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Side)
The Waldo Tunnel that connects the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County has long had a rainbow arch over its entrance facing south. The tunnel was recently renamed the Robin Williams Tunnel for the late actor and comedian. Williams often wore multi-colored suspenders as the character Mork in the television series, Mork & Mindy.

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