PBID effort glows

Two new illuminated art projects partially funded
by downtown property owners on Highway 87
underpasses opened Dec. 11 to help connect Diridon
Station and SAP Center with the core of downtown.
“The original idea for this installation was to have
some sort of lighted art exhibit under Highway 87
that gives this place heart and makes people feel
comfortable when they walk through it,” said Chuck
Hammers, Property Based Improvement District
president. “Our hopes were for it to be fun, interactive
and work in the daytime also. Dan Corson has
not just met, but exceeded our expectations.”
The artworks by Corson unite light and technology to
create a more dynamic experience on major streets
beneath the freeway:
u On the Highway 87 underpass at Santa Clara
Street, Corson’s Sensing YOU is a collection of light
rings that create a wide array of colors and patterns
(except red, green or yellow – common traffic colors).
The lights change in response to pedestrian traffic
under the highway.
u At the Highway 87 underpass at San Fernando
Street, Corson installed Sensing WATER, influenced
by changes in weather and wind that affect the
Guadalupe River, which flows under the highway at
this junction.
These latest works are two of five
Illuminating Downtown Project
artworks produced by the city’s
Public Art Program and funded, in
part, by the PBID and a $600,000
ArtPlace grant. The artworks are
meant to combine art and technology
to create a more
engaging downtown for drivers
and pedestrians.
“This kind of boundary-crossing innovation is
loved by our community and it’s at the heart of our
economic vision,” said Kim Walesh, the city’s
economic development director.
Niantic, Inc., has integrated Sensing YOU and Sensing
WATER into the immersive real-world mobile
game Ingress as in-game “portals.” Players of the
two in-game factions can interact with the installations
using the Ingress app on their smartphones to
alter the color of the two art pieces and virtually battle
for control of the portals.
Caltrans, which owns state highway property, gave
approval for the unusual canvas on the underside of
a freeway.
“Caltrans recognizes that its everlasting role in
communities throughout California is not just about
automobile transportation. This beautiful project
is also about people and community,” said Bijan
Sartipi, Caltrans District 4 director.
“Some people have been critical, asking if this artwork
is a distraction,” Hammers added. “But as I was
driving down Market Street the other evening, I saw
a 40-foot Ferris wheel, an ice rink with crazy lights
on the palm trees, and thousands of people and
Christmas trees all over the place. I thought, that’s a
distraction! We need more distractions downtown.”
Work on the two sites began in 2012. Applying the
artwork to the underpass began in October.
“These are two geographically and conceptually
linked but different artworks,” Corson said. “Both
Sensing WATER and Sensing YOU started with my
thinking about the uniqueness of San Jose – its
connection to nature and technology – and our
human connection to both. From there I thought
a lot about the two spaces and how they might be
brought to life through light, technology and paint
work.”
Other Illuminating Downtown projects include:
u Steve Durie and Bruce Gardner’s San Carlos
Lantern Relay, a series of eight lamps on the south
side of San Carlos Street between Market and Fourth
Streets, which create an interactive illuminated
corridor connecting San Jose State University, SoFA
District and the San Jose Convention Center.
u Show Your Stripes by Jim Conti, at The 88 residential
tower at Second and San Fernando Streets.
u Voxel Cloud by Brian Brush, an illuminated
and interactive artwork on the 60 Pierce residential
project (opening summer 2016) in SoFA, visible
from Interstate 280.