PBID effort glows

January 2016 – 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:
    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.
  • At the Highway 87 underpass at San Fernando Street, Corson installed Sensing WATER, in uenced by changes in weather and wind that affect the Guadalupe River, which howls under the highway at this junction.

These latest works are two of the 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 tech-nology 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 installa- tions 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 art- work 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:

  • 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.
  • Show Your Stripes by Jim Conti, at The 88 residential tower at Second and San Fernando Streets.
  • 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.