San Jose Illuminating Downtown Highway Opening

For Immediate Release
December 11, 2015

Jennifer Easton, Office of Cultural Affairs, Public Art Program (408) 793-4338,

Unlikely Combination of Public Art and Online Game Provides Unique Urban Experience in Downtown San José

Latest Illuminating Downtown artworks make creative use of underpasses & streets

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Two new illuminated art pieces by Dan Corson on Highway 87 underpasses connect Diridon Station and SAP Center with the core of downtown San José, turning a dreary landscape into a bright, cheerful and interactive urban experience for the thousands of commuters, residents and visitors who take this gateway route.

Not only can the public affect how the piece Sensing YOU changes just by walking – or bicycling – through it, both pieces are integrated with an online game that can be played on a smartphone.

“The beautification of these underpasses has long been a goal of mine. Earlier this year, we began cleanup of these sites through the San Jose Gateways program,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. “Thanks to a grant from ArtPlace, the transformation of these gateways will be complete. These new illuminated art pieces will be enjoyed by people who travel through the downtown core.” These latest works are two of five Illuminating Downtown Project (IDP) artworks produced by the City’s Public Art Program and funded, in part, by a $600,000 ArtPlace grant ( IDP is the third of five grants awarded for creative placemaking projects in San José, which bring artists and arts organizations to the heart of strategies to enrich the city and its communities. IDP combines art and technology to physically manifest San José’s aspiration for creating a more engaging downtown – whether someone is approaching from the surrounding freeways or walking its streets.

The artworks by Corson unite light and technology together to create a more dynamic awareness of and experience in downtown San José.

  • In 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.
  • In the Highway 87 underpass at San Fernando Street, Corson installed Sensing WATER with its lighted patterns resembling the Aurora Borealis. This piece is influenced by changes in weather and wind that affect the Guadalupe River, which flows under the highway at this junction.

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 the portals. Originally incubated within Google, Niantic creates mobile experiences that foster fun, exploration, discovery and social interaction.

The Highway 87 public art displays were made possible through a partnership between the City of San José Public Art Program and property owners who formed a downtown Property-Based Improvement District (PBID). Caltrans, which owns state highway property, also had to give approval for the unusual canvas of the underside of a freeway. Work at the two sites began in October 2015.

“The original idea for this installation four years ago was to have some sort of lighted art exhibit under Highway 87,” said Chuck Hammers, PBID president. “Our hopes were for it to be fun, interactive and work in the daytime also. Corson has not just met, but exceeded all of our expectations.”

Corson has produced public art pieces throughout North America and Europe, straddling the disciplines of art, theatrical design, architecture and landscape architecture that dramatically transform between day and night.

“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 José – 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.”

Also illuminating for the first time is 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 José State University, SoFA District and the San Jose McEnery Convention Center.

The Illuminating Downtown Project also includes:

  • Show Your Stripes by Jim Conti: At The 88 residential tower at Second and San Fernando Streets. Originally installed in 2008, in June 2015, the artist crowd-sourced inspiration for significant new programming as part of the ArtPlace grant. The artwork can be changed with a mobile phone.
  • 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.
  • An additional project in the SoFA district of downtown that will launch in fall 2016.

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About the City of San José Office of Cultural Affairs
The Office of Cultural Affairs is the City’s lead agency for supporting and promoting the development of a rich arts and cultural environment for this diverse city’s one million residents, its workers who live in neighboring communities, and its many visitors. It fosters cultural development through cultural funding programs, cultural workforce development, specials event services, and public art. For more information visit

About the City of San José
From its founding in 1777 as California’s first city, San José has been a leader, driven by its spirit of innovation. Today, San José is the largest city in Northern California and the Capital of Silicon Valley—the world’s leading center of innovation. The city, the 10th largest in the U.S., is committed to remaining a top-ranked place to do business, to work and to live. For more information, visit

About the Artist Dan Corson
Dan Corson is an internationally recognized artist whose large-scale immersive installations and public artworks often engage the viewer as co-creators. Corson’s artworks are infused with drama, passion, layered meanings and transform from day to night in mesmerizing ways. He is particularly interested in green design and new technologies and how these tools can frame and amplify the natural word and our complex and shifting relationship to it. For more information visit:

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