Illuminating the Pink Triangle

The nonprofit behind the Bay Lights gives a piece of San Francisco art a bright new life on a milestone birthday.

The Pink Triangle, once a symbol of one of the darkest chapters in human history, has been a beloved beacon for gay pride and inclusion for the last 25 years. However, in San Francisco, where a giant pink-canvas version of the triangle by Patrick Carney takes its perch on Twin Peaks for Pride festivities every year, social distancing restrictions have made it impossible to construct the public art installation for its milestone birthday.

Courtesy of Illuminate

Bummer, right? Yes, except the folks at Illuminate — the nonprofit behind the Bay Lights and other amazing, light-filled wonders — are in the midst of a heroic effort to Illuminate the Pink Triangle, making it more vibrant than ever. Sparkling with 2,700 LED nodes of pink light, the triangle will cover a full acre and be a thing to behold.

“There is this moment of awareness around systemic injustice that’s going on, and The Pink Triangle is an ascending symbol that is inclusive of all such things,” said Ben Davis, the founder and chief visionary officer of Illuminate.

There’s also going to be a Pink Torch, constructed by Josh Zubkoff and Srikanth Guttikonda of the Looking Up Arts team, to ‘light’ the project at its opening ceremony on June 27. (Josh and co. were also the artists behind 2019’s Cone Down and 2018’s Rainbow Bridge.) The sloped triangle of the torch’s flame will evoke the triangle on the hill, so even when it’s away from Twin Peaks, the symbolism will be strong. Burner Daniel Macchiarini is helping to cast the handle with recycled aluminum, which will give it a lightweight feel. The radiant flame will be composed of pink-tinted resin with LEDs.

“Pride is a gift we pass down from generation to generation, as is the responsibility to fight for justice and equality. We want this torch to symbolize both, and we hope it becomes a new tradition,” said Cody Smith of Looking Up Arts.

“The magic of this is the generosity and all the different ways it comes in,” shared Davis. The construction of the torch is one example, but also the project’s executive producer is Patricia Wilson, the driving force behind the Bat Kid phenomenon; Oakland’s LGBTQ center is involved to help coordinate the movement of the torch though that community; and the installation team, Atom Fire, has roots in Black Rock City. In other words, the community is coming together in all senses of the word.

The view from the Pink Triangle’s SF perch. Photo by Ben Davis.

Next up, the Illuminate the Pink Triangle project needs your help. There are a few ways to get involved that would make a big difference to the team:

  1. They are looking for volunteer ambassadors to create a ‘human accompaniment’ to this piece to keep everyone safe and the art well cared for. This is great for people who don’t mind a little wind and just love the view up on Twin Peaks. Sign up here if you’re interested in taking on a shift.
  2. Join in the site pre-cleanup! Sadly, the MOOP on Twin Peaks is real. The Illuminate crew want to use this as an opportunity to help the space look its best before the project’s grand opening. Here’s info about that if you want to join.
  3. Celebrate the debut of the Illuminated Pink Triangle at 9pm on Saturday, June 27. It will be up for two weeks. Details here.
  4. Lastly, donate if you can to support this project! They are still marching towards their goal, so every dollar counts.
Photo courtesy Illuminate

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